My Side Hustle: Graphic Designer, fashion entrepreneur, and more

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Our team is full of exceptionally talented people – the work they do is what makes our agency so great. They are also creative, innovative, and driven outside of the office as well. We’re going to go into mum-brag mode and feature some of our employees’ most impressive side hustles, because we’re proud of them and want to show them off.

In the spotlight: Wil Barker, Junior Designer, eco-conscious fashion entrepreneur and founder of YOUSEVEN.

How did you get into making clothing?
I started out as a graphic designer by creating a lot of merchandise for small brands and sports teams, which soon led to me producing a few of my own designs on t-shirts for friends. I co-founded a vegan streetwear brand (formerly known as Ethics & Antics) back in 2015, leaving a year later.

From doing that I wanted to create an even more sustainable option, so I set about doing my own thing from scratch, using local fabrics and manufacturers where possible and teaching myself to do as much of the process as I can, finally setting up the fashion arm of YOUSEVEN in 2017.

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I wear a black tee almost everyday but have always struggled to find the perfect one, so I tried to make one… A week on from launching the first items online, I’ve written about the process of how I made the ET01 tee along with a preview of what’s coming next. You can find the link in my bio. What I’ll share now is that I’ve realised how much more I enjoy the process of creating, compared to my disinterest in growing a large brand. Ultimately what I’m doing is instead thinking of each item like an art project, regardless of costs or sales, and making the things I’d want. Of course, also then making it all available for those who wish to own anything for themselves… @you_london Designed, Made, and Photographed in E1, London 🖤

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What inspires your designs?
I love the artistry in the process, being able to look at something and think about what I would change to make it better and make into a more perfect garment; whether that’s through more innovative and sustainable materials or a more bespoke approach. It’s amazing to wear something that was made specifically for you. I’d love anyone who wears anything of mine in the future to have that same feeling.

Does social media play a part in your side hustle?
I think social media acts as my portfolio for the project. It’s my place to research and share the ideas I’m coming up with while I’m prototyping. It’s also where I present the final creations while explaining the rationale behind my design decisions too.

The idea that I can rapidly prototype things and get instant feedback is invaluable and something that couldn’t happen before social media. People are able to slowly watch this project come together and develop.

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Today marks 7 Years of YouSeven. This year has seen me try to figure out what I really want to focus on, realising that fashion is the backdrop I want to set my work against, whether that’s designing, shooting, or making. January 2018 saw the first products I’ve released in 4 years, and right now I couldn’t be more motivated to make more. I’ve got 2 more patterns ready to sample, but to due to an unforeseen move I wasn’t able to have one ready in time to release today – It’ll be ready soon though. Here’s to another year of making shit. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to finish my long lost interview series this year. — Wil | April 7th 2011 — Now

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Is there a particular community online that engages with the project?
Because the project is so intrinsically tied to me and my brand through all the disciplines of work I do, I think contemporary and multidisciplinary creatives – such as designers and photographers, like myself – can appreciate fine details. Ultimately, that sort of Punk/DIY approach of “I couldn’t find it, so I just made it instead”. They may not become customers but they can resonate with the brand’s ideals and aesthetic.

Where do you see the business going in the future?
I’m always torn when I think about the future of it all because I’d always like to consider it an art project, and would never like any of the business aspects to overrule the core idea of creating the best things I can, regardless of how long it takes or how much it costs. 

Once I’ve got one or two more final samples all good to go, I’ve got a new collection I want to start prototyping and sampling next year that moves away from the current simple essentials into something a bit more cohesive and thematic. I hope to expand more into bespoke made-to-order production in London when I can, and hopefully build the brand up further so I can have access to the innovative fabrics that as an individual I sadly can’t get my hands on at the moment.

What’s the best piece of motivational advice you’ve ever heard?
It wasn’t one thing in particular that he said, but I’ll forever credit Lewis Boyce (aka @Suffoca) for being the person who showed me that I didn’t have to stick to just one thing. That I could be a graphic designer, photographer, videographer and now fashion designer at the same time, and that being multidisciplinary could be a strength, not a weakness.

Ever since, my work hasn’t been tied to just one discipline and even led to me writing my university thesis on the importance of being multidisciplinary.

One other thing I remember hearing, and need to follow more myself, would be to try to always share my work wherever it’s at along the way – I could wait for everything to be perfect before showing anyone, but I may then never show it at all. It can sometimes be better to just get it out into the world to be seen by people.

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🎥 Behind the camera more and more, just not always for my own stuff… — London, August 2019

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Check out YOUSEVEN on Instagram @yousevenuk, and on our channel @wearesocial now.