If you’re the type of person who gets more excited about plummeting temperatures and snow forecasts than summer holidays, maybe you should consider making snowsports your career. It’s an enormous industry with thousands of ways to get stuck in. In this series, I’ll be talking to some snowsports entrepreneurs who have transformed their love of snow culture into business.
Introducing: Lauren Davies - a graduate in fashion design from Manchester School of Art and MMUFS veteran. This year Lauren launched her own brand of skiwear, URBANPiste. While she was studying, she got involved in the snowsports club and although she learned to ski at the age of 6, her love for the scene was firmly established during her time at university. I had a chat with her about her work so far…
(SM) So tell us about your experience in your university snowsports club…
(LD) “While studying at Manchester School of Art I was part of the mighty MMUFS (Manchester Metropolitan University Freestyle Snowsports). My whole life at uni really revolved around the club – I’d be training for the race team and going out with the club about 3 times a week . I’ve made some of the best friends within the club and I am still very close to a lot of them. It was such a great group of people and I enjoyed being part of such a close-knit club which never took itself too seriously!”
Have you always been fashion-forward when it comes to ski gear or did joining the MMUFS change that?
“I had followed snowsports fashion since I was young but when I joined the ski club I was surrounded by it, so I became more interested. That interest transferred into my studies and I focused on skiwear during my degree. It’s interesting to look back on what I was wearing when I joined the club compared to what I wear now and how much it’s changed. I think ski fashion has become a lot more accessible to people because there has been a crossover from what you wear on the slopes to what you wear on the street. I really like exploring that.”
You’ve got a couple of seasons in the Alps under your belt. How did they influence your opinions on ski fashion and decision to launch the business?
“It helped me a lot because it exposed me to a wider range of people and the fashions within each scene on the mountain. It was good to see how people styled up their outfits and watch how different brands were used together. It also helped me to visualise where my products would sit within the market. I was skiing every day so I had time to focus on what I wanted out of skiwear. That influenced the design of my riding hoodie and urban hood.”
Tell me a bit about the name URBANpiste…
“I came up with the name as I really wanted to support the British snowsports scene, so I started to think about what that represented. We mostly ride on dry slopes or indoor domes which are ‘urban pistes’ by nature, so the name came from there.”
Your designs are quite simple and understated. Are there are any brands which you draw inspirations from?
“I haven’t taken inspiration from other brands but from my own graduate collection. I looked at a lot of vintage skiwear to come up with the designs and especially the print that I have used in my current collection. The print is a drawing of old ski garments which has been computer manipulated. I like very simple garments and logos so those are the looks I’ve gone for in my collection.”
Do you have any favourite retro pieces?
“I look at vintage pieces a lot when it comes to designing my garments. I researched a lot of 1950s and 1960s skiwear for my degree and I have taken design elements into URBANpiste. In the future I would like to bring this more into my designs but in a more modern way.”
Ski gear needs to be technically advanced, what was your research process like to make it all-weather wearable?
“I spoke to a lot of different manufactures for their advice on this type of clothing. I also looked at the tech specifications for other brands and drew inspiration and knowledge from that. Although URBANpiste was inspired by British dry slopes and domes, my products are fit for the mountains!”
You’ve got a lot of competition out there, can you tell me about your experience breaking into the market?
“It’s been great so far – I’ve had a lot of interest in the brand and people have really made me feel welcome within the scene. It’s still early days (I’ve only been trading since April) but business has been steady. I’d like to make more ties with the university scene as it was something I loved being a part of and I feel I can offer uni clubs some great team hoodies. Since I can design my hoodies from scratch (they are not off-the-shelf garments) I can give the clubs exactly what they want when it comes to logo designs, prints and features.”