Jamie Milestone – Founder/Designer at London Undercover
Waking up to the morning paper reading that Britain was to receive three months worth of rain in the next three days would usually have filled our hearts with sadness. However thanks to Jamie Milestone and his accessories brand London Undercover we are always ready to fully embrace the storm. With fans including Keifer Sutherland,Usher & of course Rihanna it is firmly bringing the brolly to being an essential part of anyone’s weather based wardrobe. We caught up with the man to talk about all his Umbrella inspiration
London Undercover, where did it all start?
I had the original idea for the product when I was still at school. I was about 17. I went on to study as a Graphic Designer and ended up working at various branding agencies working with rather large brands. Most of my work was strategic and about positioning product in the market place, working with the consumer in mind and making it work visually. I still had this umbrella idea in the back of my head and soon came to the realisation that I could actually make it work as a brand. The challenge was getting the product right and which was completely new territory and that?s what I was excited about. I literally quit my job and started work on it. I launched the brand just under a year later, going straight into Liberty.
Umbrellas are a more traditional product. Did you ever think that the general public might not be ready for the resurgence of this accessory?
I never really thought about it like that. It all felt very right. The brand started at the beginning of the recession and naturally people start wanting well-made products that will last. It?s as if you need something solid & trustworthy when everything else around you is falling apart. The umbrella at its best is a very beautiful, historical, strong item. It lent itself very well to the Heritage trend that then came along for the same reason. Men were getting smarter and more tailored, moving away from Nike’s to Church’s, G-Shocks to Submariner’s and The Umbrella is one of the next in line as a must-have gentlemen’s accessory. London Undercover introduced itself with some modern relevance and designs that made a lot of sense to own.
Has there been a particular inspiration behind the designs?
The theme of Britain/Britishness runs throughout and it’s all about finding ways of approaching that in a new, interesting way. I try and create concept pieces where you can draw various design cues in each. Giving a range a certain theme in a way that a clothing brand might create it’s collection is also key in differentiating us from other umbrella makers out there. So inspiration is very broad. There’s a very deliberate reference to London Underground within the brand. It’s something that Londoner’s have no choice but to be part of and so there’s that instant familiarity there that I think works nicely.
The brand screams ‘British Heritage’, what does this phrase mean to you?
It?s a time before your own. It goes beyond nostalgia because you weren’t there, you are only aware of it from what you’ve read, seen in films, or witnessed through grandparents for example. In that sense it‘s a very romantic thing. As you grow older you start to view items in a different light. What was once old, basic, boring, soon becomes beautifully simplistic, solid, well-thought out, history in your hands. I think this is why people personally have enjoyed the trend in this country, they can relate to it directly. It will be interesting to see what happens next though. I think modern functionality and the technical side of things will pay a key part in moving forward.
We‘ve heard that London Undercover has a growing celebrity clientele. Care to reveal a few of your A-list fans?
Kiefer Sutherland keeps going into one of our stockists in New York and buying up all the LU product they have. Apparently JB is a bit of an umbrella obsessive. Usher is another one who buys in quantity and Rihanna owns a few also. (obviously!).
Your collection continues to go from strength to strength, has there been a stand-out moment so far?
It‘s funny because behind the scenes I‘ve worked with and continue to work with some of my favourite brands . Brands that I‘ve been obsessed with and grown up wearing etc But my stand-out moment was probably when London Transport gave the go-ahead to use the old 78 Misha Black Tube seat pattern. It was before the brand launched and I really needed that design to fit within the range and to connect everything together. It‘s always nice though when a brand you admire comes to you though for collaborative purposes and that is always a proud moment.
Where do you see London Undercover in a years time?
The brand has really taken off this year. If it can continue to grow in the way it has I‘ll be really happy. The pop-up was a great success and so a full-time retail base is key for us. We‘re currently working on some new products that will open up the brand – hopefully London Undercover can be a name that more and more people are aware of and want to be part of.
Finally, what are your 5 favourite tracks on the London Undercover playlist?
R Dean Taylor – There?s a ghost in my house
Isaac Hayes – Walk on By
David Ruffin – Common Man
The Hollies – Bus Stop
The Jam – The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow)