Introducing Francis London, the founder, and designer of UglyDuklyn. When I first met him, I knew he was truly a unique individual. With a warm heart and bright smile, he shared a little bit about his brand and now you can read the full interview below! Fashion finding itself on his path of light, Francis embraced it and has worked hard on it ever since. The name, UglyDuklyn, stems from a time in High School when he stumbled upon The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. The name means: Understand God Loves You Duklyn. Pretty neat, right? Providing quality streetwear pieces for everyone, check out their website and get to know the real Francis London!

Share with us your journey as a designer from attending S.L.A.T.E. to today.

My journey as a designer came unexpectedly when I attended the Magic/agenda trade show in 2009 with my brother. At the time, my brother had a sneaker boutique and would go to the magic trade show to network and gain accounts from the top emerging brands. I fell in love with S.L.A.T.E, which was the street section. If you are a streetwear enthusiast like me, it was heaven. After the tradeshow while flying back home with my brother, he told me I should start my own clothing brand, which I did. The journey has been a long 12 years but I must say, I appreciate the path it has taken me to get where I am.

What was an obstacle you had to face and how did you overcome it? 

The main obstacle I had to overcome was putting out quality products. I had to learn quickly that it takes a lot of variables in order to produce a quality product. It takes sketches, mood boards, tec packs, patterns, samples, distro, and production just to name a few. I overcame this obstacle with time and obsessing to produce the quality products I envisioned for Uglyduklyn.

Do you remember the day you came up with the name/ logo? Describe.

I came up with uglyduklyn which means Understand God Loves You Duklyn in the 11th grade in study hall. I remember it clear as day when I stumbled on this book called The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. The title of the book drew me to it and after reading the book, I felt exactly like the ugly duckling in the story.  I just hadn’t become a swan yet. I had always been called ugly growing up no matter where I went. So, I took the word UGLY and turned it into a positive; hence, why I came up with Understand God Loves You.

Describe to us your experience in the Harlem Fashion Row x Nike Designer retreat.

My experience with the Harlem Fashion Row x Nike Designer retreat was great. It gave me confirmation that I belonged amongst the world’s best designers and I made the right decision finally quitting my full-time job as a union laborer.

What was the biggest takeaway from that experience?

The biggest takeaway I took from the designer retreat was you can’t celebrate your current collection because you always have to make the next collection just as good as the previous collection if not better. You are always in a constant state of improving and pushing the envelope.

Tell us more about the role fashion has played in your life in a spiritual and material way.

I live, breathe, eat, and shit fashion so it’s a lifestyle for me. Being able to create and wear whatever I feel gives me the spiritual freedom to connect with my family and friends on a high frequency. My mood is based on how I feel and therefore translates into what I have decided to wear for that day. Fashion is a religion to me and I’m a loyal servant. I choose to move how a fashion purest should but I move with grace, love, and empathy. I feel like I uphold the culture in a spiritual and material way with my pieces and my message.

Growing up, what was an example of something you were told you couldn’t do…but did? 

I was told growing up that I could never become a good basketball player because I came to the United States from London, England at 10 yrs old.  I couldn’t play basketball at first because all I played was soccer in London. Basketball became my escape and I played it 7 days a week from the 6th-12th grade. By my senior year, I was all-state honorable mention and played in the Olympic conference all-star game. That was and still is one of my biggest accomplishments because I wasn’t born in America nor did I grow up knowing about this sport which I now love the most of any sports.

Any advice for emerging designers out there?

Believe in yourself and do not be afraid to take that leap of faith. Just know with this game, you can’t cheat your way to success. You have to take the time to study. Try not to follow trends, follow your heart, and most importantly never let the love become a distain for this shit we call fashion.

Favorite pieces from your brand?

Honestly, I don’t have any favorite pieces because every new piece is my favorite. But if I had to choose, it would be the Camo Collection I did for fall 22. The reason I love this collection thus far is that I served in the United States army so I had a personal attachment. With that said, I had to make sure that all my military battle buddies approved of this collection; hence why I came with the puffer jacket, ski mask, duffle bag, and wallet. If you served in the military and had to deploy, you would have to make sure you had your duffle bag, camo uniform, and depending on the weather your ski mask. The wallet was just an added bonus but I did take my experience serving in the military to heart when creating the camo collection.

What can the audience expect from UglyDuklyn in the next year?

Next year I will be coming out with a leather backpack, duck shoulder strap bag, and a shoulder strap bag. For the merch, I have the HOFA(Hall of fame album) series returning and the Magazine capsule as well. Sports Jackets, Snapbacks, and socks are all on the way with various short films too.