Habilitate Talks to Saccade

Saccade logo 3

Regular visitors to this site may remember the first person I ever interviewed on here was my friend Simon, better known as menswear illustrator extraordinaire Deliberate Indifference. That was a little over a year ago now. Since then, his already dedicated following and laundry list of collaborators have kept on growing in lockstep with his prolific creative output. What’s more, Simon, who is one of the most passionate and hardworking people I know both in menswear and beyond, has added a new feather to his cap: his very own clothing brand by the name of Saccade.

Knowing that I wasn’t alone in my curiosity to learn everything I could about Saccade and its offerings, I asked Simon whether he would be willing to talk to me about his new venture and he generously agreed. We spoke via video call back in March and what follows is an edited and slightly condensed transcript of our conversation. 

Be sure to check out all of Simon’s output and especially his new clothing line which will be open for pre-orders for 24 hours from midday on Friday 21st April. I’m excited about Saccade as one of Simon’s friends, but far more so as a fan of menswear and as an eager prospective customer. Long may it thrive!

Saccade clothing trousers

First up, you’ve just recently become a dad — how on earth have you managed to have a child, work a full-time job, do your illustration work, and start a new brand?

Essentially with a lot of late nights and early mornings! I finish work at 5.30 p.m. most days, then I’m normally on parental duty until about 8 p.m., so once we’ve gotten my daughter to bed, that period until 11.00 p.m. or midnight is usually Saccade time. Sometimes I’ll also get up a few hours before work and spend time doing some research and scribbling. 

It’s been pretty full on, I’m not going to lie, and this has probably been the hardest part because I’m just starting out. There’s lots to do, so it’s meant a lot less sleep than normal. But when you’re passionate about the thing you do it doesn’t seem like a chore. It feels great that I’ve got this time to work on a thing that I really care about. No offence to my day job, but if someone said to me ‘Oh, can you work an extra four hours a day from 8:00 p.m. to midnight on your day job?’ No way, I couldn’t do it, but this is for me.

For people who haven’t yet seen what you’ve been working on, how would you describe the look of Saccade clothing? Who would you say is the target market? 

For me, the goal with it is to create fun clothing that’s playful with interesting details and features, but that’s also easy to wear. I think part of it is that with my background as an illustrator, I’ve illustrated so many items of clothing in my time and it gets to a certain point where you think ‘Oh, I’ve drawn this before and I’ve drawn that before’. But every once in a while you see something with little details and nuances — something that someone has clearly put a lot of thought into — and it will stick in your head. Or sometimes it’ll be that it feels like there’s something missing from an item. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a need for straightforward, regular-fitting, default garments, but I suppose what I’m trying to do is really think about things like the cut, the fabric choice, little things like buttons, placket design, pocket placement, that kind of thing. There are just so many ways in which you can differentiate your clothing from what’s out there and that’s ultimately what I’m trying to do. I want it to be my own spin on current clothing staples. But at the same time the challenge is not going too far out there and it becoming gimmicky or costumey. So it’s about striking that balance between wearability and visual attraction.

I guess it’s clothing for people who like clothing and who care about the details. Maybe not everyone down the pub or in a cafe is going to notice, but the people who do notice will appreciate it. 

Deliberate Indifference Saccade clothing
Simon wearing the Saccade Shusim pant

Can you tell us a bit about the brand’s germinating phase? How did you realise you wanted to start your own brand and how long has it been in the making?

I’ve known I’ve wanted to produce my own clothing for about three years. I had this idea that there were items of clothing that I wanted that I couldn’t get hold of, or they were out there but were way out of my budget and it frustrated me. So I spent an awfully long time — longer than I care to admit — researching sewing machines and watching YouTube videos about how to sew and that kind of thing. Ultimately, though, I realised manufacturing garments is not where my strength lies. That’s just not my background. Instead, I think my strength is in the more creative and design side of things and I wouldn’t be doing my designs justice by then making them myself without any formal training. So I put the idea on the back-burner, but always thought one day I’d like to come back to it.

Then through the illustration work I’ve done for various clothing brands I’ve built up a really good contact network and I’ve learnt an awful lot along the way. People are really open and honest about the challenges and pitfalls, but also the successes and they’re always keen to share their knowledge and experience to help you. That’s been a really reassuring and positive thing that I’ve found from the whole experience. So that kind of gave me a bit of wind in my sails to forge ahead with it again. 

