Well, this is a conversation Josh and I had really been looking forward to and we're super grateful that Jake agreed to speak to us. We've been admirers of what UNIK and Bound have been doing over the past few years and so a chance to sit down with Mr Messer was something we just needed to do.
Jake "always had it in him" to start a business, the kid that was "always hustling, buying and selling bits", "washing cars" or "collecting football signatures". A man with self proclaimed bad focus at school that managed to get away with his wrongdoings through his cheeky attitude and ability to find a little "caveats" that would get him out of trouble.
Like many of us, he went to Uni and did a standard course (Business Management), before finding himself in a corporate job, on a grad scheme at Virgin working in operations based in Peterborough. "I knew when I walked through the door, that this wasn't for me". However the classic British societal pressure, parental expectations took over and so he gave it a crack for 6 months. In days gone by, people felt that if they changed jobs too often it would look really poorly upon them, something that was certainly true in our parents generation, though is less important these days.
So where did the idea for clothing come from then?
After being dumped by his girlfriend, riddled with heartbreak and on a trip to London, he remembers walking round markets, seeing all the clothes on rails but wondered "Why isn't anyone doing this online?".
With an initial investment of £2500 through James Khan's business academy, an extremely confident and overly optimistic business plan which just about passed the review, Jake was able to get a few "garms" made, some designs done by some guys in his network, set up a launch party in his house with some "makeshift" DJ decks topped off with a little order sheet on the table at the front.
Things pushed on from there really (despite some a setback at a popup in Camden). Jake has now worked with a number of different creatives which now encompass the huge range of designs you see on UNIK clothing now. From Acid Love to Disco Only, you'll have undoubtedly seen one of these designs at any European Festival this Summer.
It would be unfair of us not to give Disco Only it's own paragraph. Worn by the likes of Annie Mac now, it has quite the backstory. "Disco Only is a pure organic beast" says Jake. Born from a night out at the Warehouse Project where Jake turned to a mate, slightly intoxicated and said "I listen to disco only now", and with that a beautiful idea was born back in 2018. Disco Only is now a full concept on UN:IK, a brand in and of itself which people recognise as an established entity. Hats off on this one. If you spot one when you're out, make sure to tag UN:IK clothing on Instagram.
We're halfway through the blog now and we've not even spoken about Bound. Worn by the likes of Kevin de Bruyne & Calfreezy. Drawing inspiration from his girlfriend, knowing he had the logistics and supply chains in place, Jake wanted to express his creativity with a more mature brand, one that he could grow into in his 30's, taking a more keen interest in the array of fabrics and cuts that exist out there.
"The striped t-shirts went down unbelievably" he recalls enthusiastically, looking back at how far the brand has come. "I've never been excited by anything so much" he says, remembering when the first 9 samples came through the door. Bound now comfortably sits on UN:IK like it's big brother which slots in beautifully with the collection on-site. Bound is there to bridge contemporary streetwear, a fitting strapline which sums up the brand beautifully once you see the visuals.
"UN:IK is a store, but Bound is a brand" and "they are so different". Jake explains how switching from one to the other in the same day can be challenging. However, most of his 10 staff are brand agnostic, comfortably able to work across both bounds, which is a real testament to his operational efficiency.
"That first hire, who was that? That's a big moment for a business owner" we asked. It turns out it was a student who was there to sew in neck labels before evolving the role from it's initial 4 hours into a role with more responsibility; a full year of university placement.
We then got into the moments where an entrepreneur is like "wow, this is an actual thing". Some key ones that came to Jake were when UN:IK took over the printing and supply chain for a brand he loved called BAAS clothing. Another big moment for Jake has been the acquisition of staff and the responsibility that comes from having to provide for people and being their source of livelihood.
We then got onto his relationship with the DJ, Ollie Jones (Skream). A 6 year relationship which appears to have blossomed. Skream being keen to make sure the Bound clothes got into his hands and not his agents, personally invited Jake down to WHP to his shows to give him his garments in person having paid an interest online! It's a partnership that has been incredibly altruistic from Ollie, with him clearly being a man keen to rise and bring others up with him. Props to Skream.
We couldn't not touch on the collab with Matt Helders, the drummer of the Arctic Monkeys in this conversation could we? Having got in touch back in 2019, Jake reached out to Helders to give him some credit for his 35mm photography and asked optimistically "[if you fancy ] shoot[ing] some fashion photography, then to let me know". It wasn't until a few years later when Helder reached out to Jake having bought some Bound pieces off his own back that the two finally got in contact and began working on their collab. A beautiful 50/50 partnership that has come together with a beautiful run of worker shirts, dinner shirts, chore jackets and tees, something Jake marks as the pinnacle of his career so far and a beautiful place to wrap this up.
We felt like we could have kept talking for hours so don't be surprised if we catch up with Mr Messer again in the near future, a wonderfully articulate bloke with a wonderful story to tell.
If you wanna hear this conversation in full, then please do check out the video below!