REPRESENT has become a globally recognized brand, focusing on luxury streetwear for men as well as growing its fitness sublabel 247, though its appeal has always been genderless. Though its beginnings stem from a humble place, where two brothers, George and Michael Heaton, were experimenting with graphic tees during their college years. Inspired by the wave of American streetwear brands in the early 2010s, REPRESENT is now on the same level as the brands that originally inspired it, such as Obey.
REPRESENT is not just a clothing brand though, it’s a story and community whose loyal fans and customers relate to the brothers due to their honest transparency. Wanting to create an authentic bond between the product and its wearers, the boys not only design pieces they find themselves wearing on a daily, they also share the details of the process of running a brand notably through their youTube series “Behind The Brand”. Now with an upcoming collaboration with legendary rock band Mötley Crüe and its first ever womenswear sneakers, REPRESENT’s journey has only just started, with so much to look forward to in the future. Today, we caught up with co-founder and creative director George to speak about the brand’s identity, its growth and impact, as well as upcoming projects.
Hey George, how’s it going? Can you introduce yourself and REPRESENT to our readers?
My name is George, I don’t like the title but I am the owner, founder and creative director. The brand started 12 years ago now, technically a little less, maybe like eight since it really got going because it started as a college project. We started just screen printing t-shirts. We really wanted to be like the UK version of what Diamond Supply Co. and Obey and those kinds of things were then. At that time, YouTube and Instagram were coming around, it just started. So we built the brand through Instagram really. It was just through friends of friends following and then the algorithms of Instagram picked it up and we delved into different kinds of subcultures, like skating. We really had an American look to the brand just because of what we’re inspired by. That grew into what became a full time job for myself and my brother, Mike is also a co-founder, and he does all the graphic design. It grew very organically through there for say six to seven years. We wanted to make as many products as we could that we wanted to wear ourselves. So the brand is really just a manifestation of what our wardrobes wanted to be. It was really about finding similar customers to who we were and what we do. I think 2019 we had a massive growth spurt, and then COVID came on the back of that, which helped a lot.
You had nothing else to do but work on the brand.
That’s true. We couldn’t mess around anymore. And then the past few years have just been phenomenal. The growth has been unbelievable. The brand’s now global. We’ve got stores all over the world. We have around 61 staff now in our headquarters.
Including Paul, who operates on the business side of things.
We were talking for quite a long time. The brand was never big enough for Paul until it got to a point where it was too much for myself to handle because I’m not strictly a business guy. I don’t really understand the economics of stuff, I like to design. When I go into business meetings that are more about numbers and logistics and everything like that I completely zone out. Paul has come in and changed the business fundamentally with building an actual business rather than just a brand, with wholesale dynamics, logistics and everything like that. It wasn’t my strong point and he’s helped with, so we see a lot of opportunity for the brand. Obviously at the moment it is just men’s, we haven’t done any kidswear, womenswear. We’ve got a little bit of a crossover with unisex.
As you mentioned, REPRESENT started in 2011, as a college project with graphic tees. Did you know, at the time, that you wanted to expand the REPRESENT universe into a global brand and streetwear phenomenon?
It definitely was, yeah. Not to the extent of where it’s at now. Because obviously your goals get bigger as you carry on, they surpass what your expectations were. But yeah, it definitely was.
Your Instagram bio states “On a mission”. What exactly is that mission?
The mission is, we say it’s to build the best brand in the world. And that means the best product, the best delivery, the best service, the best quality, and the best price points for that quality, just the best of everything we can do. We like to do everything and be transparent about it and just show the journey as well. Like when I said at the start, I wanted to be like Obey and Diamond Supply co. and things like that. You could just about see what they were doing on YouTube. So we started a documentary on YouTube, where we upload every couple of weeks, do a huge video at the end of the year. We’ve made our Instagrams more of a story than just and final products like to show everything.
Speaking of your YouTube series “Behind The Brand”, where you showcase, as the title states, what goes on behind the brand, from PR meetings to travelling to showrooms. What made you want to start this transparent series?
Originally, the goal was to find our customer. If there’s a guy that’s 10 years behind where I’m at now, and he’s trying to start a brand, I want him to really understand what the actual process is and not just think it’s all sunshine and Instagram images. I think now especially because there’s so much noise, there’s so much going on with all these different social platforms, I don’t know why you would go for to find true inspiration and find out how things are actually happening. So that’s why we did it. It wasn’t a monetary thing. It was just to show that process. And for us to look back in 10, 20 years. Great memories.
