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Natural Selection

Innovative washes and an expanded range have helped the men’s denim brand thrive in the downturn

They say adversity breeds success, but it still comes as a surprise when something creative is born during a recession.

So when Paul Young and Richard Shackleton, owners of brand agency Concrete Studio, launched men’s premium denim label Natural Selection, Darwin’s theory of evolution and his notion that only the fittest survive could not have been more apt.

“The launch was dictated by our ability to design and produce,” says Young. “If you spend too much time thinking about the recession you would never leave the house.”

Launched in autumn 09, Natural Selection has fabrication and detailing at its creative core. It delivers denim priced between £52 and £80 at wholesale to the likes of three-store Edinburgh indie Xile and department store Liberty.

A creative collective called Guardians of the Standard, comprising Young and Shackleton along with graphic artist Reilly and collective member John Park, designs and produces the label. It launched with a denim-only collection and for autumn 10 introduced a 15-piece clothing offer priced between £16 and £120.

The brand has continued to expand for spring 11 and Young says there are more innovative washes on the denims this season, from subtly scraped through to vintage. There is an increase in non-denim product including outerwear, jersey and trousers in lighter fabrics. “[The product has] to remain authentic because of our own beliefs and also to keep the enthusiasts happy, but really we are making jeans for people to wear and not keep in a box to sell at auction one day,” he says.

The man behind Berlin streetwear show Bread & Butter, Karl-Heinz Müller, asked Natural Selection to exhibit in the Labels of Common Kin hall at next week’s edition of the show. “Karl-Heinz’s belief in the brand was flattering and also reassuring,” says Young. “Northern Europe is an exciting market for us. Territories like Germany, Holland and Belgium are important because of their love of denim.”

Natural Selection has no business plan, but like the process of choosing the fabric mills, the stockists and even the birth of the brand itself, much of

the expansion is expected to be organic, targeting purist denim stores and designer boutiques around the world. “The long-term goal is to make innovative jeans and remain true to our beliefs,” says Young. “We have so much fun working as a creative collective that if we can turn this into a success - well, what more can you ask for?” l

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