Here at Universal Colours, we aim to be as transparent as possible with each and every element of our story.
Although we are a new brand that doesn’t share the heritage of some, we have a long lasting connection to the cycling community through which we established the desire for a new clothing brand with a different purpose. What we are, is a forward-thinking brand designing some of the finest, considerately sourced performance apparel our industry has seen.
While we’re on the subject of heritage, it’s important to highlight that whilst Universal Colours itself has only just been born, our sister company, Sigma Sports, has been at the forefront of the cycling world for over 25 years. Growing from a two-man operation in a bedroom to the globally recognised retailer we see today, we are extremely proud to play a part in the next chapter of their story.
As a new brand with deep roots, we are more than aware of the challenges we face. The number of niche apparel brands has skyrocketed of late, however we have embraced our community’s feedback and believe there is still space for a progressive cycling brand created with a purpose.
We constantly look outside our industry for inspiration, be that outdoor, street-wear or fashion. Acknowledging consumers see their clothing as an extension of their views and personality, Universal Colours aspires to become the go-to brand for the new wave of discerning cyclists that are both fashion-conscious and aware of their impact on the environment .
Our passion for all things cycling sits firmly at the forefront of every decision we make. Development began back in 2018, with the first collection set to land in spring 2020. Throughout this period our team has been meticulously designing, re-designing and testing to ensure our clothing provides exceptional performance and comfort on every ride.
We utilise recycled materials wherever possible, but will never compromise on performance. Working closely with our carefully selected partners, we create garments with a focus on originality, durability and responsibility. The way our clothing is produced and the fabrics chosen are a big part of the brand’s story. We only work with factories internationally audited for social and environmental good practice, and this will never change.
In our next blog, we will be offering a unique insight into the production of our clothing. Stay tuned.
Sorry, no pretty pictures this time; Looking to address some of the most common questions we receive on a daily basis, we sat down with Universal Colours’ Lead Designer Will for an honest, unpolished conversation about clothing production.
Where is the clothing made?
Globally. We have partnered with LTP, one of Europe’s most renowned sportswear manufacturers known for producing clothing for many of the world’s most established and advanced brands. We also carefully handpick suppliers across the world that are masters in their specific field when it comes to production.
Where are the mills based?
Again, globally. To keep our carbon footprint to a minimum, we try to select fabrics that are manufactured within the same region as the factories. As it stands, this is true about 90% of the time, but when this cohesion isn’t possible or compromises the end result, we will of course ship our materials.
Have you visited the factories yourself?
Yes, in order to end up with the best possible outcome it is imperative to work closely with the manufacturer. Engineering a superior fit requires face to face interaction and it is important for us to build and maintain personal relationships with the people making our apparel. Our factories are our best friends.
Are factories ethical as well as sustainable?
Where possible we seek out the certification to show the best possible working practices from both an ethical and sustainable perspective. While this information is certainly useful and provides peace of mind, I find there is no substitute for visiting the factories, talking to the staff and opening a dialogue about the issues that can be associated with clothing production.
Why isn’t everything you make recycled?
We are a performance led brand and while there are some materials out there that provide as good, or better, performance than non-recycled fabrics. There is still work to be done to ensure all recycled fabrics can be as highly performing and durable as we need. The industry on a wider scale is not yet ready to replace all performance yarns with recycled alternatives. We are constantly challenging and pushing our suppliers to create recycled or bio-based yarns that perform as well, or better, than virgin materials.
Also, as a brand, we aren’t always looking at sustainability from the perspective of using recycled raw materials. Ultimately we are also looking to ensure durability. As cyclists ourselves we understand that our kit has a tough life through repetitive use and washing, and ensuring our kit is durable is as important to the wider sustainability issue as the production itself.
Is the finished garment recyclable?
Due to cycling wear being form-fitted, most fabrics are either woven or knitted using a form of elastane. Currently, it is very difficult to separate the elastic out of the polyester, making it very difficult to process. There will be a time when this is doable, but until then, only 100% recycled polyester garments can be recycled themselves. This theoretically will then close the loop – the holy grail of clothing production.
Do you use recycled plastic bottles?
Alongside a number of other recycled yarns, we are making use of repurposed plastic bottles. We are working on an exciting project that will tie in very closely with this process for next summer.
Does the recycled material mean your clothes are more expensive to make?
Financially, yes, it has an impact on baseline costs. But as a team, we have our ear to the ground, constantly searching out pioneering fabrics. This makes our design process much more time consuming and involved, which increases the amount of physical time and human energy required to make our kit.
Do you repair clothing?
We are working towards a repair system and also a process where any clothes beyond repair will be repurposed and never go to waste. We will keep you posted on these developments.
Does any of your profit go towards environmental initiatives?
Following the warm reception of our debut collection, we have some really exciting things to talk about very shortly. This is something that we hope everyone will engage with and get behind.
Are you worried that you will lose your USP as more brands move to recycled goods?
No, not at all. We welcome any brand that can question their position on sustainability. A communal effort will ultimately help drive the wider industry towards better practices. That being said, we never came to the table looking for sustainability to be our USP, it should be a core pillar of any new brand that comes to market.
Is your packaging recycled?
Yes, all our packaging is recycled including smaller details like the hanging loops on our swing tags that are made from 100% post-consumer waste plastic. We encourage our customers to recycle all our packaging themselves once they are finished with it.
What are the downsides of using recycled materials?
It is important to use a credible source for all recycled yarns. The industry is now set up to monetise and manipulate consumers through greenwashing. We only select yarns that are accredited and of high quality.
Do you use wool or other natural materials? Are they ethically sourced if so?
For our winter collection, we are using merino wool sourced from a bluesign® accredited mill. Wool is sustainable and does biodegrade, it also has natural antibacterial properties to it, meaning it can be worn for longer between washes, increasing its lifespan.
