Fashion: Behind Cambridge's big streetwear brand
What began as a club night in Cambridge has developed into an uber cool streetwear label and events company, endorsed by significant UK influencers. Louise Cummings chats to DUSK Empire creator Matt Maynard
What originally brought you to Cambridge?
“I’m originally from Essex and I came to Cambridge in 2012 to study at Anglia Ruskin, graduating in 2015 from the Enterprise & Entrepreneurial Management BA. I have worked full time at ARU since 2016, as the Events & Marketing Co-ordinator. I have recently gone down to part time to allow more time to focus on my businesses.
Have you always loved fashion?
I have always been interested in streetwear fashion. Since the age of 13 at secondary school I have had a passion for business and personal ventures.
We hear DUSK Empire began as a club night?
Yes, DUSK began as a club event in September 2015; after years of working as a promoter for multiple nights I decided it was time to give running my own event a go. I came up with three names I liked and asked everyone I would like to attend which was their favourite name. DUSK was the clear winner. I kitted out my entire team (DJ, photographer, door staff, and promoters) with black tees with DUSK branded on the chest. The launch event was attended by more than 300 guests at Fez Club in Cambridge, and many people asked where they could get hold of one of these black tees. At the second event a month later 30 tees were on sale; they sold out and the brand snowballed from there.
Who designed the tees and what were they like?
Originally I teamed up with a brand named Hundred of Who, based in Kent, to print and design our original signature DUSK logo tee. Our T-shirts are still produced by the same UK supplier, though we have recently switched all of our tees to 100 per cent recycled cotton, which is climate neutral and vegan friendly.
I am actually colour blind, so I work closely with family, friends and the DUSK Empire network to decide on colourways on the designs that I produce.
What was the inspiration for the name?
Whilst holidaying with my best friend in Turkey in summer 2015, we came up with the name DUSK based on a summer style event, with the sun coming down but the energy continuing into the night.
How has the brand since developed?
DUSK Empire expanded into concerts in Cambridge in 2018, bringing some of the biggest UK artists to Cambridge, including Aitch, Jay1, D-Block Europe and many more. At these shows, DUSK Empire is for sale and is widely advertised.
What does the product line entail now?
After the 30 T-shirts sold out at the second event in October 2015, I created a website with a friend from my university course, which allowed me to sell products in between DUSK events. People then began to ask if there would be other products, such as hoodies and sweatshirts, so I began to launch multiple products including tees, sweatshirts, hoodies, tracksuits, shorts, caps and bags.
What influences your style of clothing?
We sell streetwear style. Our brand is for the people and we focus on feedback from our loyal Empire followers, engaging with customers to find out what style they would like to see next.
I take great inspiration from two of my favourite streetwear labels - Supreme and Trapstar London.
Where do you sell?
Currently our products are exclusively available on the DUSK Empire website. We are in conversation with multiple independent High Street shops regarding stocking our brand and hope news on this will be announced post Covid-19! DUSK is also always on sale at DUSK Presents concerts in the Cambridgeshire area, which normally take place on the first Saturday of all UK public school holidays throughout the year.
What kind of customer do you think you appeal to?
Our customer base includes all ages and demographics. With our minimalistic style, we strive to be as accessible as possible, whilst following the ‘in fashion’ trends. With our endorsements which include Aitch, Molly-Mae and a range of footballers, I would say our main appeal is for an audience aged between 16 and 30.
Where have you sent orders out to?
Mainly Cambridgeshire and Essex - being my home counties - however we receive many orders from America, Brazil, Spain and Holland, as a result of endorsements from influencers who have a worldwide reach.
What has the feedback been like so far?
People like the quality of our items and the customer service. When you join the Empire, your feedback and opinion is heard and we try our best to reflect togetherness within our items and branding.
Do you work alone or have a team?
I started this brand and continue to run this as a solo project, however it is continuously growing.
My girlfriend, friends and family help me a lot on the day-to-day tasks of running the brand, helping with designs and ideas. I plan to soon advertise for our first paid staff member, a social media manager.
Tell us about your celebrity fans?
DUSK Empire has been endorsed by a significant amount of footballers, music artists and fashion icons. I have been fortunate to have many of these people within my network, who have been kind enough to support and promote the movement. Our most notable endorsements come from Gok Wan, Molly-Mae (of Love Island fame) and UK artist Aitch, the latter of the two endorsed the brand after performing / attending my DUSK Presents concerts in Cambridge.
What are your plans for the future of the business?
I am extremely keen to operate pop-up shops for DUSK Empire around the UK, and these will be paired with a DUSK Presents show in the given city, with a theme of celebrating togetherness.”
Find out more about DUSK Empire clothing and events at duskempire.co.uk
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