Universal Works – clothing of quality and distinction
Monday morning 6.30am i get off the bus a couple of stops early and decide to kill the final minutes before i have to start work by having a wander round Soho. Oxford Street is a deserted ghost town apart from the slow shuffle of the occasional street cleaning machine humming over the wet pavement and the crumpled mounds of the homeless curled in any shop doorway that offers some protection from the rain.
Christmas lights silently sway in the cold air like a selection of cheap lampshades strung across the road at intervals, sullen orbs of silver and gold that neither dazzle nor cheer. Those who declare that London is a 24 hour city have never walked the length of Oxford Street on a wet and dark winter morning before the world wakes up and recognises you’re alive.
Soho is the men’s retail centre of the capital. Every half decent clothing brand/outlet has a store hidden away in the warren of side streets that make up the Soho perimeter. From the aspirational and upmarket to the functional and sports related – everything a terrace monkey could wish for. If you have the money then this is where it will get spent.
Ironically the shops themselves are usually housed in converted townhouses giving them a look of compact and oddly homely environments (unlike the modern fortresses of glass and chrome and mirrors that force their way out along Oxford Street). Universal Works, CP Company, Oi Polloi, Barbour, Nudie, all have the same style shop front, and it works. It’s like peering into someone’s private home.
Trouble is you can’t put much on show. Universal Works have gone for the succinct and understated. Not so much advertising their christmas stock as hinting at the promise of the quality inside. Crafted tease (as some advertising knob will probably tell us).
Universal Works started in 2008 as the brainchild of David Keyte, a working class lad from the Midlands and ex-miner, who got into fashion and decided after 25 years in the industry to branch out on his own, along with his wife and UW co-founder Stephanie Porritt. (We don’t think it’s the same David Keyte who stitched up Hereford United when he was in charge there, least we hope not). They seem to have carved out a niche for the grown up football casual who likes his wardrobe to be a calm reflection of the quality of his life (but still wants to be able to kick a ball about in the park every now and again).
UW jackets are a thing of rare beauty, cut to a standard and with a seamless eye for walking that line between function and form – basically they look fucking smart! Plus their trainer collaborations always take on an inspired twist – stone/tan Norman Walsh ensign, beautiful. This time it’s Saucony Shadow Originals proper chunky running shoes although without the flash, which is the UW trademark.
And beneath it all David Keyte comes across as a decent lad. When asked about the clothing industry during these times of ‘post recession blues’ he responded: “Post recession.. talk to my Greek and Russian friends! We are all fucked as capitalism clearly does not work to help anyone except the super rich, we need a new game but as there appears not to be one anyone is prepared to vote for, then we just need to keep making stuff people want and try and sell it and be nice to each other”
Can’t say fairer than that.
- Universal Works Top Coat in Khaki Melton
- Universal Works x Saucony Shadow Original navy trainers
- Universal Works x Saucony Shadow Original sand trainers
- Universal Works Bucket Hat in Khaki Melton Wool
- The Daimon Barber Hair Pomade
40 Berwick Street
London W1F 8RX
Quick shop update: the christmas decorations are now up.