SQ Magazine

The UK's Leading Independent Youth Culture Publication

INTERVIEW: Alan Wardle of AnyForty

Posted on Tuesday, 30 October by

Spark Season is here to provide you with interviews that seek to showcase some of the most groundbreaking entrepreneurs and talents that would otherwise go unheard.

While the UK streetwear scene is looking stronger than ever and is finally starting to catch up with its US counterparts, finding brands that offer real innovation still remains a very hard task.

Fronted by Alan Wardle, AnyForty is one of the most dynamic emerging brands in the industry, working with a bunch of the most exciting digital artists from around the world to craft their product.

We speak to Alan on the current state of play for his company.

Introduce AnyForty to our readers and tell us about how you first started the brand?

AnyForty is a London based brand, specialising in artist collaboration products. We’ve worked with some of the most exciting new comers and established illustrators that the world has to offer since March 2008.

Where does your love of streetwear come from?

I got a pirated cassette copy of NWA’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’ when I was 12 back in 1990 and I became obsessed with the whole US hip-hop culture but I guess my real love of streetwear really kicked in when I was working full time. Once you’re starting to make some alright money, you haven’t got a family, any bills, and responsibility, and your cash is super disposable, that’s when I got hooked. Regular trips to skate stores used to see me decked head to toe in early days Addict, WeSc and Zoo York. As the years rolled by the love grew stronger.

What has your working life been like prior to AnyForty?

I’ve had a 13-year design career behind me. 10 years in editorial design, working for magazines such as Max Power Magazine, PlayStation and Computer Arts Projects. The last 2 years of my life have seen me balancing AnyForty alongside freelance work that sees me work for design agencies with clients such as NikeiD, AmEx, V-Festival and many more. My weekly work schedule tends to be 3 days client work and 3 days AnyForty work.

I want to be that brand that finds and breaks new talent like Tom Mac before others.

View the new range lookbook from AnyForty, dropping this Friday, here.

Did education play a big part in your learning process for this job?

I scraped by with some GCSEs and managed to get into Newcastle College of Art and Design and was a bit of a joker until the very last year of a HND course in Graphic Design, when my lecturer pointed out I had a lot of potential if I stopped being a dick head. So the last year of studying, I pulled my finger out, listened to lecturers and did some good work. I started applying for jobs months before anyone else on my course did and landed a Junior Designer role before my course had even finished.

You’re a growing company. Have you found the recent economic problems a major hindrance?

I’ve grown AnyForty over these four and a half years with my own money and hard work, I’ve got year on year reports showing that my business pretty much doubles each year. With proof like that, in the past I’d have been able to walk into a bank, explain what I’m doing and then walk out with a business loan to take my brand to the next level. The way the climate is at the moment, I’d struggle to get a loan to buy a sandwich. The flip side of the coin though, is that recessions kill off the weak companies. If you can grow in a recession you’re obviously doing something right!

Streetwear seems to be a very saturated industry. Do you find this as a negative thing, or do you take inspiration from so many people living the same dream?

This is a tricky question. I’m not actually sure I see my self as a streetwear brand. The British streetwear scene in general is a funny one too, I would say apart from a handful of brands like King Apparel, Dephect and Addict, there’s not many actual brands from these shores living the dream and doing it full time like our US brothers. There’s a lot of people setting up brands thinking it’s going to be easy money and a escape from there day job monotony, but as they quickly find out, its not a industry to get into if you’re wanting to make quick, easy cash!

AnyForty has gone from three to 12 stockists this past year. Quantities have gone through the roof now and production costs have also shot up…

Tom Mac x AnyForty: GB Lion Crewneck £45

You work on collaborations with some fantastic illustrators – shout out to Tom Mac – what do you look for in someone that you want to collaborate with?

I look for people who are doing something a bit different. I want to be that brand that finds and breaks new talent like Tom Mac before others or that brand that’s the first UK brand to work with a certain world famous illustrator. I just want to give my customers good-looking products that no one else can offer them!

You’re an independent brand, what advantage does this give you over some of the major names in your industry?

Being independent as in self-funded and self-run? I’m not sure if it gives me any advantages over anyone, it probably gives me disadvantages as I have to run the whole show, where some of these bigger brands have people to do marketing for them, people to pack orders, people to run the accounts – I literally do everything my self – I do it all. I’d say the one real advantage actually, is that I have complete creative control over everything. I don’t have to present new ranges to financial backers or partners to get their sign off. I do what I want and then release it.

Aside from an incredible t-shirt selection, you’ve ventured into accessories too. What other products are on the horizon for AnyForty?

AnyForty has gone from three to 12 stockists this past year. Quantities have gone through the roof now and production costs have also shot up, so all immediate funding is going on clothing. I don’t have any budget at the moment for new accessories like the leather wallets, the snapbacks or the bags. It’s something I’ll bring back at some stage, but at the moment my priority is getting enough clothing produced to keep all my wholesale accounts happy and with product in stores. Saying that, I’m still trying to keep up with releasing the self-published paper product, we’ve got a new calendar and Teeology book on the way. I’ll continue giving people sick artwork, whether it’s to wear on their chests or hang on the kitchen wall!

Find your nearest AnyForty stockist here, and bookmark the official AnyForty shop.

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Corey Pellatt
22-year-old editor of SQ Magazine and Media Studies student at the University of Sussex. Freelance writer for clients including BHAFC.

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