‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ – this is the philosophy behind the new apparel designer, manufacturer and retailer Zelus London. Deriving inspiration from visual artists such as Jiri Thyn and thought leaders like Steve Jobs, Zelus London is a brand that is in constant pursuit of the simple truth. I met up with the force behind the brand, its Founder Sean Xie and Zelus model Dan Suarez to discuss its past, present and future.
Hi Sean. Can you take me back to where it all started? How did you come up with an idea for Zelus London?
Sean: The idea came to me back in 2016. I’m a salsa & bachata dancer, and it’s quite hot in the dance classes normally. I just couldn’t find T-shirts suitable for dancing that were not too overwhelming in terms of design, and also not too plain. I was looking for something minimalistic, and that’s the core concept for Zelus London from the design perspective.
In terms of the brand, Zelus is a Greek God, he represents passion, dedication and jealousy. This name stuck in my mind for a long time. I thought it was a good representation of what I wanted to express and products I wanted to create. The reason why it’s called Zelus London is because I love London, I’ve been living here for almost 10 years now. It’s a city that offers so much diversity, opportunity and activities. There is so much versatility, art and history. It’s almost a melting pot where people can come to be inspired on every level. This is also what Zelus London is all about.
You are saying that ‘minimalism and simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’. Why is that so important for you?
Sean: I wanted to build something that’s long-lasting. It’s similar to what Steve Jobs used to say about his designs. He wanted to create high quality product that can last. I don’t want to build something that’s trendy or tacky. I want to build something that’s grounded, has depth and that you don’t get bored of looking at season after season. To some it might come across as too standard or even normal.
How does your past and upbringing influence the way you work and your designs?
Sean: When I was growing up my mother was a hobbyist of fashion design. I remember how she used to pile up fabrics in the room so I couldn’t even find a place to sit. She was always cutting fabrics, sketching, contemplating about what she wants to create next. She is also a very straight-forward and upfront person, and I am similar. This is another reason why simplicity and straight-forwardness is so important for me when I design.
How do you define the Zelus customer? What are his interests? What’s important for him?
Sean: He probably lives in a big city, is highly intelligent, efficiency-driven, hardworking, and a bit arty. He loves the concept of minimalism. Our new slim fit multifunctional jacket Nighthawk, for example, is created to make his day to day life easier. It has a bunch of smart features, such as hidden sleeve NFC pockets for travel pass & contactless cards, built-in earphone cable hangers, AirPods case and Apple Pencil pockets. He is all about ‘talk less, do more’ philosophy.
How did you come up with the idea for NIGHTHAWK?
Sean: There are a lot of apparel companies that created travel-oriented clothing with smart pockets to make life easier, so you won’t have to dig in your pocket to find your phone or wallet. But I wanted create the perfect balance of function and form. I wanted to have the essential features that make it functional, especially for the city commuters, but at the same time would genuinely look great in the eyes of those fitness gurus & fashionistas.
Tell me about your collaboration with Dan Suarez from DON’TSTOPFIT.
Sean: We started working together back in 2017. At that time, we launched our first batch of T-shirts. There were 15 designs in two colours. I thought Dan represented the brand perfectly and was just a great fit for us as a model. Dan is running personalised fitness and nutrition trainings through his venture DON’TSTOPFIT.
And Dan, how did you find working with Zelus London?
Dan: First of all, being able to work with Zelus has been an incredible experience. We started collaborating a long time ago and Sean’s motivation and dedication amazes me every day. My philosophy is ‘don’t wait for the change, be the change’, and this is exactly what he is doing with Zelus.
How are you finding the clothes?
Dan: My background is in combat sports and dancing. The way the clothes are made, all of the materials used are just perfect for this active lifestyle. They are very stylish and very comfortable.
And Sean, how much do environmental issues impact your work when designing?
Sean: This is a big consideration for me. I was a member of a Circular Economy group here in London, which is entirely about how to build the processes in the fashion industry to make the production and distribution cycles more sustainable and reduce waste. We make sure that all of the materials used for Zelus London are recyclable and are produced in an eco-friendly way.
What are your plans for the future with Zelus London?
Sean: My plan is to continue to make great innovative product. Not only it has to be high quality, but it has to be comfortable to wear. For example, it took us a year and a half to make our T-shirts perfect because we wanted to make sure that the fitting is perfect – it has to be extremely comfortable and look the best to wear. We came up with our perfect fabric, nanoflex, which is very flexible and helps to absorb sweat and odour, meanwhile does not look Polyester fabric sporty. I want to create womenswear in the future as well.
We also want to expand into the area of fashion tech, such as heat generation, smartphone charging and network capabilities. I can’t reveal too much just yet, but it all looks very promising so far.
Interviewed by: Irina Gorskaia
Images: Zelus London Archives, Irina Gorskaia