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UNIF on Sarcasm and Their "Soft and Grimy" Aesthetic

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Photos by UNIF

Founded in LA by designers Eric Espinoza and Christine Lai, UNIF has kept the SoCal fashion scene on its toes with its florescent fabrics and gritty one-liners since 2010. The mastermind couple behind the line follows one rule—and likely only one rule—in designing with the seasons: "By the time something hits the market we've been looking at it forever," Espinoza says. While Lai is responsible for the label's flowy dresses, ponchos and brightly colored accessories, Espinoza brings the sarcasm. As for those catchy tees and tanks? He couldn't possibly pick a favorite.

Some pieces, best kept for the weekend and perhaps not safe for the workplace, are so incredibly "UNIF" that you know without a peek at the tag's bold logo. Their aesthetic, which Espinoza describes as "pretty and soft on one hand and dark and grimy on the other," is what makes the brand so recognizable whether it's a skull graphic or kittens and rainbows. The ever-sarcastic Espinoza took a time out from the lawyer dealings and other serious happenings at the UNIF HQ to fill us in on how UNIF is like Mariah Carey and his deep love for Emojis.

Where did the name UNIF come from?
"We wanted to name it 'Levis' but that didn't work out."

Well luckily UNIF is still pretty identifiable. What was your ultimate goal with the line?
"At the risk of not sounding too boring, by the time UNIF became what it's known as now, we just stopped caring about everything. We had both just come off of another project that left us creatively tired and pretty broke. The only thing left for us was to do something we really wanted to do. We took a lot of insane risks. I guess it's easy to have courage when you don't have a choice."

You've had some pretty impressive graphics on your tees...
"Sarcasm is our first language."

What's the first step in designing a new collection?
"Admitting you have a procrastination problem."

Very good point. Has being based in Los Angeles affected the direction of UNIF?
"LA and UNIF go back like ODB and Mariah. She sings and we rap incoherently over it."

Love Mariah, who is the UNIF customer?
"It varies. Our collections aren't exactly what you would call cohesive-they're all over the place, we're all over the place, our following is all over the place."

Exactly what message are you sending?
"Usually texts… with emojis."

Was there ever a piece that you were super attached to that the market just didn't get?
"How much time you got? Not everyone is going to take to anything. The flip side is sometimes we'll second-guess something and it ends up having a great response. You never know, we never know, who knows. Anyone who says they know is lying."

We are sort of obsessing over your product descriptions ("wear me baby one more time"), just thought you should know.
"I just texted you 'I love you [Heart Emoji]'."
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