UME London is an Indian-Western womenswear luxury brand founded in 2017 by four British-Indian sisters. We sit down with the sisters to discuss how UME London seamlessly blends innovative and traditional Western and Eastern styles, their new Aurora collection and what it’s like for these sisters to work together.
UME London was founded in 2017, what was the initial idea when you all decided you wanted to create a clothing brand?
We wanted to create mix and match occasion wear that represents our ‘East meets West’ heritage and that is available to buy online in UK sizes, with quality, comfort and convenience in mind. These are all things we struggled with over the years, particularly whilst shopping for clothes for special occasions or events. Being of Indian descent, we specifically looked for contemporary Indian occasion wear but struggled to find anything suitable easily online and where we did, it certainly wasn’t available in UK sizes, let alone custom fittings. Most items were box standard – small, medium or large, and as sisters who range in sizes between 4 to 12, the pieces would need alterations to make them fit.
But by then of course, with all the cutting and tucking in, you’d lose the essence of what made it special in the first place. When we tried to get around this by taking pieces of fabric to tailors with our own designs in mind, often we would be turned away because it was ‘too complicated’…which basically meant ‘it’s not the norm and therefore would be too much effort to understand how it should be made! Where we managed to get pieces made, we often found that quality had been compromised and adjustments for convenience were out of the question! We know it’s not ideal to sit in your wedding blouse three hours before needed just because you won’t be able to put it on after your hair and make-up is done! It’s one of the reasons our blouses have full-length buttons or zips.
Did you all have similar style icons when growing up?
Not knowingly at the time, but Suki and Gurpreet, being closer in age, did share a Iove for Rachel from ‘Friends’ and Carrie Bradshaw’s style from ‘Sex and The City’. These women created their own timeless trends and pushed creative boundaries whilst still remaining elegant and classy. Me (Simmy) and Sanj (as the youngest of the siblings) looked up to our older sisters’ sense of style whilst growing up and loved our free ‘hand-me-downs’ So, I guess you could say our style icons were the same!
Do you all have different roles within UME London?
Yes, this has actually been relatively easy as we naturally have areas of strengths that match up to the business needs. Simmy and Sanj have the final say on designs and the creative. Since we can remember, Sanj has always been the most creative person. From interior design, beauty and wellness, and even Christmas dinner or event themes, she is definitely our ‘go-to’ sister for that. Simmy knows her fashion and is the first person we call for outfit advice – probably something to do with her background working in high fashion at Burberry. Gurpreet has years of experience in PR and Marketing and so, of course, makes the call on anything to do with that, and Suki has years of experience in business and management so makes the call on all final business decisions.
Your 2019 collection Aurora signifies a point in all of your lives where you stated that you moved ‘from darkness into the light’. The colour white is pivotal in the collection, are there any other underlying themes throughout the collection that reflect where you are in your lives?
The white and lighter colour theme with the nude, mink and blush pink tones, reflect purity and the point in our lives as 4 young, innocent girls. The splash of colours and use of floral embroidery and prints (found on our capes and full sleeve blouse and skirt sets) represent us blossoming and finally starting to live our lives in colour. I guess you could say the collection signifies the start of our new beginnings and independence.
The collection includes beautiful co-ords, bralettes and capes offering luxury eveningwear, do you have a collective favourite look from the collection?
We love all of the looks because they are so versatile and easy to dress up, dress down as well as mix and match with other pieces. But our favourite has to be the tailored white sequin jacket. It’s such a statement piece which when worn as the complete look or over a bathing suit at a pool party still manages to look so timeless and elegant. Both Gurpreet and Simmy have actually worn that jacket many times and been stopped by people asking where it’s from so hopefully that’s a good sign!
UME London beautifully combines Indian and Western culture to create pieces that will look amazing on all types of women, did you have a certain type of woman in mind when creating the Aurora collection?
No, not a particular culture, age or shape – and that’s the beauty of UME. No matter what your style, there’s something for everyone – and that the key point. Our mission is to unite women and cultures around the world through fashion. We would love one day to have a campaign where we bring together women from all ages, shapes and cultures to take part. UME is for any woman who appreciates and is driven by diversity, quality, comfort, convenience, elegance, independence and female empowerment.
UME London – it’s just You and Me was formed after you all lost connection and then came back together, what advice would you give to people looking to start up family businesses in the industry?
Identify and work with each other’s strengths – and don’t give up. Pursue your dreams no matter how big, small or even unrealistic they may seem to others. Growing up, we were told numerous times that our fate would mean that we wouldn’t amount to anything but as we proved to ourselves, if you have passion, persistence and always keep taking small steps to move in the right direction, eventually you will see that light at the end of the tunnel.
But above all, remember what’s the underlying reason behind the family business – ours was to remain connected and hopefully, help other women one day with our story. As Maya Angelou once said: “People will forget what you did, people will forget what you said but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Never let business get in the way of your family, beliefs or values and know, that eventually, most things will pass so enjoy the present moment with the people you care for the most.
What can we expect to see from your next collection?
We’ll be introducing more variety in colours for our essential pieces such as the plain evening skirts and bralettes and as well as creating a mixture of new blouses. And of course, we love a statement piece so expect to see more of those!
Where do you see the brand this time next year?
We would love for the brand to be accessible internationally but most importantly, we’re working towards a position where we can support women and girls around the world who face adversity through cultural stigmas or challenges – something we can personally relate to ourselves. Our dream is also to write a book one day about our story to help give others hope and inspiration. We have already started writing our own chapters talking about our personal journeys (which we only realised we were each doing when we started writing our collective story for our website!) We’d love to come together to do this at some point soon.