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Circle Collective Independent Designer Spotlight: Pilot Apparel

Circle Collective store is known for its amazing independent designers many who are London based and also many with a social message which fits beautifully with our aim which is to get all local unemployed young people into permanent jobs. Here at Circle, we understand how resilient these designers have to be so we thought we would start a series of blogs so they can tell their unique stories.

In the first instalment of Circle Collective's Independent Designer spotlight feature, we caught up with the creative director Jaz to learn more about day to day life at Pilot Apparel HQ. In this interview, she talks about the inspiration behind the brand, being a female boss in a male-dominated industry and why she believes her brand's mission fits in so well with Circle Collective.

A bit of background...

Pilot Apparel is anything other than conventional, releasing season led collections of casual wear. Hoodies, t-shirts, tote bags and more all sporting Pilot Apparel’s unique and recognisable artistic style of prints. Jaz handprints every garment in her collection, she screenprints just round the corner from the Circle Collective Dalston store at ‘Print Club London.’ Pilot Apparel is a refreshing example of craft and dedication to discipline, Jaz states her aim is to be a transparent brand and invites customers to view the whole process of design through to printing. Circle Collective was amongst the first stores to stock Pilot Apparel, we have seen their journey first-hand and have always been big supporters of Pilot Apparel’s home-grown story.

What inspired you to create your brand?

I remember coming up with the idea when I was at school. I was doing textiles as one of my GCSE’s. We had a heat press and would paint up paper and print it onto little square samples. I remember quizzing one teacher extensively, asking all sorts of questions about if it would be possible to print using this technique onto t-shirts. (I definitely did his head in) I kept juggling the idea around in my head and then at university I did a small series of t-shirts as a trial run. This was around 8 years after the initial idea and I rang up my secondary school and pestered the poor fella, one last time, to find out what supplier they used and purchased my first t-shirt printing equipment. I have always had a very positive relationship with artwork and feel I benefit mentally from creating and designing. The feeling I get after creating a design I love is what drove me to think ‘what if I could do this as a job!’ It is also the reason why I know I will never fall out of love with running this brand. Pilot Apparel was initially inspired by art. Then forming an adoration for the look of artwork translated onto clothing created the perfect foundations to create an independent streetwear brand. 









In this picture: Pilot Hoodie Evolution Grey

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Oh my gosh, where to begin! When I look back now, I had so many challenges starting out that I can’t believe I didn’t throw in the towel. From very early on I knew that I wanted to be in charge of the printing process and handprint every item in my collection. I studied printed textiles at university and set up the brand fresh out of uni. I arrogantly thought I had that part down. Printing on t-shirts could not have been more different to printing flat fabric samples which was all I had done at uni. I honestly was starting from square one. For about the first year I was winging it and messing up just under half of my attempts. After a meltdown (there we’re many) one day I decided to suck it up and book on a screen printing course, in one day the lovely ladies at ‘Squeegee and Ink’ answered my 192,038,129,381 questions and more, it was one of the best business decisions I have made so far. I still hand print every item I sell and I absolutely love it.

Where do ideas for Pilot Apparel artwork come from?    

My artwork is an insight into my hyped up, multicoloured brain that runs at a million miles an hour. I am so visually driven in my waking life and see the world through design filtered lenses. I get inspired every single day by nature, posters, people, daydreams, and sights on my commute around London. A common theme that runs through all my collections is the social commentary of how the internet and social media has affected human identity and interaction. This has developed into a desire to bring people closer together and reconnect them again, this too inspires my artwork.

How does it feel being a female boss in such a male-dominated industry? 

A lot of people assume I am a guy because I design streetwear. I get a lot of DMs with typically ‘male’ adjectives affixed on to messages. ‘Thanks, dude’ ‘Will do bro’ ‘Safe man’ being some of the most frequent. I have turned up to meetings with people who only know me as ‘Jaz’ and they have a very confused look on their face before proclaiming ‘I’m so sorry, I assumed you were a guy!’ Personally, I love it. I enjoy that at that moment they have changed their preconceptions about the industry. Streetwear has been slandered for being a boys club, I aim to position myself as an inspiration for women within streetwear.  

What advice would you give to young people who want to start their own business?

Do it! You are the single factor that determines if you make it or not. It doesn’t matter if you have been to university or not, it doesn’t matter if you have savings or not, it doesn’t matter if you have to teach yourself how to use photoshop/illustrator/excel/anything! Dedication, commitment, and a willingness to soldier on through the tough times in the early days are far more essential tools for creating a successful business. Keep it as a side project, to begin with, and be driven by your passion rather than financial gain. I would also say, find someone who is doing what you want to do and ask them for some advice, you will be amazed by how willing people are to help out.

How do you feel about Pilot Apparel being part of Circle Collective and our social mission?

I am so proud to have Pilot Apparel in the Circle Collective stores. The social enterprise is so amazing and completely unique. The fact that every purchase helps a young person find full time, long term work is incredible. I am such a supporter of the charity and urge readers to have a look at the success stories on the Circle Collective website; keep up the amazing work guys!    

To find out more about Pilot Apparel, follow them on Instagram or head to their website. You can also check out some of their pieces on Circle Collective's shop.