Oi Polloi

Introducing Wyse

Published: Tue Jun 19 2018

Wyse is a clothing company from the mind of Oi Polloi founder Steve Sanderson. It’s sportswear, of the casual variety, ideal for worldwide travels and relaxed beach jaunts.

We pecked his head to find out more…

Maybe an obvious question, but what is Wyse?

Wyse has come out of my obsession with Italian and American sportswear. Maybe about three or four years ago I got the idea of doing a label… doing something based around the kind of things I’m into.

With doing Oi Polloi over the years, it’s been like going to university… without actually going to university. We didn’t read about any of this stuff in books, we just did it in the way that felt natural and right for us. So the initial thought process with doing my own thing was to make something for myself.

What inspired this stuff?

I’m going through a phase now where I want to reduce the amount of stuff that I’ve got. So from that, I wanted to make stuff that was multi-purpose, and could be used for different things. It’s not a technical brand, its stuff you can wear on holiday or if you’re knocking about, and feel super-comfortable in.

That travel thing seems like a big part of it. Looking at the clothes, Wyse is a bit more worldwide than just… er… ‘Manchester clobber’.

I’m proud of where I’m from, and where I’ve grown up is programmed deep into my brain, but now, having visited a few different places, I take influences from other places too. I’m revisiting things that I was into in my mid 20s — looking at old Ralph Lauren or Stüssy stuff from the early 90s.

I wouldn’t say I’m a designer or anything, I see it more like how a hip-hop producer might sample a bit of music – I’ve taken a piece of this, and a piece of that, and blended them together to make something new.

It’s not a technical brand, its stuff you can wear on holiday and feel super-comfortable in.

For menswear, there’s a relatively small pool of classic shapes — there’s workwear, military and sportswear. For Wyse, it’s mainly sportswear I’ve been looking at, but it’s definitely more on that luxury side of sportswear. I don’t want to dress like a 16 year old.

Yeah, it’s all fairly subtle. I know there’s a label on the inside, but in a time where there’s a lot of brash stuff around, was keeping it understated a conscious decision?

Initially, I just wanted to do something pretty low-key. I like brands when you can tell what they are, even without the label. That’s a big ask, but it’d be nice to create something with its own look and feel.

When I look at clothes, I often think things like, “That’s amazing, but if only it didn’t have so many pockets.” Sometimes I feel like a food critic, having an opinion about something someone has put a lot of effort into. 

I suppose you’re putting yourself out there now though.

It’s like a restaurant critic opening a restaurant.

Yeah – what would Jay Raynier’s restaurant be like?

I don’t think clothing is quite as black and white. There’s a lot of designers who started out as buyers. I suppose it’s just that thing of being into clothes. I look at certain brands and think, “Do you know what, I want to be in that mix.”

I suppose to some people they might think it’s weird that I’m doing this now, but if you’re into stuff, then that thing doesn’t slow down as you get older.

It does for a lot of people though. I know a lot of people who used to be interesting when they were young, and then once they got to about 18 they turned into Hollyoaks characters.

I think a lot of people have a time in their life that they always come back to. The pinnacle of their life might have been when they were in their early 20s, and then there’s a point when they cut off. There’s this Groundhog Day scenario where all people do is talk about how brilliant it was when they used to go out, and how shit things are now. It’s a bit weird. I think things are brilliant now.

It’s like a restaurant critic opening a restaurant.

Quite often when you look back, the thing that you thought was amazing isn’t quite as good as you remembered. With clothes, you can capture that flavour and that feeling of how that thing made you feel back then, but you can’t just re-make it stitch by stitch. Things have moved on.

Another thing is that in the last few years I’ve been doing yoga, and that’s been a massive influence. It’s not just a thing for getting bendy and stretchy, it’s more of a mind thing. So from that, I wanted to take western sports stuff, and put them through a slightly eastern filter.

On that subject, it’s all made in India isn’t it?

I wanted to make really good quality clothing with really good fabrics, so we’re using an ethical factory in India that makes clothes for a lot of brands that I really like. Cotton and clothing has a lot of history in India, so there’s a big link there.

I’ve got a big hang-up with people thinking the ‘made in England’ tag makes something better. Just because something was made in England, doesn’t necessarily mean it was made well, in an ethical way.

It’s the same with the idea of luxury… people think that to make something luxurious, you’ve got to use leather, suede and fur, but that’s not the case.

Yeah, you’ve chosen some fairly classy cotton fabrics. Corduroy might not be seen as a summer fabric, but it works pretty well on those shorts. Where did that come from?

I’ve always been into corduroy. People misinterpret it as a winter thing, but when you wash corduroy – in particular that narrow, needlecord - it’s really soft and comfortable. I remember Ocean Pacific used to do corduroy outdoor shorts, and they were really simple, classic shorts.

I wanted to make cord sports shorts with a mesh lining – something super-comfy for travelling and knocking about on the beach. They’re maybe not official ‘sports’ shorts, but they’re good for riding a bike or doing a bit of yoga in.

You mentioned yoga, and before you were talking trying to cut down on buying things you don’t need. Do you think things like that are important at the moment when there’s so much stuff vying for your attention?

There’s so much noise now that you’ve got to filter out the nonsense. These days it’s about choice. I’ve spoken to people a lot younger than me, and they’ve got the same mind-set – they’re looking at the amount of stuff they’ve got, and they’re wanting to pull back on it. It’s about making a conscious decision about the things you want to own.

I’ve got too many things, yet I wear the same stuff over and over. So it’s about cutting away the other stuff that you don’t need. If you can make a choice, then you can make the decision now, as the information is out there.

Clothes are just one aspect. Now we’re making the same sort of decisions with the food that we eat or the sort of holidays we go on. Years ago, everyone just went on a package holiday for a week, but now people want their own experiences. People are getting into stuff on a deeper level.

One last thing, where did the name come from?

It comes from things like, “A wise man knows that he knows nothing.” It’s about being open to ideas and trying to learn from experience. I’m always trying to learn new things.

Wyse is available from Oi Polloi now. See it here.