How UVU Ran the World in 2023

With sell-out marathon pop-ups across the world, the running and athletics collective speak to Hypebeast about their transformative 2023.

Fashion
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Throughout 2023, UVU has captured the high of running like no one else.

Started as a group of close friends of founder Adi Gillespie, UVU is now a fully-fledged sportswear brand filled with an international club of athletes pursuing greatness. The brand is driven by a core philosophy – “The graceful pursuit of a superior self”.

UVU crafts quality products with acute attention to detail, with each garment serving as essential, fashion-forward pieces that aid the brand’s ethos, or “pursuit”. Put simply, if you want to look good while working out or running, UVU has got you covered.

But UVU goes much deeper than just selling products: the overall idea, culture, and experience the brand is striving towards is much more transformative. That much is clear in the brand’s creative direction, which truly sets it apart from other competition in the space – particularly in the UK. 

UVU’s visual identity treads a different path to your average athletics brand. Along with founder Adi Gillespie, filmmaker Mac Scott, Hector Trend, photographers Andres Sanjuan, Henry Goodfellow and Alex Robson, muse Peter John and partners Jonny Wilson and Cole Buxton, the brand has cultivated a devout following all over the world. 

The London-based label has enjoyed an incredible 2023, with sell-out marathon pop-ups launched all over the world causing chaos on the streets of Paris, Milan, New York and London.

After a standout year, we caught up with founder Adi Gillespie to talk about everything that went down in the last 365, what is driving UVU forward, and what we can expect from the brand in the future.

 

UVU has had a crazy year. How would you describe 2023 in a nutshell?

We set out to deliver our message organically to as many people as we could and in that regard this year has been a huge success.

What does UVU strive to do differently than your average sportswear brand?

I wouldn’t say we consciously try to do something different than the other sportswear brands out there, we just deliver a product that we would want to see on the market as a consumer, naturally, that’s different to what else is out there. When we initially sat down to make a decision on whether to bring UVU back – after a short hiatus – it was clear that there was space for UVU over direct competition we had to steer away from. It should feel new, something you haven’t seen before.

You’ve hosted pop-ups all over the world, with crowds forming around the block in the different places you’ve visited. Can you give us a rundown of all of those events and what went down at each of them?

This year, we brought UVU to Milan, Paris, New York – and hosted pop-ups locally in London. The structure generally stays the same for each of them, we target weekends with major sporting events in; in our case the major marathons. This does some of the leg work for you already; it gives reason to both your product design and the temporary space itself. Then, it’s our job to further make that story “UVU”.

We have the team in all the product leading up to the weekend itself, our ‘race kit’, then we launch the kit in our pop-up the day before the race. The pop-ups have been a huge success for us this year, our community is very much worldwide and meeting them face to face again adds more weight to what we do.

How do you think you’ve managed to galvanise such a global audience and community?

I think, first and foremost, our visual identity speaks for many different international markets. If a new customer came across the brand, it’s hard to pin point where exactly the roots are from. Sport helps do that, running is still just running – whichever corner of the world you’re in.

Running is increasingly becoming more and more “hype” – with a slew of different brands leaning into a more fashion-first aesthetic. How do you ensure UVU stands out from the crowd?

The way we market the brand. There is less differentiation between products from brand to brand: but what does it mean to wear UVU? That’s the gap we are focused on.

The UVU team is key to everything the brand puts out – is that what you put most of your success down to?

Absolutely, the team is still very small, but our wider group of friends are still very much integral to what we do. We have incredibly talented people around us that want to help build this world in whichever way they can.

Bringing on Mac Scott to help visualise your aesthetic has also been a marked success. What did you see him in originally that made you want to bring him in?

Finding creative people that understand your vision is very hard to find, but Mac and I were on the same wave length from the off. He hadn’t done much at all when we first met but I could see, based on our initial conversations,  that he had been filling up his creative reservoir for years and his will to continue to push that further was very apparent. Working with creative people can be both very difficult and very easy, Mac makes our process feel like an extension of one another.

Who are your other creative collaborators who have helped flesh out the UVU aesthetic?

We have an abundance of talent in different fields, artists like Hector Trend, photographers Andres Sanjuan, Henry Goodfellow & Alex Robson, our muse Peter John and my partners Jonny Wilson and Cole Buxton who wear many hats across different fields. They all understand what we are here to do and all play their part.

Where are UVU taking things in 2024?

To every corner we can fit it in. We want to continue to push our message “Graceful pursuit of a superior self’ to more sports outside of running, and deeper into the international markets we are currently in.

We are currently hiring more talent to take what we’ve built in this first two years to a more professional outfit that is here to stay for the long haul. More touch points with our community via both digital and IRL experiences like physical stores, activations and apps. Along with entering the womenswear market from a product standpoint. UVU is still in its infancy, the foundations have now been built but we need to capitalise on what we already currently have.

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