Vancouver is a place with many talented people and the Uwi twins, Lévi and Reuben, are definitely part of the group. I met up with the local fashion designers and talked about their motivations and ideologies. Having their first collection be featured at The Hudsons Bay Company, their success has only motivated them to launch their new line this summer. They have taken sophisticated fashion trends, fused with street style to create a line that symbolizes their personal expression.
Q: “Other than being clothing designers, both of you model and act. Where do you find the time to work on your design?”
Reuben: With the acting side, you don’t have a lot of control. When auditions or projects come up, you just have to juggle. If there is a great opportunity, we are able to switch around and be flexible with the different tasks at hand.
Q: What is the design process. Take me from general inspiration/idea to the final product.
Reuben: We begin with a mood board separately and create sketches, which moves onto assistance from graphic designers. Then we move onto theme ideation and eventually moves into samples and manufacturing. It comes down to us being like creative directors in order to keep a consistent story. It gets complicated and takes at least 6 months for a sample.
Our mom is one of the most inspiring people because she works harder than anyone and she inspires us to keep going.
Q: What story is the story behind your line?
Reuben: What we wanted to do is tell the story of the Uwi twins and where we come from.
The story we are trying to bring forward is to never give up regardless of what you’ve been through.
My brother and I, having being born in Rwanda, we survived the genocide then having to leave the country to move to Kenya and eventually Canada was a challenge in itself. Adaption to a new culture and starting our own venture then starting over again [after our first attempt] was challenging.
We are able to share that no matter the ups and downs, you should always persevere. We want to inspire the underdogs to achieve their max potential. [When] companies are reluctant to work with you…you really have to prove yourself…You have to block off the noise and believe in yourself more than anything. Anybody can do it.
Q: From reading your story about the tough childhood and your determination to become something great, what words of wisdom do you have for aspiring young artists/designers and where do you get your confidence from?
You’ll receive a lot of no’s but at the end of the day, it only takes one person who believes in your vision. We were fortunate and met the right person who got us in the door at the Bay. We didn’t necessarily allow that to hurt our feelings [or discourage us]. If you know your [own] talent and capabilities, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says. You have to keep going because there is always going to be a brighter day.
Surround yourself with the right people.
It’s key to have the right mentors or people and friends who will encourage you through those moments. Work hard and knowing your craft helps dramatically. [For example] if you’re walking into a business meeting, and you know your numbers or your market, if you know those basics, there is bound to be respect and give an opportunity.
We were lucky enough to have parents who know what was happening back home and they were able to shield us. If you don’t have the parents for that then being aware of ones surroundings and be educated. If one is in a complex circumstance, it’s an important task to make friends who will support you. Being alone will make it more difficult in those instances.
Q: What does success look like to you?
Lévi: I don’t necessarily look at other designers and styles because we want to maintain our vision [without unnecessary influence].
Reuben: We know we’ve made it because we’re doing what we love and that’s my definition of success. Of course, being sold in the big box companies is when we’ve made it in the industry standard.
It’s about comparing yourself to your own achievements rather than other people.
The Uwi twins are humble and are designers who want their vision to be seen and heard without outside influences. Their individuality is inspirational and encourages the under dogs to push for their visions as well.
Find their “The U.T.F.L.” pop-up shop at 730 Richards Street from July 4 -6. For more information please visit: www.uwitwinsfashion.com