How a career in sportswear design helped create a UK Made travel brand

For as long as I can remember, sport has been a huge passion throughout my life. To be able to combine both of my passions for sport & design over the last 15 years has been, & continues to be, a huge honour.

Diane Richardson

By Diane Richardson, Playtime Editor (diane@ssachs.co)

Mat Booth is an accomplished Sportswear Designer and having met through a lockdown chat about the industry, it goes to show that this industry not only breeds talent but entrepreneurship as well. Meet Mat Booth, Product Designer and Founder of Both Barrels…

Introducing Mat Booth

 I’m fascinated by athletic product performance & opportunities to build products around ever evolving, progressive insights. Sportswear tends to be led by human-centric product improvements, marginal gains & advancing products based on direct athlete performance feedback – this investigative approach has always appealed to me from a purist problem solving point of view.

My academic background wasn’t in fashion, clothing or even textiles. I was an outsider. My degree, graduating in 2005, was in Product Design. I spent time designing concepts for toothbrushes, fireplaces & emergency road-side seating amongst other comprehensively non-apparel projects. I remember dreaming of perhaps being a furniture designer one day, however my passion towards sports drew me in.

My academic background wasn’t in fashion, clothing or even textiles. I was an outsider.

Working in-house

After University I began my career in a design/technologist role at esteemed luggage brand, Antler. This role offered me a fantastic grounding in the design, development & production of design ideas. It was a brilliant starting point, I got good at making 30 cups of tea at a time & found the experience of seeing the product process from sketch to mass production massively beneficial to my approach as a designer. It also gave me the seed of the idea behind the start of my brand, Both Barrels.

After a couple of years grounding, I moved into sportswear in a football apparel development role with Umbro. This role was an eye-opener to say the least! I joined an experienced team where I knew very little about garment construction but having a willingness to learn (& often be corrected!) I found the process of how traditionally ‘flat’ products came together to produce a 3D form fascinating. This role was much more technical & involved a lot more process detail than creative design but offered me an insight into scaled brand operations, working within much bigger teams & of course working on products with a high profile & massive personal appeal too. This role was pivotal in understanding the fundamental & invaluable knowledge of how textile products are made.

Following the experience with umbro, I continued my journey in sportswear with Warrior & New Balance. I pivoted into the football Equipment design department where I worked on bags, footballs, shin guards, goalkeeper gloves, knitted accessories & anything that wasn’t quite apparel or footwear. This role was more closely aligned to my original study foundations in Product Design – the items had structure, edges, corners & an inherent 3D form which I found much more familiar in my minds eye. This role brought me back to the bags category & now armed with knowledge from lots of different categories, processes, technologies, constructions, materials & innovative possibilities.

Freelance Design work

In 2014, with ten years corporate experience, I moved into freelance design. Having worked on such a wide range of products I was keen to develop my business knowledge. Having worked with more than 30 businesses over the last 15 years I have been able to see directly how different models evolve, how people communicate their products, how they prioritise design, development & innovation & of course how starting something from nothing is the hardest thing of all!

Freelance project work, from elite offshore marine apparel through to high performance grip socks, gave me the opportunity to balance out my time to start up Both Barrels, the UK Made travel brand mentioned in the article title. There was a lot (often too much) juggling however the pure product knowledge I’d gained helped to guide me through some of the complexities, staying patient by fostering a design & problem-solving mind set to apply to new conundrums stood me in good stead. 

Both Barrels

Both Barrels launched in November 2016. After 15 months of agonising development based on years & years of product experience. I was taking another leap in to the unknown. Both Barrels is built on a principal of ‘confidence in simplicity’. My sportswear background had given me insight in to building product & I was able to harness that around my own design philosophy which is rooted in the ‘less but better’ approach. Both Barrels product takes the same approach to design & development as an international football jersey. It’s built around user needs, contents, performance & fitness for purpose.

Both Barrels is built on a principal of confidence in simplicity.

Mat Booth, Founder, Both Barrels

I’d noticed after years of business travel that products often didn’t reflect the users’ needs & often didn’t look the part either. With working lives bleeding further & further into real lives, the products had to be more versatile, be in more spaces & work more harmoniously in many different environments, way beyond the traditional office. I felt as though I could build a new solution.

I am committed to UK production. Having worked with factories all over the world I was well aware of prohibitively high minimum order quantities, long shipping times, far higher environmental impact, potential time zone & communication issues, global currency fluctuations & various other import complexities. I wanted to design & build something locally which meant visibility & transparency of the whole supply chain. I am passionate about promoting small UK brands making product in the UK to maintain our small base of producers, generate new skilled work posts & celebrate small scale, meticulously crafted production. 

Having worked with factories all over the world I was well aware of prohibitively high minimum order quantities, long shipping times, far higher environmental impact, potential time zone & communication issues, global currency fluctuations & various other import complexities.

As Both Barrels enters its fourth year since launch, we’re again working towards ‘less but better’ & ‘confidence in simplicity’ by offering new products & services from a new point of view – it’s an exciting time to use design as our superpower & UK manufacturing as our secret weapon. 

To discover more about our brand & products please visit the website. Keep up to date with what’s now & what’s coming next follow our Instagram. Click here; @both.barrels and visit our website HERE.

For more information and to connect with Mat, email hello@thisisbothbarrels.com