What could you do better?
We are a small team. We do everything within our power to question our actions. As we grow we would love a resource dedicated to researching and developing best practices.
A collaboration inspired by the sights and sounds of London was always destined to stand out. The sharp contrast between the serenity of our local parks and the harsh lines of suburbia by night is expressed through design.
With each tone provoking its own unique set of emotions, as designers and cyclists, nature’s palette is a source of great inspiration. From rain bouncing off dimly lit streets to early morning sunlight cutting through mist, the visuals of each ride are never the same.
Splitting the collection in two, we looked outward at these distinctly different sides to our surroundings and the feelings they evoke. Exploring the topography of Richmond Park and Greater London, we curated a set of prints that truly represent and reflect the roads we ride.
Stop for a second and place yourself in the heart of our capital. Traffic lights, headlights and storefronts merge into one universal glow. Street food cuts through the unmistakable scent of fuel. Your heavy breathing and beating heart echo amid the overwhelming hum of urban life. For us, these are just a part of the unexplainable draw of riding in London.
Couple this electric atmosphere with the aggressive patternization of the roads that cut between countless pubs, shops and offices, and our Greater London design was born.
Taking on a more gradual flow, inspired by the undulation of the landscape, the Richmond Park collection is one for the purists. An oasis of calm amid the controlled chaos of London, local riders cherish the Park’s winding lanes and picturesque surroundings.
A hub of activity, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to suggest its very existence plays a strong part in keeping our cycling culture alive. Graced by seasoned riders and newcomers alike, Richmond Park represents far more than an area of green space, but an escape from reality on two wheels.
As you may have noticed, we have been a little quiet over the past few months. Navigating through these challenging times has been tough as a new brand, but we are pleased to say we’re very much back and looking forward to sharing the next stage in our journey with you.
By continuing to work with our trusted partners in a safe and considered manner, our summer collection will still launch as planned, available exclusively through sigmasports.com on 30/07/20, before the launch of our own website universalcolours.com.
While we understand this news is somewhat insignificant given the gravity of current global affairs, as cyclists we feel it does represent hope.
Hope for our industry, our sport and above all, our community.
From apparel to accessories, we have left no stone unturned. A collection crafted with care, our dedication to using only the finest fabrics has ensured optimum performance, style and durability out on the roads and beyond.
Mono, Spectrum and Chroma; three words that define the core structure of our range. In this third entry to our blog, we take a closer look at spring/summer 2020, sharing some of the designs, fabrics and processes we are proud to have brought to life this season.
As the name suggests, the garments are piece-dyed, meaning there is only a single colour per style. The use of block colour results in a clean, timeless finish, perfect for those favouring a classic aesthetic.
We like to think of this range as a true modern classic, combining understated design with technical fabrics, considerate construction and a well-tailored on-the-bike fit.
Staying true to our core beliefs, every style is constructed using 100% recycled Italian fabrics.
A visual expression of the brand.
The name represents the plethora of vivid colours brought out during the sublimation process. Bold and eye catching, the range has been tailored for those looking to make a statement.
Every style is designed and constructed using innovative, high-performance fabrics, utilising recycled materials wherever possible.
Created using only the highest-quality fabrics, this collection represents the pinnacle of performance cycling apparel. Finished in timeless block colours, with carefully considered detailing, the range has the aesthetics to match its premium performance.
Utilising woven fabrics, Chroma offers levels of performance and durability simply unachievable using traditional knitted fabrics. As with all our clothing, we have used recycled materials wherever possible without any compromise to the performance.
We hope you have enjoyed this quick insight into our upcoming collection. In our next edition, we will look to share more details on the individual garments within each range with you.
The synergy between our core values and our factories is imperative to our success. A collaborative approach allows us to adapt, progress and produce the highest quality, most carefully considered product possible.
In this second blog, our lead designer, Will, discusses the importance of the right partners, providing a first-hand insight into the early stages of production.
“My background is in design, albeit not solely fashion. I’ve studied industrial and product design whilst simultaneously honing my skill set towards clothing. Over the past six or so years I have focused almost exclusively on the development of premium sportswear.
My experience outside the world of fashion has undoubtedly influenced my approach and style. The industrial element has allowed me to experiment and overcome problems with the physical side of apparel design, not just the visual elements.
Throughout my career I’ve worked with countless factories, both in Europe and beyond, each differing in terms of quality, cost and approach. Renowned as being one of the best in Europe, if not the world, LTP aligned with our aspirations for Universal Colours’ first collection perfectly.
This BlueSign® accredited factory is one I am very familiar with. Open-minded, progressive and flexible, LTP doesn’t just embrace, but actively promotes the creativity necessary to develop our clothing.
Operating to the highest standards of ethical practice, the staff are passionate about what they do. The building is clean and inviting, and the working days are short and productive. Of course, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives available, but for us, the quality of our products and the environment in which they are created is of paramount importance.
With multiple factories across the globe, LTP are flexible enough to produce everything from short runs of premium lines, to larger collections for high street brands. Close enough for regular visits and dynamic enough to work with the new, advanced materials we source, it made perfect sense for Universal Colours to partner with LTP’s smaller factory in Lithuania.
Our approach to both design and material choice makes working with the right factories essential. This is why we have selected a number of factories around the globe who support and align with our vision for a new approach to cycle clothing design.
While the vast majority of our SS20 collection is made in Lithuania, we are also working with a factory in China and Taiwan for our gilet and accessories. Both factories are internationally audited for social and environmental good practice.
We are proud of our clothing’s journey and believe strongly in transparency. For us, our partner factories and their staff are not just another cog in the production wheel, they are part of the extended Universal Colours family.”