Text by Gee Wong
Not content with being one half of successful electro outfit Monarchy, Andrew Armstrong recently helped launch men’s fashion label Seven Rays. As it steadily builds a loyal following, he discusses his latest career pivot, building a business from scratch, and getting by on very little sleep.
LONDON, United Kingdom “I’ve always had an interest in fashion – Monarchy is very concise in its aesthetic, with a strong fashion element – so I really wanted to bring some of that to a clothing line,” explains Armstrong on his sidestep into the industry. “It’s important to push yourself, so when the opportunity arose to do a clothing line, I grabbed it and ran with it,” he continues.
Indeed he did. Armstrong was initially approached by Pete MacDonald – an acquaintance at the time – to design a capsule collection for the latter’s label. Tempting as it was, he declined and went back with a revamped proposal. “We decided it was best to launch a new label. It’s neater, and I could have a lot more freedom to create what I wanted. So we formed Seven Rays, with myself as creative director and Pete looking after production.”
That was a year ago. Fast forward to June 2015 and the duo are flat out working from their base in East London, building up their range of offbeat staples. “I won’t lie, it’s been a steep learning curve. But we’ve had some amazing support from friends, journalists and websites, chasing us wanting to know more. I think it’s been good to come to fashion from a musical angle, and introduce a new perspective.”
Unsurprisingly, Seven Rays is heavily influenced by the music scene, taking cues from a whole host of genres. “We’re mixing music with travel and premium menswear – always bringing my musical experience to the collection – but in a fresh way.” So who is his customer? “It’s about going to festivals, then heading to a cocktail lounge, running around the world and living life to the fullest, experiencing everything. Our guy will be just as comfortable at Coachella as in a members bar.”
For the first season, he’s enlisted iconic heavy-metal artist Joe Petagno to recast five global cities – Paris, London, Los Angeles, New York and Mexico City – into the form of hard-rock bands, with the results emblazoned onto a selection of T-shirts, sweatshirts and bandanas. The collaboration has gone down well and there are plans to work with Joe again in the not-too-distant future.
Australian-born Armstrong has a demanding work schedule. On top of DJing, Monarchy duties and overseeing Seven Rays designs, he heads up the label’s sales and marketing effort. And here is where all those music contacts come in handy – Armstrong tells me he can call any number of DJs, celebrities and bands in his efforts to promote his fledgling label. “I don’t sleep much,” he replies to a question on managing workloads. So much for the laid-back antipodean lifestyle. Indeed, on the evening we meet, during London Collections Men, he’s decked out in Seven Rays gear – a walking, talking billboard for his latest project.
Fashion doesn’t sleep either. After blood, sweat and tears have been shed over one collection, it starts all over again. With this in mind, Armstrong is well underway with his second season. “We’re expanding on the existing designs, bringing in some new premium processes and treatments, and also commissioning new pieces. We’ll also be introducing a jacket into the collection, so watch this space.”
No doubt, all this groundwork will lay the foundations for future collections, as well as building a solid customer base for the burgeoning brand. A showroom has just opened in Paris, reporting brisk business, and plans are afoot to stock the brand internationally.
A few days after we meet, I call him up to clarify the inspiration behind the brand name. He’s in the pub, enjoying a well-deserved hour of downtime. “Did you know, all the major world religions reference the term ‘seven rays’ in their texts? The Koran, the Bible, all of them. I’ve always thought it was the most awesome name to have for a band. And now I get to use it, only it’s for a fashion label.”
Amen to that.
For more information on stockists and showroom visit www.sevenrays.co.uk