superchat amsterdam: jolle van der mast + daniel archutowski

© unrecorded. / the co-founders strolling around the premises of a factory in portugal

when two minds think alike, great things can happen, and such is the case with jolle van der mast [jm] and daniel archutowski [da]. the founders of amsterdam-based men’s label unrecorded. crossed paths while searching for a new venture that would indulge not only their desire to establish a sustainable apparel brand, but also one that would offer the timeless designs they could wear themselves as both discerning shoppers and eco-conscious consumers. while it has been a fairly easy ride for archutowski, being a designer with a professional background that easily adapts to the realm of fashion, it has been a complete u-turn for van der mast, who strayed away from a corporate job in one of the planet’s most polluting industries to pursue a more fulfilling career in fashion and retail. superfuture sat down with the fashion entrepreneurs to chat about their newly established brand, careers moves, idealism, style, and what’s next.

how did you guys get together? could you elaborate how you found each other for this venture? [jm] well, we didn’t start out as old friends, but met each other later in life. i grew up in london and moved back to the netherlands when I was a teen. i studied technical business sciences up north in the provincial town of groningen, and soon after started working in the oil industry. eventually, i wanted to flex my entrepreneurial skills and became general manager at a company that manufactures so-called flexible intermediate bulk containers. you know, those large-sized plastic bags filled with sand and gravel that you’ll come across whenever passing roadworks. interestingly, the company’s factory where those products are made, is a textile factory, and it turned out that many of its staff used to work for marks & spencer. 
 
actually, the idea to venture into what I’m doing now started right there. i wanted to make a difference in an industry that needed change, and it so happens that the general production of clothing is in a pretty dire state. i’ve been engaged with sustainability from an early age, and being an avid surfer, i’ve always felt this connection with nature. so, while researching the clothing industry, a number of digital vertical apparel brands caught my eye. these companies skip the wholesale business, offering merchandise directly serve customers. it was during this phase that i met daniel through a mutual contact, and my focus on sustainability increased even more since he already had dipped his toe in the industry and had run a sustainable brand himself. within six weeks after we met, we founded our company! 
 
[da] the whole business concept instantly appealed to me. i’ve worked for quite some time in the apparel industry, and there are so many brands. so, you really have to add something to stand out. as for a line basics, it’s obviously already out there, plentiful even, but done in a sustainable manner and dealing directly with customers, that’s still happening on a very small scale. i was actually waiting for an opportunity to engage into a business that would uphold these principles, and it happened to be unrecorded., a venture i set up with jolle. we had endless conversations about the brand and what it would stand for, and the more we chatted, the more stoked i became. 
 
an important element of your brand is sustainability. how did the process evolve finding the right manufacturers and materials? [da] before doing this, i managed with two other partners accessories brand ikku. we created items for apple products, but made a tad more stylishly and from sustainable materials. it was during that period that i got in touch with manufacturers for the very first time and i immediately noticed that it was fairly difficult to have sustainable fabrics made, also because of the limited amount of fabric we’d be taking. but we saw it as a challenge to overcome this hurdle.
 
[jm] the so-called gots-certified organic cotton that we use is subject to strict rules and regulations, and as such, factories really have had to adapt, meaning that entire sections had to be sealed off to avoid the organic cotton being contaminated by other cotton. it takes rather drastic logistic measures to set up an organic cotton production line. back in 2007 the demand for organic cotton first emerged, but waned soon after. after initially holding back, the textile industry is embracing it again, as it’s now a trends that seems to persist. [da] we’ve been able to largely circumvent the problem regarding the purchase of limited batches of fabric because of engaging in a dialogue with the owners, visiting them on a regular basis, explaining our goals and the trajectory we’d like to follow. obviously, there needs to be a click on a personal level as well to achieve this. 
 
the unrecorded. collection comprises of basic pieces for daily use. how do you see the collection evolve in the future? [da] although we  started out with just tees and sweat shirts, but wanted to avoid being merely seen as a brand specialized in these garments, also because we aimed to open a shop. and yet, being a brand focusing on basic garments, we wanted to expand and diversify the offerings. We have a target audience in mind and envision beforehand which product to release next, also in terms of compatibility with existing items, and which colours to apply. our gradual release of products makes more aware of how we’re perceived as a brand, simply because of the fact that a single product will determine our brand image instead of an entire collection. hence, also the delayed introduction of primary colours. we wanted to tell our story as a brand first, before adding another element to our narrative. ideally, we’d like to reach uniqlo’s merchandise level which features specific basic garments in a range of colours, but all of high quality and at an affordable price point. the addition of colour is a logical next step to tell our story.
 
could you elaborate on your customer profile? [jm] daniel and i have obviously drafted a short list, and it’s quite diverse, including anyone between a supreme-obsessed teen and an octogenarian architect. in any case, i think our products have an urban quality that’ll appeal to a culturally diverse consumer group. actually, it’s because we think that our clientele is so diverse that we haven’t adopted a logo for our brand. our product range easily fits in the lifestyle of many people as items can be worn in many ways, fitting almost any look. [da] our store may look clean and understated, but then again, the sales associate who you just met also adds something to the picture, as do the chunky vintage sneakers we’ve just put on display. we try not to exclude certain people, but reach out to a wide range of customers. however, i do think all of our customers share having an eye for quality and detail.  
 
we're curious to know what your definition of good design is? [da] to me personally, it’s all about functionality and timelessness. [jm] a cliché perhaps, but simplicity and sustainability are key to me. do you know dieter rams' ten principles for good design? they’re all spot on. [da] jolle and i basically have the same view on things, but sometimes i simply go with a strong gut feeling for something to be right.
 
who does what within your business operations? [da] as a small company we’re still in this phase which sees a quite an overlap in activities, but I expect things to eventually shift towards a clearer division of tasks based on each other’s preference or compatibility. we as partners both have ideas about each other’s expertise and topics, but we’re continuously in a dialogue to balance everything. eventually, we’ll have to allocate ourselves specific tasks.
 
any plans for the future that you can reveal? what’s your next step? [jm] obviously, we'd like to further expand our collection. but also, we’re already pondering on expansion abroad, but it wouldn’t be on a franchise basis. we very much like to remain in control of things. antwerp and berlin are actually the first cities we’re considering to set up shop next. culturally, these they're are quite similar to amsterdam, as opposed to, say, paris. both cities feature a strong urban and creative feel, and thus are very suitable for us.
 

© unrecorded. / daniel archutowski [left] and jolle van der mast [right]