The West London designer behind Saint London talks through his label’s development, and the role his website has played
Frieze Academy: Can you tell us who you are, and what you do?
Reece Yeboah: I’m Reece Yeboah. I’m a 25 year old, West London designer. What I do is motivate the kids in my area and show them that fashion is a way out, and also run my fashion brand Saint London.
FA: What’s your journey been so far?
RY: My journey’s been a crazy one, I’ve had a lot of friends die and a lot of friends go to jail and I’ve used that to motivate myself. The reason why everybody calls me Saint is because a family member died, and they were called Saint, and they called me Saint after that person. And I’ve used that to incorporate that into my business, which is called Saint London. To the point: the journey was hard. My mum sent me to Ghana, and I came back, I studied fashion for about two or three years, I dropped out, and then I found some funds from working, put that into my business, registered it and I’ve been going ever since. In 2018 I did my first ever pop up in Selfridges and they bought my whole collection. That was really dope. It was hard, but I got over the finishing line. The manufacturers pulled out, maybe like 30 days before I was meant to be getting the clothes ready. I got a friend to lend me the money, I bought that collection off him and then we split it and that was it.
FA: When did you begin to notice that your career was changing, as people were taking more notice of your work?
RY: Early 2014 is when people started to see the change in the brand. I started in 2013, my first ever celebrity to put my clothes on was Lewis Hamilton. Ever since then I just picked up and built relationships with artists, started going to America on a regular basis, building relationships with buyers, and working alongside stylists. 2015/2016 is when I started studying a few more courses, which I dropped out of as well, but just to gain knowledge and implement that into my business. After the Selfridges launch in 2018 everyone’s just kind of like taken me seriously.
FA: Can you tell us about the community aspect of Saint?
RY: The community aspect of Saint is just giving back – whether it’s just knowledge or business advice, or just telling my whole story to the kids in the area about how I started up. I feel like the pop up I’m about to do, my first ever pop up flagship is going to be in the area that I grew up in, which is Ladbroke Grove, Goldborne Road is where my flagship is going to be – I’m going to be holding seminars, panels, and they could come in and get advice at any time I’m going to be there. From the first day that I started my business plan I wanted to implement it into the ethos that I’ll always give back to the community no matter what. I didn’t want it to be a thing where I’d have to make profit before I did that. I wanted to do it from early stages.
FA: Would you say you’re an inspiration to a lot of the kids?
RY: Not only to the kids. I’d say I was inspirational to the older generation too – that didn’t have the opportunity that I had: of going to Ghana and experiencing what life was like and getting that awakening and coming back. Just basically working towards my advantages, from learning how life is in Ghana and coming back. And to the ones that might be incarcerated and feel like I’m like the only hope for them at the moment.
FA: What role does your online presence play in getting your brand out there?
RY: When I first started online, it was a bit tricky for me to design with the web builder I chose and then I switched to Squarespace recently and things have just picked up. My designing’s a bit better, I like the look of my store. I can use it and I don’t really need to call up anyone to help me with all of them things. Online presence in the community is hard because I started off my business as a cash one, so people if they wanted designs bespoke and stuff like that, they would come, get cash or they would speak to me, send me messages through Whatsapp and say ‘I want this and that colour’ and come, get the cash and I’d heat press it for them. But now it’s about getting that traffic back onto the online platform is a bit tough but it’s working right now.
FA: Is it useful to have everything in one place?
RY: I’ll say you should have a few avenues – so whether it’s online as well as being in a ‘pop up’, or having a flagship, as well as being in a retailer like Selfridges or Barneys or wherever. I feel like, yeah, trying to be in multiple places as well, and having the Instagram or Facebook add ons to your marketing strategy should work for you.
FA: Can you tell us about the role London plays in the work you do?
RY: I’ll say I don’t speak for everywhere in London, I kind of like hold West London dear to me because of the experiences I’ve been through, and me living so close to Grenfell and always wanting to incorporate that into whatever I do. Whether it’s just showing the heart or the respect or the marches that I’ve been on – because I lost friends. So, I only kind of like speak for West London; but when I’m out of London, I speak for the whole of London.
FA: What advice would you give to someone who’s in the situation you were in, to get into the Fashion industry?
RY: I’ll say figure out kinda like what you want to do, or what role you’d want to do within the fashion industry. Whether it’s being the CEO or being a graphic designer. I’ll say get some experience in the field that they want to be in first, and then weigh the options out instead of just saying you want to be something and then a couple of months into it you change your mind, because your time’s going to be valuable. You’re going to get older and then you’re just going to be stuck. So, I feel like finding out what you want to do from an early stage and then studying the industry ins and outs – marketing, financing, and the people you need in that business will help you.
FA: What’s coming up next for you?
RY: What’s next for me is my flagship pop up, which I’m going to be doing later this year. I’ve got a couple of collabs (that I can’t really talk about) coming up as well, and I’m doing my first ever runway show next year in June. That’s going to be epic, man. It’s called ‘Spiritual Awakening’. There’s three parts to it. So, basically the collection I’ve got out right now is speaking about me being in a car crash and me just giving thanks for that. And then the second part is my mum sending me to Ghana, me reflecting on how life was in Ghana and appreciating the fact that my mum sent me there to kind of restart my mind; that’s going to be called ‘Gold Coast’. The third part will be about 1994, which gives thanks to the year that I was born in. So that’s all coming soon.
FA: What was it about the experience of being in Ghana that gave you the sense of awakening?
RY: Just the pace, the grind. Life out there – social media and all of that stuff wasn’t existent when I was in Ghana. The internet was so slow you wouldn’t even bother, and my mum didn’t send me to the city on purpose because she wanted me to live in the country and understand how life was in the country, and how it was when she was growing up and how her mother was suffering and all of that stuff. So, yeah, I was really in the nitty and gritty of it. Life out there was a real, real experience for me.
Reece Yeboah spoke at the Frieze Art and Fashion Summit, which was supported by Squarespace. Squarespace helps people with creative ideas to launch their brands and businesses. Find out more about their suite of tools – including websites and online stores - and how to start building your own web presence at squarespace.com/frieze