But it really started with speaking to some factories in the UK and elsewhere just to get an idea for the minimum order quantities, prices, who they work with, getting samples, things like that. But nothing ever fully clicked, not until I started talking to the factory that I’ve gone with about a year ago. We had quite an organic conversation and it became clear we liked the same clothing. The guy who runs it is really passionate about clothes as well. I mean, sure, he owns a business and he wants to make money, but his heart is in what he does and that spoke to me. With a lot of the other ones it felt like they just wanted to churn out clothing of any description and when I spoke to them they just didn’t have the same passion that I did, so when I found this place it just clicked and I thought, right, I’m gonna go for it and that’s how it began. 

It’s amazing to me because I remember us talking about you maybe starting your own brand just a few months ago and at that point it still seemed like a really notional thing and now here we are! 

Yeah, I still sort of pinch myself and think ‘Am I really gonna start a clothing brand? Is this really happening? Is it going to fall on its face before it gets off the ground?’ I don’t know, maybe when I get the samples, which will be a big milestone because it will be a tangible product of my work so far. Or maybe when I do the pre-orders and I start seeing sales coming in — if they do, hopefully! — and then I get the bulk orders and start shipping those out. Maybe at that point I’ll feel, yeah, I’m doing this, this is happening. But at the moment it still all feels like a balloon that can just be popped at any moment.

While we’re still talking about the brand’s origins, there’s a detail I don’t want to miss, which is: How did you decide on the name?

Deciding on the name took a really long time as well, like every single part of it! A few people actually suggested, why don’t you just call it Deliberate Indifference? You know, it’s what I’m known as on Instagram, it’s something people can relate to. But, I don’t know, I didn’t just want to go with my Instagram handle. I prefer for there to be some distinction between Simon the illustrator and Simon the guy who designs clothes. There are still links and hopefully once the clothing starts to come out you’ll see my background in illustration in things like hand-drawn embroidered designs, and so forth. But yeah, I wanted them to be separate. 

That came with its own problem though, because then what do you call it? Where do you begin with something like that? I got really lucky because one of my friends is actually a published etymologist so he knows so many words [laughs]. He’s a much more intelligent guy than I am and his vocabulary is insane so he pointed me in the direction of a website that’s got all these obscure words on it. So I was having a look through and ‘saccade’ caught my eye. Meanwhile, he had just published a book on etymology and when I spoke to him and said that I really like the word ‘saccade’, he said it’s funny because he had just used it in his book. So I thought, right, that is a sign! Because I really like the sound of it and I like the meaning behind it, which is the rapid movement of the eye from one fixation point to another. I feel that encapsulates what I’m trying to create with my clothing. You know, those little subtle details that people will pick up on if they’re tuned into that sort of thing. Also, to add an extra layer to that, I think the original definition of ‘saccade’ was from the French meaning to jerk on the reigns of a horse, which I also thought was quite funny because [laughing] in a way I’m the horse and someone has jerked on my reigns and said ‘Stop just doing what you’re doing and have a change of direction and try going down this new path’. 

That’s fantastic. You mentioned there your etymologist friend offering some inspiration for the name. I was wondering, were there any specific brands or designers you took any inspiration from?

There are quite a few brands out there that I’ve gotten inspiration from — mostly brands I wear a lot of and that I think have maybe taken tentative steps in the direction that I’m going in. So probably well-known UK brands like Universal Works, YMC, Folk, Albam, and Kestin, closer to you in Scotland. I think what they do is they take everyday wardrobe staples and they put their own spin on them and that really appeals to me, but I want to take it a little bit further. 

I’m also quite inspired by bands like Maharishi. They are kind of East meets West where they have a Japanese or Asian influence to a lot of their work, meaning a lot of embroidery of things like tigers in their clothing, which personally isn’t my own taste but I like that it’s different and that they’re doing their own thing. You see an item and nine times out of ten you can say that’s Maharishi. There’s also a brand based in India called Harago. They do some really nice pieces where I think they try to play to their heritage by using Indian fabrics and a lot of block printing techniques from India, which is really appealing. Then there are some of the more lux-y brands like Bode, who do some insane pieces like embroidered jackets and patchworks which I love but some of which can be a little bit extra for my liking. It’s not always something I would be comfortable wearing, although I can see why people buy it and wear it. Also, I can’t afford to buy anything from them [laughs]. But I do really like what they’re doing. 

So I’m using as my initial frame of reference the brands I’ve worn for years and then drawing inspiration from some more out-there brands like Bode, I guess. But I feel there is a nice middle ground between these brands that a lot of people know and the ones that are out there doing completely their own thing. I think there are elements that you can take from the extreme and apply them to the everyday. It means that you’re not shouting for attention when you’re wearing an item necessarily but for people who know, it will make all the difference.

Saccade clothing Paulie Sopranos shirt cartoon

We’ve circled around this a little bit, but given you already had all this experience as an illustrator, what was it like going from the illustration work you had done before and transitioning into product design?

