Business in the Time of COVID: Universal Works
We sit down with David Keyte, the man behind Nottingham-based workwear brand Universal Works to discuss the challenges of running a business amidst a global pandemic
More than ten weeks into the pandemic lockdown, our discussions with brands have revealed their amazing resolve and capacity not only for reaction, but for reflection. Universal Works is one such brand that’s using this time to gather its thoughts and look positively towards the future.
“Of course, looking for positive things happening to the industry due to the pandemic is a hard concept, especially when everyone has been in lockdown,” says Universal works founder, David Keyte. “Let’s be honest, the economy on a global scale is in deep recession right now, so it feels almost disingenuous to talk of ‘green shoots’, bounce-back and recovery while in this staged lifting of restrictions,” he continues.
“However, remaining positive and looking forward is something I have always thrived on. We have to look towards a better environment and an increased awareness of the important things in life and how that affects our business.”
With the majority of Universal Works now stationed at home or furloughed, there is a small number ticking over in the office to keep the e-commerce business healthy.
“As a company that sells clothes and employs people, we need to try to continue to trade in a way that’s safe, that’s been our main concern,” says Keyte. “On the flip side, it has been interesting for us to see how our clothing can be worn at home and in a more laid back environment – I for one have definitely embraced the UW loungewear look!”
Keyte also acknowledges the longer-lasting aspects of the pandemic that brands have had time to perhaps reflect on.
“Long lasting things and less waste and damage to the planet I see as coming through as strong indicators of where we should be heading. Thankfully we at Universal Works are already heading in this direction and had great plans to do much more on recycling and reworking this year. During this period, I have seen a growing interest in this and a strong drift away from fast fashion paradigms.
“Our approach has always been to be honest and transparent. We don’t pretend we are doing anything other than providing a luxury, but hopefully an affordable luxury that brings joy to people and gives them a good sense of their own style. We continue to offer our customers great value and ask that they consider their purchases.”