Already a design classic, London Underground gets a new lease of life with the launch of label Roundel. Described as “a contemporary youth brand inspired by London and designed for the world,” taking its name from the famous coupling of circle and straight line that is the Underground logo, incredible archive imagery, prints and cuts are placed in contemporary context. Roundel Creative Director Andrew Bunney, a man who has lent his talents to the likes of Visvim, Nike, Dr. Martens as well as establishing his own labels Bunney and British Remains, talks us through the process of distilling 150 years of the tube into one collection.
Roundel will be available from December 14 at Dover Street Market London
Portrait: Shin Okishima
How did you first get involved with Roundel?
I had a run in with Transport for London over some products my friend and I had made for British Remains. In the midst of that I went to have a conversation with them and it transpired that they had always been interested in exploring if it was possible to do apparel with any credibility. Of course, they had a lot of souvenirs and traditional tourist fare, but to go one step further and see if there’s any opportunity there. I was asked if I would be interested, and I was. I had known the guys at Slam Jam for a long time and wondered if they’d be interested in working on this with me, and they were.
The Underground is such a huge icon globally, can you describe your approach when it came to distilling all that into a single collection?
We spent a lot of time understanding the history of their company and also, thinking about London Underground in a broader sense, as something which represents ‘London’. Especially to people outside of the UK, the Underground is often their first port of call, the first thing they step on when they come from the airport. I think that London and London Underground are pretty tightly linked so I suppose that it was just a process of distilling London and London Underground’s identity and the look and the feel of it into, initially, this capsule collection.
Can you tell us a bit about the London Transport archive that inspired the collection?
As well as the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, they (TFL) have a very large archive in West London, which is not open to the public, and what they have there is a collection from the past 150 years. One would expect it to have paper and maps, perhaps you’d even expect it to have some of the signage, but I wasn’t quite prepared for it to have the breadth and the depth that it did. I was extremely surprised to see that they had fleets of buses through the years, full sized trains and a very complete uniform archive, samples from the fabric, printing and tiles. It’s basically all of the ephemera produced over the years. There’s a great wealth of inspiration there, as the art direction for the company was very consistent and very strong. However, we’re not trying to do something that just reproduces train drivers jackets from the 50’s, we want something that is a bit more inclusive. It’s trying to work in something that has a very London feel with some of the iconography from the London Underground.
Can you talk us through some of the key pieces in the line?
It’s a mix between what we would consider iconic UK shapes – certain things like MA1 Jackets, for example, or the use of screen-printing on top of things which perhaps makes people think of punk era London. Then there’s certain items like the work shirts that borrow quite heavily from some of the vintage styles that were in the archive. Of course, we use the Moquette pattern on the Nike Air Max sneakers, you’ll be able to see that throughout the line in the future. So, it’s just this blend between research and I suppose something a little bit more contemporary.
Do you have any personal favorites?
The t-shirt with the elephant on it. The elephant was a motif from Baker Street’s Lost Property office. I thought he was quite cute.
What made you choose the District Line Moquette in particular?
There are so many different versions of Moquette. There are even some similar to camouflage that have been in use over the years. This one really felt, to me, very recognizable as a London style, a London print, because in my lifetime I’ve seen it and remember it and I think the customers would remember it too, or at least be familiar with it. It also looks good applied to different things.
How has the collection been received by the folks at London Transport?
They’ve obviously been instrumental from the start. It was very interesting to be working with them and to have access to everything. I think one person in particular, David Ellis, has been vital in making this happen and he’s been there pretty much every step of the way. I think, I hope, he likes it. I know they’re very excited by the shoes, the press launch and the imagery. So I think it’s really positive.
Can you tell us a little about the lookbook that’s been produced for the line?
The campaign was shot by Clare Shilland and styled by Michele Rafferty. It was very much about capturing a London that people think of, so centered around youth and, not exactly unisex, but something with an equal balance between male and female. I think one of the things about London Underground is that, in terms if its philosophy, it’s very democratic and open to a lot of people. We wanted to capture that as best we could with the idea that it’s for everybody. I think that the imagery that was created really summed that up.
How do you see Roundel developing over the next few seasons?
At the moment it’s just a capsule collection to launch with and then Autumn 2014 will be the first full line. Gradually we will get bigger and hopefully be able to include more people in the customer base as well. Really, like I say, we want to capture something that’s not elitist at all so I suppose that’s the main approach – very democratic.
Roundel will be available from Dover Street London December 14.