It came quite naturally to me if I’m honest. At least, I think it did — other people looking at my designs might disagree [laughs]. But, yes, when it came to my own designs I could already draw and illustrate clothing and do the fashion sketching side of things, which was a massive help. Plus I already had all of these ideas from drawing other people’s clothing and looking at Instagram and clothing websites. It’s the only thing I ever really do with my free time [laughs]. It’s really sad!

I wouldn’t worry about it, you’re definitely preaching to the converted here.

I knew I was among friends! So yes, I didn’t find that transition too difficult. Certainly not getting my ideas down on paper and then refining those ideas. That sort of thing has been relatively straightforward so far. However, it’s then converting those freehand drawings into a tech pack, which is what you send the manufacturer to then produce your design. At that point, you go from your freehand sketch to a technical drawing almost like the plans an architect would produce for a building. It contains all the details like the measurements from armpit to armpit, the size of the pocket opening, where the pockets are located — I could go on. There’s such a huge list of every single measurement on an item of clothing and some of that was stuff as an illustrator I hadn’t necessarily thought about before. It was more about the aesthetic than the measurements or technicalities of it all. That part did take a while to get my head around. 

Again, though, I will say that I’m really lucky because one of my friends was the head of product design at a really large UK manufacturer for ten years and he was good enough to take my tech packs and helped refine them for me. So that means I now have a template that I know I can send to the factory and be sure that they have every single element they need. And I can’t really thank him enough for that, so Ravi, if you’re reading this, thank you so much. It was such a huge help. I looked at other tech packs — you can download templates all over the internet — but none of them were anywhere near as good as what he helped me produce. It really blew my mind the amount of detail that was included. Again, I want to do the thing properly. I don’t want any miscommunication with the factory and the more information you have in there, the less likely they are to get anything wrong when producing the samples. But, yeah, it meant an awful lot of time spent with measuring tape!

So talk me through the business of actually sitting down and designing a product. How do you begin something like that? And how do you settle on things like materials, suppliers, etc.?

Essentially, the idea was that the first drop will come out in the summer, so my first thought is — and I think everyone who designs clothes will feel the same — what will I wear at that time of year? Now I love a camp collar shirt in the summer. I practically live in them. So I knew straight away I wanted at least one camp collar shirt, maybe a couple. So I’ll focus on those to keep it in a narrow scope for the answer. So I thought, what camp collar shirts do I own that I like and what is it that I like about them? So got them all out, had a look at them, tried them on, and said ‘Okay, I really like the fit of this one, I like the boxiness of this one, I like the material on this one’ and in that way started firming up my idea of what a perfect camp collar shirt looks like for summer. 

But then, going back to a previous answer, I also thought about what I would change to make them more interesting — to make a Saccade camp collar shirt. So at that point I started researching fabrics, which is an absolute rabbit hole. You could spend years just looking at fabrics, buying books, ordering samples. [Gesturing behind him and laughing] You won’t be able to see it, but I’m absolutely surrounded by fabric in my home office here. 

Because the factory I’m using is based in Jaipur, India, I also wanted to use some fabrics local to there because it seems a shame to me to work with a manufacturer in an area that is known for its textiles and has its heritage in textile production and not use textiles from there. And then there are the logistics and the carbon footprint to consider, because I’m already shipping from India to the UK, so if I can use fabrics local to the factory that reduces the carbon footprint as well. 

And then, of course, with summer clothing you know straight away there are certain fabrics that won’t be suitable. You don’t want a camp collar shirt made from boiled wool or polyester fleece, for example. So you’re thinking things like linen, cambric cotton, hemp, etc., and that helps you focus in. Then there are all the variations in terms of grams per square metre, the design of the fabric, where it’s being sourced — there are so many different factors to take into account. 

It sounds like a crazy list of things to contend with. What do you think has been the most challenging part of the work so far?

That’s a really good question. I think for me the biggest challenge of it all initially was the tech pack stuff, which I mentioned already. But another side of things which is completely new to me has been setting up a business. All of that administrative stuff is a complete first for me, like sourcing an accountant, getting business insurance, sorting out storage — those have probably been the most challenging things to me personally because it’s all so new and there’s a lot of it. Also, if I’m honest, it’s quite boring. It’s easy sitting up until the wee small hours refining different designs for clothing, but it’s a different thing trying to force yourself to stay awake late at night researching the admin side of things, or logistics, shipping and freight, all of that. So that to me has certainly been the most challenging aspect of it all. I’m in the process of speaking to local support that exists for small businesses and startups — not necessarily financial support, because I’m trying to work on a preorder model to reduce the financial risk of spending thousands of pounds on clothes that might not sell, but more just around the day to day admin of running your own enterprise. So hopefully that’s something that I can get sorted out in the next couple of weeks and months.

