As part of our founder interview series, we speak with Ali Namdari, Founder & Designer of Labo Mono to talk about the inspiration behind the most "fun-ctional" eco-friendly jacket.
As a designer by trade, what inspired you to create the perfect Urban Jacket?
In summer 2018, I was cycling home when I got caught in a rainstorm. I had one of those windbreakers with me, and was drenched by the time I made it home. With my frustration level to the max, I started looking online for a jacket that was actually waterproof, comfortable when active and that I could wear when I was about in the city.
To my surprise, all the results I got were super serious looking technical jackets. Not quite what I had in mind for everyday wear: I love wearing bold colours and prints. And the few jackets that came close were far from being sustainably made. That’s when it struck me. There was something to be done here. I initially did a prototype just for myself, but I quickly realised that a lot of my friends and strangers were interested too and were asking where to get one. I went back to my drawing board, did lots of new iterations and user tests to come up with an improved version, fit for production: the Urban Jacket, by Labo Mono.
I documented all my work, and in March 2019, I launched a Kickstarter campaign to present the idea, secure preorders and raise funds for our very first production. We raised more than double the amount we needed!
Fast forward, today we’ve got our jackets sent around in the UK and all around the world, are stocked in our first shops and are super happy to be now on the MAMOQ platform.
Out of all the user-tested features on the Urban Jacket - from reflective cuffs to hidden pocket sleeves - which one is your favourite?
Good question! I personally love the hidden sleeve pockets, they’re quite handy. I’ve got my mints in my left sleeve pocket and Oyster card in the right sleeve.
Labo Mono features a lot of bold prints and colours. Where do you get your style inspiration?
A mixture of street art, the 80/90s prints, Toy Story (yes, the animated film).
For our first collection, we made people vote for their favourite designs, and we made those into production. :)
Today we’re starting to open up our jacket designs with artists all around the world.
What is the meaning behind the name Labo Mono?
“Labo”stands for “lab” in French. The idea of imagining our colourful prints being made in an ironic research lab sounded really fun to me.
A 3D animator friend of mine even helped me create some of the machines I had in mind, like this one.
And “Mono” because I want all our prints and styles to be unisex.
I’ve seen so many awesome designs in clothing stores, only to find out that they were only made for kids, or women. Hey, grown up men can wear happy colours and prints too! :)
Ethical fashion is an extremely broad topic. What is your definition of ‘ethical’ fashion’?
Put really simply, leave a positive impact. Not only on the customer’s mind, but on everything linked to the product created.
Fair working conditions in the whole supply chain, using more sustainable alternatives where possible (even if it’s pricier), extending the life of our products.
You took a trip to China to meet your production partners in person. Why was it important for you to make that trip?
Personally visiting a factory is crucial if you’re serious about the working conditions of the people involved in creating your product.
And a lot of people have a stereotypical view of Asian produced goods in mind: poorly built by unhappy workers. But by researching all the candidates around the world, I knew not all factories were equal, no matter which country they’d be in, there'd be good and bad everywhere.
Visiting them personally would help me decide.
After months of intense scouting, in the summer of 2019, I finally met the factory and the workers involved on this project, willing to start our first production.
It was an amazing experience to see go there myself.
What do you look for in other brands you support?
Transparency, design and innovation. Bonus point if they’ve got bold design too. :)
What adventuring are you most likely to get up to in your Urban Jacket, and which design would you be wearing?
I like to say that our jackets are for everyday adventures. This can be a short ride on your bike, a walk in the rain, or even a catch up with your friends in a beer garden.
And the good thing about having an outerwear brand is that I can wear any design I like on any given day!
What is one thing you wish someone could come up with the perfect design for?
An automatic back scratcher. Damn I love back scratches.
How would you like to see Labo Mono grow in the future?
We’ve got big goals! We want to become a reference in high quality and eco-friendly outerwear.
The Urban Jacket is the first product we have created for now, and we’ve got lots of surprises prepared for the future.
We want to experiment even more, with recycled materials, and create new bold and cleverly versatile clothes designed for life’s journeys. Stay tuned!