Did you have something similar to what you’re doing now, while you were starting your brand? Did you have someone to look up to like that?
No and that’s why I’m doing it, because it was such a struggle. It still is a struggle now even when we try to look at how brands are operating on a much larger scale than us. It’s very deceiving. It’s all hidden, isn’t it? Even like the way they structure the team and how the business works, I don’t know.
Within that series, as well as on your own Instagram, we see you stick to a strict regimen and lifestyle, notably waking up at 4:30 to work out everyday. How does this routine or mindset transpire into REPRESENT’s clothing?
It’s just about setting my own standards and hopefully that has a ripple effect through the business and through the people that follow the brand and are inspired by the brand. It’s allowed me to create the 247 aspect of the brand which focuses on active wear and fitness, living a good lifestyle and training. We’re able to give training programmes and give advice, and just really bring our customer into that whole world of just living better. One of the best things I’ve seen from 247, there’s customers that have been with us for 10 years, that aren’t healthy, that aren’t fit. Because they’ve watched the brand, and we watch how we are, they start trying to do it themselves. Then six months later, they send us a DM saying “Dude, I’ve been wearing REP for 9 years, and now I wear 247 and I’ve changed my life. thanks. We wake up to their messages every day, so it’s great.
This company was founded with your brother, Michael. When family and business get involved, things can quickly get tricky when it comes to disagreements. How do you two resolve any disputes you may have surrounding REPRESENT?
Mike just agrees with everything. It would be terrible if he was the same as me. He’s happy with any decision I make, because he obviously respects how we run things. He’s put himself in a position of what he originally was always the best at, which is all the graphic design side of the brand. You can really see that come out to life, especially with the Mötley Crüe collabs, and the way the seasons look. He’s an artist more than a businessman, whereas I’m just somewhere in the middle. When Mike does have something to say it’s always the right direction, which is great
Paul mentioned being young has been a challenge for you to be taken seriously during meetings and whatnot. What were the main hardships you have faced along the way?
I think there were two main ones that I always remember. The first one is factory visits. A lot of suppliers just think “Oh, here’s another college project that’s got no money, that can’t pay the bills, that are only going to order small”. That really got us for a while. We ended up developing really good connections with factories. Then when we went back to Portugal in 2019/2020 to resource. We were already quite a big brand at the time, and it was still really difficult for us to actually get our foot in the door. Now three, four years later, it’s every single factory in Portugal that wants to work with us because they see one factory doing it, and then another factory doing it and then it’s the talk of the town. So that’s one of the hardest things as a young brand and what I’ll try and pop through on YouTube series especially, how difficult that process is. The other one was fashion weeks. We never felt like we were invited, never a part of it. Everyone turned their nose for many years until we decided to say let’s just not do it. Then everyone wants you there.
Since your company has grown so much, your designs have been seen on the likes of Dua Lipa, Quavo, Justin Bieber, and many other celebrities. Who is one person you would want to see wear your designs?
I always say this is kind of a bit of a joke, but it’s not a joke. The Rock. It would be such a cool moment to see The Rock in one of our hoodies. He’s just that funny guy. Apart from that, LeBron James would be great.
You’ve previously mentioned that inspiration can come to you from just about anything. What was the wildest thing or where was the most unexpected place you found yourself inspired to create?
Probably for the 247 pant, and that’s our best selling pant we’ve ever done. That was just when it was COVID. Me and my brother were just going on hikes every day. We didn’t have a pant that we could wear that felt right. We decided to make this pant, and it took a while to do it, but it was something that we could wear to go on a hike or go to the gym or sit in the office. It was just something that would last us throughout the day, through whatever we do. Because it had that story to it, we told that through the video campaign that we did, and I think it was like the most well received thing we’ve done.
What else does REPRESENT have in store for us in the near future?
We’ve got some collabs coming out this year, and some good ones for next year as well. What I’m most excited about which is coming soon is the Mötley Crüe. Obviously myself and Mike have been inspired by rock music all our lives and you can see it come through with all the collections we’ve done since day one. Mike reached out to Ozzy Osbourne a couple of years ago and we did a collaboration together. That was such a good moment for us because our graphics were already looking like vintage rock tees and then we would put that name through it and it did really well. The next one is Mötley Crüe. So next month, we will go to Los Angeles to launch that in the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip. Hopefully some of the guys will come through and it should be a good night.
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