Jilly in her shop at Mirfield.
Nick Hill

Ushiwear founder interview: Launching a clothing brand to reflect Yorkshire roots

In the heart of Mirfield, West Yorkshire, a budding fashion designer has firmly established her own brand Ushiwear as a leading independant clothing range in the whole region.

Jilly Kapusi used her family’s love of the outdoors as inspiration to create a new brand of durable and fashionable clothing that has garnered celebrity fans including British band The Vamps.

Along with Jilly keeping to her Yorkshire roots in the brand’s design, all of Ushiwear’s products are made in the UK, with all of the clothing, labels, tags and packaging printed in the Ushiwear store in Mirfield.

Since becoming established in 2008 by Jilly and her husband Neil Kapusi, Ushiwear has also established itself in the international market and exports products to half a dozen countries worldwide.

Just last month, Ushiwear relaunched a new e-commerce site as part of the company’s goal to improve its infrastructure ahead of plans to reintroduce products to high-end concessions.

Bdaily recently spoke to Jilly, a former blue-chip design executive, about the challenges of launching her own clothing line, what makes Ushiwear different and what are the brand’s plans going forward.

When discussing her start in the fashion industry, Jilly said: “I was first introduced to screen-printing at Art College and I instantly loved it. From printing on paper to fabrics it wasn’t long before I was designing and printing T-shirts for local bands. After leaving college I worked for numerous graphic design companies before setting up my own but creating my own clothing brand was always at the back of my mind.

“To me it was the perfect mix of creative design and screen-printing and it brought all the skills I’d acquired throughout my career together. One of which was my passion for creating brands. After 3 busy years contracting for a large blue chip company I decided it was time for a career change, I began to wind down the business and bought some screen-printing equipment and began to experiment. Initially in our garage but that was soon not feasible as I began working with local schools, colleges and businesses supplying hoodies, tees and work wear with a twist.”

Jilly realized that Ushiwear could become a viable business because she “was able to add a lot of creativity that made my designs stands out from the crowd but the key was I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing.”

She explained: “This demand for what I was doing made me realise that my hobby had become a business and after months of deliberating at a play gym with my children and a close friend the name Ushiwear was born. We moved to a small studio space in Mirfield and the rest is history.”

Jilly’s designs definitely reflected her Yorkshire roots, which is something central to Ushiwear’s theme. Jilly said: “Our brand most definitely has strong Yorkshire roots and yes I suppose I do get inspiration from that fact and I think this is evident in the no nonsense simple clean designs.

“I am very proud of the fact we are a Yorkshire brand and more importantly we are a truly British brand and we strive to work with companies locally and within the UK as much as possible. This is very important to us!”

And this has proven to be very beneficial when launching Ushiwear’s new e-commerce site. Jilly commented: “The launch of the site has definitely improved brand awareness and the reaction of our followers has been very positive. Our social media presence has increased ten fold and the comments we receive are very positive. I think the brand is garnering attention due to its Britishness. Everything IS designed and printed in our studio the UK and this makes our products a very desirable and different commodity.”

As well as establishing a strong presence online, Jilly also wants to relocate to a much bigger base than their current mirfield HQ. She explained: “We need to move to a much bigger site in order to facilitate a more fluent working arrangement. We need to reflect our brand in an interesting and inclusive way. We want our first store to be a destination store where people come for the experience. We have lots of exciting ideas of how we are going to achieve this but for the moment this is under wraps, watch this space!”

As for the future, Jilly revealed: “Our aim initially is to increase brand awareness and sales via our new website. We are currently looking for new and bigger premises that will hopefully become our flagship destination store. We are also working on a calendar of events that we will attend throughout next year such as festivals, shows and exhibitions etc.

“This should hopefully increase awareness and help us to become recognised as credible and desirable brand. We also have a marketing and PR team that are constantly working on ways to promote the brand to a wider audience.

“We also believe that we have something different to offer and our customers get that and love it! Ushi weardifferent!”

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