Q&A: DOMINIQUE PICHE, CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF UPROSA


Image result for uprosa tech

This week Oxford Fashion Society interviewed Dominique Piche, co-founder and Creative Director of UPROSA. The UK-based company creates a range of striking fashion and tech accessories printed with scientific imagery sourced from laboratories all around the globe! Dominique is currently studying for a DPhil in Nanoscience at the University of Oxford, as we chat entrepreneurial musings, Oxbridge life and Christmas wishlists...


What was your 'lightbulb' moment and how did the idea for your company originate?
The original idea was actually supposed to be a spin-off from a biotech company which Nik (the CEO) was writing a business plan for during his Master’s. Nik was discussing the idea of selling scientific images generated from the biotech’s imaging technology as art prints, as a way of generating revenue for the company whilst it was in the R&D phase. I was in the same room at the time taking a break from doing experiments in my lab next door, and as a scientist, I was intrigued by this conversation and joined in. I was interested in the idea of using scientific images as a way of showcasing the seriously cool research that is going on in university labs to the general public. Following many coffees and dominoes fueled discussions, this idea evolved into creating a design brand that offers products created from real scientific images. The products act as the voice for communicating scientific research to the curious consumer, whilst supporting researchers by sharing 15% of the profits back to the scientist behind the design.


Can you explain the process of creating your products, from the initial concepts and obtaining scientific images to manufacture and sales?
We wanted to offer popular products that could be accessible to a wide audience, and which could also be produced with high-quality prints and good profit margins. This is why we chose tech accessories and tote bags. The next step was to identify suitable suppliers, we only use UK-based suppliers and all of our products are hand-made in the UK to ensure top quality and fast turnaround times.

In regards to sourcing the images, as we were originally based in the Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge, we were able to reach out to our immediate network to build our initial portfolio of products. Then we started approaching researchers from universities all over the world who not only had great images, but were also undertaking fascinating research. We are fortunate to be at the stage now where scientists approach us, we frequently receive image submissions directly via our online submission form on our website. 

Selling is the tricky part as there are so many different directions to pursue. As we sell predominately online at the moment, we are exploring a range of digital marketing strategies, from social media marketing, to email campaigns. To gain traction online however, you also have to be noticed offline, and we are working hard to build our brand. We have been featured in fashion magazines such as Vogue and Glamour. We also have a number of exciting promotional events in the pipeline, we recently retailed with the ASOS Marketplace at the Clothes Show in Birmingham. In January we are exhibiting at CES (Consumer Electronics Tradeshow) in Las Vegas. We also recently retailed at the British Science Festival, so as you can see we are testing marketing channels across the fashion, tech and science sectors to see which work best for us. We have also recently launched an affiliate program, where anyone who likes our products can be paid for recommending them to friends and family. This is working well for those who have signed up already, so if you like our products and want to earn for recommending us then sign up!


What role do fashion and trends play when you create your designs, and how do you manage to fuse the distinct elements of science and art?
Fashion trends play absolutely no role in creating our designs, as our designs are real scientific images generated by scientists themselves. However you could say scientific ‘trends’ do – for example graphene has been a hot topic in research, therefore we have a lot of graphene-based designs. We let the science define the designs! Perhaps when we start introducing more sci-fashion products trends will start to become important for us.

The elements of science and art are not distinct in my opinion, scientific research in itself requires a lot of creativity, and the scientific images are artistic in their own right. The difference in defining science as ‘art’ is how you are looking at it. We have simply stripped away the academic label and technical jargon usually attached to scientific content, allowing people to view microscopy images from a different, more design-oriented perspective.


With many fashion labels now dominating the tech accessories market (such as Paul Smith, Marc Jacobs and Kate Spade), how do you compete and attract consumers?
The only way to compete with big brands is to offer something different. Our unique selling point is that not only are our designs colourful and visually striking, but they are real scientific images. Each of our designs is by a real scientist – customers can read about the scientist behind their design and what research they are working on – it adds an element of intrigue to our products which Paul Smith, Marc Jacobs etc. cannot compete with ;).

 
Who would you say are UPROSA’s target consumers?
Our target consumers include science-lovers, art lovers and fashion lovers. We have some customers who buy because they love the fact the designs are scientific images, and others who buy purely because they like the colourful designs. Our target age ranges from 16 to 30.


Can you explain a little bit about Oxford Launchpad, and how it's helped your business venture?
The Oxford Launchpad is a free working space for Oxford based start-ups and is the best place to go if you are interested in, or already pursuing your own start-up. We have been working from the Launchpad for almost a year now, and it has helped us enormously, not just by giving us a nice space to work from, but also the support network around you where there is a wealth of advice, contacts and good events to take advantage of. Through the Launchpad we have been able to get valuable advice from MBA students, computer scientists, investors, etc., all facilitated by the Launchpad curator, James Murray.


With fashion brands now dependent on social media to market themselves and stay relevant to the new generation, how important is Instagram/Facebook/Twitter for your company?
Very important! For us the main focus is Instagram because it is an image-based platform so it’s a great tool for us to showcase the scientific images we have curated. We have learnt that it takes quite a lot of effort and time to build up a good social media following when you are a company, so for the meantime we are only focusing on growing our Instagram account.


Do you have any future plans to extend your business or introduce more products?
We have lots of plans for the future, the difficulty is deciding in which direction to head! We are definitely planning on introducing new products, some accessories we have discussed include socks and stationary. We want to become the #1 shop in the world for real science-based products so watch this space!


And finally, for those of us who are yet to start any Christmas shopping! Can you recommend any of your products to suit a range of budgets?
Our phone cases are great gifts for any budget at £19.90! For those looking to give someone a special treat, I recommend our colourful MacBook cases, which are £49.90.


OFS exclusive! UPROSA are offering our readers a 15% discount on all purchases at www.uprosa.com using the discount code OFS15 so get a head start on your festive gifting...

Also follow UPROSA on twitter @theuprosashop and Instagram @_uprosa_

By Lottie Jackson

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