XUMU is a Berlin based luxury fashion label founded by entrepreneurs and designers, Batuhan Dalci and Melih Bilgin. It’s a brand who are possibly best known for their giant puffer coats but who design fearless and comfortable luxury garments for all seasons. A brand which creates clothing using the latest innovative, sustainable and responsible technologies and which designs outside the societally imposed constraints of outmoded gender norms.
They are a brand whose life affirming mantra is XUMU is as XUMU does. It’s a philosophy which dares us to dress with bold bravado, which dares us to dress without the fear of judgement and ultimately dares us to dress as our authentic true selves.
As their latest pieces dropped, we sat down with the guys to ask about the brand’s origin story, the factors which have coalesced to create the distinctive XUMU DNA and their plans and aspirations for the future.
We love an April Fool and your 01/04 invisible puffer coat press release seemed to us like the “Emperor’s new clothes” folk story repackaged for a 21st-century fashion audience. While it was an April Fool was there a more serious message behind it that you wanted to share with us about the brand and its values?
“Emperor’s new clothes” folk story was the very first thing that inspired us. We are in the fashion business and we can survive when people see our garments worth buying. But consumers are more than what they wear. So, we decided to use the ‘invisible coat’ as a metaphor to remind that. We aim to those who embrace the promises of the brand, manage to stand out from the crowd, whether they wear our garments or not.
What was the inspiration behind founding the brand and working as a duo do you have specific roles and responsibilities or is it more organic collaboration than that?
We are childhood friends and we have done almost everything together so far. We can say that it is more of an organic collaboration. We have been in creative in the biz for over 10 years and we own a creative agency in Istanbul. We have been doing crazy stuff for over a decade and we have experienced fashion with some of our brands back then. We crafted their designs, consulted their advertisement, sales and more. And finally decided to build our own brand, and to transfer the knowledge we gained, into our own asset.
You say that fashion is transient, but style is eternal. Sustainability is key to everything that you do so how important in the design process is it that your pieces have style longevity as well as ethical longevity?
When we design, we do not care much about the trends. Every garment should reflect our own style, XUMU essence. We always beat our brain to find the best possible mixture of essence, quality and functionality. So, when you check those in the list then you can pass the test for style and ethical longevity.
Has the pandemic presented any particular challenges in preserving the integrity of your supply chains and sustainable ethos? If so, how have you navigated those difficulties?
Pandemic has affected a lot, mostly in terms of sales. Stores have been closed and it directly reflected to our sales in 2020. Fortunately, we have a competitive edge. We have our own manufacturing facility. This makes things easier in so many ways. We are flexible, rapid and efficient in terms of production and innovation. So, we focused on efficiency and product development. We tried to make the most out of these hard times.
You are based in Berlin and we wondered how much the brand’s ethos and creativity are informed by the culture and history of the city?
Berlin has a mixed nature, calm and peaceful on the surface but crazy like hell beneath the surface. It is kind of an ‘underground’ city. So, the city itself was our inspiration for the brand identity and collections.
XUMU is famous for its legendary giant puffer coats and your latest designs have recently dropped. What inspired this silhouette that has become synonymous with the label?
The inspiration came when I (Batuhan) was in Berlin. It was 3 years ago. I was alone walking, and it was a bit cold out there. I thought that there must be a jacket that should make you feel like it is home, big and warm. I guess I was a bit emotional
When I returned to Istanbul, I immediately crafted the sketches, informed the team and manufactured the first ever XUMU draft and the story continued.
You also have your “Invariant” collection which features stunning raincoats, bombers, hoodies, and T-shirts. How important is it to provide that diversity and breadth of pieces for the XUMU customer?
And there are more on the way! Of course, it is not all about giant coats. Well to summarize our approach, the idea is to make cat-walk garments wearable on the street. To normalize the craziness. We do not want to limit our design ideas with garment types, traditions or norms. We are now focused on winter clothing but always be ready for the surprises.
We loved the shoot you did with Alex Scott football pundit and ex-Arsenal and England international. How did that relationship come about, and which other celebrities and public figures would you like to see wearing your clothes?
We have positioned our brand as sporty and stylish. And it is really enjoying to see such reflections. We had not planned the shoot; it was a surprise for us to see a Pucelle on Alex. She is gorgeous with it. I guess our giant coats would also match with Billie Eilish’s style
XUMU is a brand that challenges gender norms and whose pieces are very much genderless. You have a “unisex” dropdown on your website but also “man” and “woman” dropdowns. Do you envisage a time when you will be marketing your pieces without those man and woman gender labels or do practicalities such as sizing and possibly some customer reticence mean they will remain for the time being?
That is a really good question which we ask ourselves every time when we design a new garment. We try to make every garment look stylish in their own way. And as the body nature differentiates between man and woman sometimes, we choose to specialize it for man and woman which we do not want to. And also, consumers are not fully ready for this ‘unisex’ idea now. It needs an effort to find your exact fit, and they may choose the easier way. So, this will be a slow transformation. We want to be one of the pioneers.
As we look towards a hopefully brighter future what plans, and aspirations do XUMU have for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022?
We want to lead innovation in fashion, try the things nobody has ever tried before in terms of both production and marketing. We want people have our name in their minds when they think of something crazy and extraordinary!
As we have mentioned that we have our own manufacturing facility. The facility is kind of a new investment though and soon you will see the multiplied benefits and results. New collections and campaigns are on the way!
XUMU are a brand which invites us to dare with them, to embrace an attitude where what you wear is an extension of who you are. XUMU give us clothes that embolden us to do just that. We would encourage you to dare with them as they create pieces for those who seek clothing which combines a boldly contemporary sensibility with a meticulous attention to craftmanship.
Big thanks to Chim and Millie at Black PR for all their help in arranging our interview with the team at XUMU.