And then what has been the most positive aspect of working on Saccade?

It’s definitely been the response and the support I’ve received from people. I’ve honestly been humbled by it. Even talking about it, it’s a bit silly, but I almost get emotional about it. People have been so positive. And I know there’s a huge difference between commenting on an Instagram post or signing up to an email list and parting with your hard-earned cash for an item of clothing. I totally get that and I appreciate those things don’t necessarily relate to one another. But I’ve received so many comments and messages from people either saying they like what I’m doing, wishing me success, or saying fair play for having the courage to forge ahead. Because lots of people have said to me that it’s something they’ve wanted to do in the past but haven’t taken that leap. 

So, yeah, it’s been the support. My friends and family as well — even ones who aren’t into clothing have been really enthusiastic and positive about it, so that’s really helped because you do get the self-doubt and moments of impostor syndrome or thinking no one’s going to like what you’re doing. So hearing people ask questions and be genuinely intrigued and positive, that’s been a major thing for me. It’s definitely that. 

Saccade clothing Paulie shirt product photo

Even from the outside, it’s been really exciting seeing how positively people have responded to the designs you’ve posted so far. Would it be fair to ask whether you have a favourite in the product lineup as it stands?

I do! In terms of the five items that are coming out this summer, my favourite is one of the shirts I’ve called the Meadowlark shirt. It has embroidered meadowlarks on the pockets, the reason being that starting Saccade went hand in hand, crazily, with the time my daughter was born. I mean, who in their right mind starts a clothing brand when they’ve just had an infant daughter [laughs]? But I did, so make of that what you will. Anyway, when I was trying to get her to sleep I would sing Fleet Foxes to her. No one wants to hear me sing, but she has no choice! So I would often sing Fleet Foxes and particularly their song ‘Meadowlarks’, hence the design. So that one really comes from the heart and I couldn’t not produce something that sort of signified this brand being born at the same time as my daughter and the Meadowlark represents that for me. And, actually, someone said to me just this week that it is exactly what they wanted to wear to a wedding this summer, which was really touching. It’s just insane. I pinch myself when I hear things like that. 

Also, I’ll mention the other shirt I’ve produced. I’ve called it the Paulie shirt because I’ve always wanted to design a shirt that someone from The Sopranos would wear. Every time I watched that show and I saw them standing around a barbeque in these awesome shirts I just thought, yes, I want to make a shirt like that one day. But then I’ve put my own stamp on it by having dropped chest pockets that are a different colour to the main shirt, so it’s still got a bit of me in it but it’s very much influenced by what I spent my lockdown doing in watching The Sopranos. That one has been positively received as well, which is really nice. But to me the personal ties to the Meadowlark one definitely make it the favourite.

Saccade Meadowlark shirt cartoon
Saccade clothing AW23 concepts
Saccade jacket concepts
Some concepts for future Saccade drops

That’s a beautiful story and I really like that Meadowlark shirt too. To start rounding things up, I know it’s early days yet, but do you have a sense of where you would like the brand to go in the next couple of years?

Yeah, very much so. It’s difficult to plan too far into the future at this stage and I don’t want to get ahead of myself and think this could be what I do full-time one day. But it’s very much what I want to do for a living. I won’t really know until I open the pre-orders and start to see the sort of sales that I’m getting, and certainly not in the first year or two. It’s going to take time to build up starting from the ground floor. But I would like to do a couple of drops a year in spring/summer and autumn/winter for the first couple of years and see how it goes. It might well be that this first drop just doesn’t sell and then I’ll be in a difficult situation where I have to decide whether to go ahead with the designs I’ve got for autumn/winter, but I’m not expecting huge numbers. The factory I’m working with is really good in that they’re letting me work with low minimum order quantities, so I’m not reliant on huge numbers to continue with it and I’m not really doing it at this stage to try and make money either. I’m just trying to get the brand out there and prove to myself that I can do it, really. 

It’s almost as much about that as anything else. You know, if you work really hard at this thing, if you’re passionate about it, can you do it? That’s what I want to find out. But of course, the dream is maybe three or four years down the line, I’ll be able to do it full-time — visiting factories, visiting manufacturers, looking at fabrics, researching things, and yeah, just living and breathing it 24/7. That’s the goal. 

I for one have every confidence that you’ll be able to do it. To that end, where should people go if they want to check out Saccade’s offerings?

The website is saccadeclo.com so if people can go there. And you can sign up for the mailing list now to get a discount off pre-orders. Then there’s the Instagram account and my Deliberate Indifference Instagram too if you wanna see where it all started. 

All images courtesy of Saccade and Deliberate Indifference

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