MEET BACKTOBACK W/ ATHENA & BRAD
BACKTOBACK is a London based clothing brand designed to show the balance between raving and sustainability, community and unity. Inspired by music, art and nature BACKTOBACK combines graphic prints with sustainable materials that take you from day to night, from the street to the rave.
We chatted with founders Athena and Brad about seasonless clothing, reconnecting to nature, and, of course, music!
"For many ravers, the dance floor is the escape our generation needs which reinforces the concept for the Botanical collection; a highly sensory experience giving a retreat from modern-day life."
What 2 words best describe BACKTOBACK?
When did you start BACKTOBACK, and what inspired you to?
In 2017, as we were finishing our undergraduate degrees at university. We found we were stuck at a dead-end and was not sure what our next direction was going to be. We both have a love for electronic dance music, fashion, and design and felt, even though there are hundreds of clothing brands in the market, there’s nothing that really resonates with the rave industry and its values of community and feeling. We found ourselves raving in skate and surfwear which just didn’t make sense.
Tell us about the team behind the brand…
We are Athena & Brad. Business partners and couple. We are both from London but met at Nottingham Trent University. Athena is 24 years old and has a degree in English & Film studies, and a Masters in Branding & Advertising. Brad is 25 years old and has a degree in Business Management.
Our working relationship came together very naturally, having two people on the team creates a good balance. We would also be nowhere without our family & friends, so we count them as our extended team!
What’s playing on the office/studio stereo?
It’s usually a mix from our GROUNDED series that we started as the lockdown was announced, we release a new one every week, so there is never a shortage of good music playing in our house. A lot of Dutch, minimal is circulating at the moment, tracks from Chris Stussy, Artmann & Prunk - so that’s one of the key sounds playing. We do like to switch it up from electronic dance music now and again, so you can’t beat Fleetwood Mac Rumours on vinyl!
We define good design as ‘making a positive impact on people and the planet a key input in the design stage’. How do you approach this at BACKTOBACK?
When we design, we think about whether the style is fit for all seasons. We like to create seasonless clothing, that people can wear all year round and feel good in. It’s important that we change the way we consume fashion, move away from fast, one-time pieces of clothing, and take care of your clothing, and know it is ok to outfit repeat!
When we design we always use old rave flyers for reference, but we also try to enforce a message with each of our garments about the environment as all our clothing is either organic or recycled, so if we can educate through our design that is great for us! Our new collection that is dropping at the beginning of December is designed around botanical gardens and plants. We reflected on our current lifestyle situation and realised our need to reconnect with nature. For many ravers, the dance floor is the escape our generation needs which reinforces the concept for the Botanical collection; a highly sensory experience giving a retreat from modern-day life. Since Covid hit the world earlier this year, the music industry has also been hit really hard, with no events or gatherings allowed. Many ravers like us have turned to the outdoors, going for long walks, exercising outside, etc, to keep positive mental health and attitude! It’s made people appreciate the outdoors and their environment, just like botanicals have been doing for centuries!
We believe in transparency, so we always ask designers - what would you like to do better, or are you working on improving?
We are always looking to improve the garments we use, slowly moving into the cut & sew sector, so eventually, all our garments can be made in the UK. We have recently released our face masks, which were individually hand sewn by a tailor that lives locally to us in North London. Her business was going through a hard time since Covid, so it was important to us to support small, local businesses.
We are also currently looking at alternative ways/ methods to print on our fabrics, whether that be hand dying, or water-based inks, this is something that we want to integrate into our manufacturing process and move away from plastic-based inks and printing.
Where is BACKTOBACK going in the future?
Back to Ibiza! After being there for an extended Summer last year, we are planning to return in 2021. It’s a special place for us, surrounded by people who have a zest for life, take care of the environment, and love music, it’s the perfect setting for BACKTOBACK to grow organically.
As we all know, the fashion industry as a whole is responsible for huge environmental and social issues. How would you like to see the industry change and progress?
More companies, especially high street and luxury brands setting up programmes for their garment workers, much like the Fair Wear Foundation. This will ensure every person involved in the farming, manufacturing, production is accounted for, with fair living wages, better working conditions, and more! It seems like it’s always the smaller, start-up brands who are the most transparent and conscious about these issues, so it would be great to see the big fashion players step up and make a change! With Covid, it became very clear that as production in the retail industry had to slow down, many companies had not set up contingency plans for their garment workers, leaving them without work and pay - this is horrendous, considering how much money some of these brands have, so it’s vital that plans are put in place now, to ensure this never happens again!
The need for seasonal drops in the retail industry. This has already started to happen, and more conversations are being had with major brands about this, but it has to happen at all levels. High street brands such as Zara release 52 drops per year, adding to the destructiveness of fast fashion, which can so easily be avoided. It’s about educating people to care for their clothes, not over-consume, and instead reuse, recycle and rethink!
A really important one for us, that we really felt a need for when we first entered the industry was more accessible and free education for start-up brands, to help develop their own brands in sustainable ways. Christopher Raeburn is one of the key designers who has done this with ‘Raeburn labs’, creating spaces and workshops for young designers to learn to create clothing and products that have less of an impact on the environment. In life, everything starts with education. If people are educated from a young age about sustainability, more often than not, the decisions and actions they take in the future will always bear that in mind.
What advice would you give to people who want to be more responsible when they’re shopping?
Buy less, wear more.
Ask yourself, do you need it and if you do will it last? Also, do your values match the brand's values? After a short read about them online you’ll soon understand if you support their future. If they are not open about where their clothes are made, then they probably have something horrible to hide.
Thanks Athena and Brad!
You can find out more about BACKTOBACK and shop the new Botanicals collection here.