Provide is more than just a clothing brand. It is a community. The brand is built and shaped by the city of Birmingham and the people within it. In the eight years it has been running, Provide has been a key driving force for the Birmingham creative scene and is now an established platform within the city.
Our Designer, Gaz, is in conversation with Provide and the brains behind the venture, Matt Nation, about his story and Provide’s origins.
Can you explain a bit about your background and story before you got started with Provide?
Matt: For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in clothes and design. I started drawing football kits when I was ten and was fussy about my clothes from the age of four or five. I enjoyed art and design throughout school and by the time I was fifteen I had a clear vision of where I wanted to go. I loved underground streetwear brands from the 90s like Fuct and Stussy that had a very DIY culture. I went to London College of Fashion and did a degree in Product Design specialising in clothing, which is essentially a fashion design course with a commercial focus. The best part of being at LCF was the placement year that I spent in New York with a menswear brand called 3sixteen, where I learned a lot about working in a small company.
I came back from the States and wanted to break into a similar scene in the UK but soon realised that the companies that I admired here were so small they often didn’t have the budget to take on new staff, so I ended up at a high street retailer in head office and was bored out of my brains. I lasted about five months before I walked out. I had no plan but I knew that I had experienced the polar opposite of what I want to be doing with my life and career. That’s when I decided to start my own thing and build it from the ground up.
So then came Provide in 2012 right?
Matt: Yes; I quit my job in 2011 and started brainstorming and planning right away, and Provide was launched in September 2012.
Your first space was in the Custard Factory; could you explain a bit about how that came about?
Matt: I left London and came to the city as a complete newcomer. I felt like the best way of meeting people would be to have a physical space with an open door. This was during a time when the high street was in decline but the landlords were very accommodating and it proved to be an affordable ‘starter unit’. I was in that space for three years and when Provide outgrew it, I ended up working with the Great Western Arcade and doing two pop up shops within the course of 18 months. These pop ups helped to establish a wider audience across the city without having to commit to a five or ten year lease.
A couple of years ago I moved into my current studio space and started the process of going from high street retail to being primarily online.