Today we welcome Henri and Quentin, co-founders of Urban Circus. Find out what they have to say about security, useful fashion, urban jungles and… frozen toes!
POP Collection live now on Kickstarter !
What’s the Urban Circus concept?
To turn upside down, to transgress, these are the ideas behind Urban Circus. Urban Circus reinvents the future of fashion: more high-tech, useful and above all flashy.
Everything started with the idea to reinvent the yellow safety vests. Today, we came up with a solution that combines fashion with safety through our original collection, which allows reducing the risks of accidents up to 70%.
Tell us about you, how you met, and how you got here.
We met during our engineering studies. At this time, Henri was starting to design quirky safety vests. While I decided to continue my path as an engineer, Henri started a fashion school. At that time, we decided that we would meet again, 10 years later.
We ended up finding each other again a few years later. He just had just come back from Australia, I just got back from the US. He was strongly motivated by the project, I was feeling like doing something else than engineering. We thus decided to start together, head first.
No offense, but designing safety vests sounds like a weird hobby.
H: Yes, but I definitely think we needed to give a meaning to what we were doing.
Q: Yes, we had a great device for being innovative, with interesting textures. It was a challenge to start from something useful and to transform it into something new and original. This is a real artistic approach. The best example of that would be Clet Abraham. This is a street artist who revisits traffic signs by adding little guys on it. The nature and the meaning of the sign do not change, the sign only becomes funnier. This is an original medium for art.
How did you come up with the idea?
First and foremost, we were trying to solve the problem. Originally, we’re both riders. We thought: “yellow safety vests… not happening!”. We fully understood why it was useful, though. The idea slowly crawled into our minds. At first, I was working on literal safety vests, nothing like what we do now. Then the product evolved with inspirations, discussions, etc.
So was that before or after the Lagerfeld PSA?
(laughs) It was after! That’s the moment we started to feel like they were writing laws and regulations around visibility, and that the safety jacket was becoming mandatory. So we sort of did like other artists, who try to find a new kind of freedom within the constraints imposed upon them. What we were thinking was: “we’re going to have to wear that thing, when really, what we all truly want is to wear something that expresses who we really are deep down”.
So far, your collection has six jackets. Do you ambition to develop more designs, or maybe new products?
H: Of course! We have many projects: we’re launching the brand in Canada, with a new collection called POP in reference to its colors and very geometrical theme. You won’t see any patterns on those, but they’ll still have that edgy style you can’t find in other high-visibility clothes.
One of the biggest project this year is to launch a collection for children. Safety is also and specially made for them!
Q: Many parents told us that they would feel more comfortable knowing their children were wearing a high-visibility jacket, similar to ours. Such jackets would secure them when going to school, biking or walking in parks…
H: In a park, you are always scared to lose your child!
Q: We also thought about coming back to our essence, the yellow safety vest, and maybe come up with a stylish yellow jacket.
H: Also something more affordable. Our products are quite expensive so far but safety should be accessible to anyone. As Quentin said, our essence is to produce fashion-tech, but that’s still ready-to-wear. We don’t want to end up with unaffordable luxury prices, even though the creation of our materials is expensive.
Q: The goal is that anyone can get it!
How do you envision the urban essence in ten years?
H: I think that winters are going to change a lot. Instead of all-black, monochromatic outfits, I think people are going to start wearing more fluorescent clothing. Everyone’s already fluo for winter sports and sports in general, they know it’s useful. They already think “if I’m wearing something fluorescent, I’m visible, it’s safer”. That’s what it’s going to be like in ten years: everyone dressed in fluo during the winter.
Q: Then it’ll all be a literal “Urban Circus”, with colors everywhere.
H: We also have great faith in Anne Hidalgo, no more cars, everyone on two wheels or in the subway.
Biking automatically takes us to Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen… isn’t this whole philosophy a little out of place in France, and in Paris?
H: Admittedly, we are very “early stage” for the French market. We do have a few enthusiastic, our early adopters, who are quite involved with us and the brand. That sets the ground for a very nice community here in France, that will only grow stronger. That’s why we are also expanding to Canada and other countries, we can’t limit ourselves to France.
Q: Those that can actually see themselves wearing the jacket form a very recognizable community. They all sort of know each other, it’s a pretty tight core. It’s not just the jacket that gets people engaged, but the whole concept.
H: Just like in Amsterdam or Berlin, you still need to do a little bit of preaching around the concept of technical fashion that can save lives, or at least reduce the risks of accidents.
Q: Canada is really ahead of us regarding that! They’re all willing to wear useful clothing. No one wears cute little shoes, everyone wears big boots because if you don’t, you end up like me, with frozen toes, and, in the end, you need to cut off all your toes.
H: (laughs) I think you can edit that out.
You integrated the third incubation promotion at Look Forward. What does this years at Look Forward mean to you?
Q: We are in a growing phase, with the objective to aim high. First, we needed to meet up with the corporate universe and to be closed from reality.
H: And structured. One of the main problems, when your company is growing, is to structure things. Thanks to Look Forward, we can observe what is being done at Showroomprivé.
Q: Another reason is that Showroomprivé is a digital reference. We were wondering whether or not we could become digital, whether or not we could handle the pace of the e-commerce development in France. These questions were also good reasons for us to join Look Forward. Our incubation has been the opportunity for us to meet up with a lot of experts in the field, who can answer our questions.
H: Finally, we currently work a lot in BtoB, especially with delivery companies. However, we would like to reinvest the BtoC market. Showroomprive is a great stepping stone for us in this mission. In fact, thanks to Showroomprivé, we can have contacts with many experts from each team so that they can help us with structuring our brand, launching our brand, and so on. This is a really great support to avoid mistakes that could slow us down.
We hope you enjoyed our time with Henri and Quentin, and we thank them for their time!