As the only domestically based Ultimate shop and kit manufacturer, Lookfly have been a well-known brand to the UK Ultimate scene since their inception. They have grown and changed dramatically as a company, developing a specifically ethical focus at the core of their company. Despite their UK locality, and commitment to transparent and environmental practises, it is clear if you step onto an Ultimate field that Lookfly have faced competition from kit providers from Europe, the USA and beyond. Last year, Lookfly partnered with VC, who have over recent years become one of the largest Ultimate brands and kit providers in the USA. We spoke to Steve Giguere, founder of Lookfly and now Director of VC Europe to discuss the changes this has brought about, what it means for the future of Lookfly and for Ultimate apparel in the UK.
- Hey Steve, how are you doing?
Super duper. The only thing that would make my life better would be if I could play for Fire of London with DP. That would be something special … romantic.
- It’s been a year since VC didn’t-buy-out Lookfly, how is the partnership going?
Well put. Interesting is the best way to put it. The positives are that they have a great handle on manufacturing making improvements continually, a generous perspective on growing and improving Lookfly as a unique brand of VC and Adriana (co-founder of VC Ultimate) is so nice it makes you sick sometimes. Sometimes I try to wind her up just to see if it’s possible. (It isn’t by the way.)
- What have been the biggest challenges?
Moving all of our old customers onto what is a new system. We are essentially a new company that is just way better. Lookfly is now the face you know and love on a brand new, sexy body. That does sometimes mean that when a customer comes to us with a jersey that was made two years ago, it’s almost like they are coming to a new company with a jersey somebody else made. Although we still have the art on file, our sublimation product and process is quite different and our sizing is in line with VC so we have to map everything over. With a change in fabric, sizing and more importantly sublimation equipment, occasionally it doesn’t always produce a result that meets customer expectations which is unfortunate. Those problems will go away with time, of course, and the positives vastly outweigh those new growing pains.
- Have you seen many teams returning to VC Lookfly after going to other vendors?
It’s been a positive but tentative response. Those who have come to us believing the positive message of a new Lookfly have been extremely happy! I understand that buying jerseys is actually pretty stressful for the person in charge. If they see around them a certain brand, they feel confidence in that brand and will go with that regardless of any alternative messages. We need to get more of our gear out there so people can see it and touch it and potentially even play in it to realise it’s some seriously next level sh!t before they will take the plunge and move back to us. It is a chicken or egg scenario, we know, but we’re are doing some great things to help that.
- Tell us about what you’ve got going on at the moment.
Lookfly used to be known for doing just about anything. We did pyjamas, trackies, hats and all sorts of accessories in addition to Ultimate gear. We scaled that back a couple of years ago when competition flooded the market as it takes a lot of infrastructure to handle all that. Our goal is to bring that back slowly but as a premium line. We have already introduced a full sub soft-shell jacket. I got caught in a storm in Cornwall recently and it was perfect. We also have full sub hoodies! That is totally new to the market. Lastly… you probably know this already but Lookfly were the first brand to bring an Ultimate glove to the game. We did it back in 2004 before gloves from America appeared on the market. We took a step back in 2013 and I started working on two new gloves. This was before the VC merge was even an idea. The first would be a proper hard weather glove, nothing like anything anybody else has on the market and made for properly shocking weather. That is now released in its final form and is the Lookfly AWG (all weather glove). It’s pretty sweet. The full production run is on the way. The second glove is more of a competitor to the status quo that has emerged from various new glove manufacturers. This is putting our past 10 years of knowledge to work to make a light weather glove which improves all aspects of your disc game. This is called the Lookfly Touch Glove and will be available at WUGC and London Calling. It’s had three prototypes so far and it’s ready to go. Competitively priced and, in my field experience against all competitors, it is the best glove for detailed improvements in throwing and catching.
- Kit and gear has evolved a huge amount since Lookfly started. What’s been the biggest challenge keeping up?
Back to reality I see. OK, it would be the switch to sublimation. Up to 2010, we were rocking it in terms of cut and sew (aka non-sub) jerseys with printed logos. We designed our own recycled fabric in 16 colours, we were as “green” as Kermit the Frog in our production and had a great line of accessories. Then sublimation came along. Pre-dyed fabric cannot be used for sublimation. We had about 10,000 metres of fabric that just ended up sitting. That’s a huge loss. Add to that we had to learn and adopt sublimation as a print technique which meant a total redo of our manufacturing chain. We switched parts of our manufacturing three times until we finally got it right. That’s when VC stepped in and took us across the line. It’s been an extremely rocky few years. Ultimate players don’t really understand how difficult manufacturing gear is and expect a Nike level of perfection and an Amazon level of delivery – and why shouldn’t they! You can’t change that and once things start to go wrong and you make mistakes, you lose customers. Once you lose customers, you suddenly don’t have the money required to fix the problem that caused you to lose the customers in the first place… so you lose more customers and so it spirals until you are f*cked…. or the VC gurus step in, see what is happening, that there is an awesome company underneath this mess and help fix it. Thank you VC!
- How can the UK customers expect to experience differences?
Both UK and European customers are welcome to experience the differences! (?) VC has given Lookfly a big up! Fabric; better. Build; better. Sizing; better. Because our new fabric is so light we had to reevaluate construction because sewing a light fabric is harder than a thicker fabric. That’s why many companies use thicker fabric – we all know that thicker stuff is cheaper too so there’s a means to an end I guess. In the end, you can find yourself wearing an amazingly sublimated top but complaining after that bits of sewing fall apart or the fabric isn’t nipple friendly. I don’t think players should have to compromise on a shirt you wear over and over again all season. VC helped us push the boundaries of performance and backed that up with reinforced seams and better threads to make sure durability wasn’t compromised. The end product is superb. I don’t know any team committees that sit around talking about kit ordering and say “we’re going to wear this shirt like 50 times but we don’t really deserve good gear so … let’s get cheap gear.” Get Lookfly gear … be happy players.
- WUGC predictions?
Every year GB improves. They get closer to the goal of defeating the North Americans. This year is different. The USA have crafted a bit of a super team instead of their usual attack of just sending the best club where GB has been criticised for essentially sending Clapham and friends. I’m curious to see whose tactic comes out on top. I can see the home advantage giving GB the edge to make the final. That’s as far as I’ll call it. My prediction is for the finals to be legendary regardless of the outcome.
- Anything else you want to talk about?
Thanks for the interview. I realise I’ve turned this into a big advert. Wouldn’t be doing my job … you know. The last thing I’d like to add is, after the VC thing happened a year ago the most popular question I’ve gotten since is “so Steve… is the Lookfly stuff pretty good now?” To which I say “no … it’s fucking amazing.” That’s how I feel. Try it out.
Featured photo by Deepthi Indukuri.