When he visited Romania in 2009, founder of the Level Collective Mark Musgrave wasn’t looking for a business idea. He was just on a break from university, volunteering with some friends and assisting a charity that supported impoverished communities. But, when he witnessed a better way of producing fashion, it sparked an idea that he couldn’t shake off until he established his own conscientious clothing label. “One of the community projects taught how to hand crochet beanie hats which were then sold to raise income for their families,” explains Mark. “I saw how products could be created in a way that was honest and respectful and made a significant positive difference to the people who made them. I knew that is how products should be made.”
The Level Collective, which Mark launched in 2014, is founded on the conviction that the clothes we wear and the products we buy should have a positive impact on both the producer and the consumer. “Level” in the brand name reflects these core values, referring to the way in which every item is made in collaboration with artists and makers, all of whom are paid a fair wage. It also encapsulates Mark’s desire to “live level” and play as much as he works.
Play for Mark involves exploring the great outdoors, whether that is on the Cornish coast where he lives or on the other side of the globe under a more tropical sun. His collection subtly reflects this passion in the peaks, pinecones and waves that appear in the graphics emblazoned on his t-shirts and sweatshirts. The names of his Winnats Roll Top backpack and Bamford Tee are a nod to his beloved Peak District (where he grew up), while the range of pocket knives, utility packs and walking socks make up an essentials list for the weekend explorer.
Each element of the Level Collective production process is carefully considered. “Don’t outsource your learning” is Mark’s motto. When creating his Winnats backpack, he worked with numerous designers and suppliers to put together an a-list of top-quality ingredients. The final bag is handmade in the UK using waxed cotton, vegetable tan leather, chunky cotton webbing and finished with custom stainless steel buckles, laser cut and polished in Sheffield. “I learned so many things about making products and about myself too – it really pushed me to my creative limits. I realised that we don’t need permission to go ahead and try something. If we have an idea, then we are probably best placed to go ahead and create it.”
Deliberating over every minute detail also enables Mark to closely guard how his products are crafted, remembering the revelation he had in Romania all those years ago. “People deserve to be respected and paid a fair wage for their time, skills and effort. For too long now, the fashion industry has conveniently ignored the people who have made their products. As customers too, we have the choice whether to support companies who make products ethically, or not. Our money is a voting token and we decide what kind of brand we want to support.”
Check out the full Level Collective range at https://thelevelcollective.com