Interview: I Sunk Your Battleship’s Ross McPhie “To like ISYB in many ways you have to like toilet humour”

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Although Ross McPhie, owner of I Sunk Your Battleship, described his brand as being “like Daft Punk, it’s about the product, not the person” I find it hard to focus solely on the unique brand when the people behind it are so captivating.

Located in a garage on the outskirts of Durham, I Sunk Your Battleship is a fairly new menswear brand, which launched in June 2013, but you wouldn’t think it. The huge garage has been transformed into a studio/clothing storage room/design room, and, it’s amazing. With I Sunk Your Battleship branding around the room, tiny Lego figurines dotted on shelves and in glass cabinets, the place echoed coolness and I couldn’t help but want to look at every little detail.

As I sat down with Ross we laughed over his attempt at making a cup of tea, which wasn’t as bad as he made out to be.

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One of the first things I had to ask was how and why did he think of the I Sunk Your Battleship brand, at first he thought to himself and then gave a very insightful answer, explaining that in his old job working with Nike, he travelled and awful lot, or how he described it “my arse was always on an aeroplane seat, it sounds like a glamorous lifestyle to some but it’s not, you travel, sleep, have jet lag and eat.” As his wife, Sarah, who he set up the brand with, was pregnant with their first son, Samson, the pair decided to move back to the UK after living in Amsterdam, before leaving Ross worked for O’Neil, he explained “on the commutes to work I had to keep myself busy or I would have fallen asleep, so I started doodling and started drawing the logo for ISYB which is the guy holding the semaphore flags, I started swapping symbols and letters around to make words, mainly rude words” Ross laughs.

It’s then that I ask about the symbols and the meaning behind ISYB: “150 years ago semaphore flags was how people communicated. It was the equivalent of sending a text message today. In many ways semaphore is a dead language like hieroglyphics people don’t know what’s being said, so you can have fun with this very visual language in graphics. To like ISYB in many ways you have to like toilet humour, I think every man’s mind stops growing when they are seven-years-old, they just grow physically and try not to laugh at rude jokes, but deep down they all still enjoy it, and in many ways that’s who this brand is for.”

Shortly after Ross described the brand his wife came to join us, I immediately wanted to know what her first thoughts were when Ross told her his idea to set up ISYB: “I said go for it, I thought why do it for someone else when you can do it for yourself, and a lot of jobs in the fashion industry aren’t based in the North East, I’m born and bread here and Ross loves the North East so it was important for us to base it here and try and put something back into the local economy. I’ve always said we’re masters of our own destiny, so try it, and if you fail, you fail, but at least you tried.”

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After pulling together the initial ideas and getting a thumbs up from his wife, but not a thumbs up about the name, which Sarah still laughs about, explaining: “I hate ringing places and saying it’s Sarah from I Sunk Your Battleship, they either laugh or the polite ones ask you to say it again. When Ross first told me the name I told him he needs to go back to the drawing board and think again, but he liked the name so it stuck.”

Ross’ friend, who works at London Press Week, suggested he came down and brought some samples of the clothing, it wasn’t until they got there Ross started having second thoughts “I honestly thought we were going to get kicked out the door.” But this was far from what happened, the response to ISYB was great, with places like ID liked the brands attitude and humour.

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So, from there Ross and Sarah grew ISYB. Now, with an intern working on social media and freelance design consultants helping with collaborations, Ross explains about expanding the team and what’s next for the brand: “You can’t rely on yourself, you need the opinion of others to build an audience and build a brand that people like. We’d like to keep the brand local as it’s important to us, we source everything we can from up here, from printing to manufacturing and the materials, keeping the brand based in the North East is important to us.

“For now though we’re working on a few collaborations, and a new collection, the collaborations will be with Longhorns, where we’re designing a range of T-shirts and we’re making the team outfits for Sunderland’s Roller derby team” Ross laughs. ” We’re also launching a new collection soon which is focused around sea monsters, which will be really cool.” Shortly after telling me about the sea monsters collection Ross showed me the sketches and ideas for it, and it’s definitely a collection you need to watch out for.

Aside from his brand, I was interested to know what Ross thought about fashion in the North East, to which he replied “my answer may be quite controversial.” “I think there are a lot of great, missed opportunities. When there’s events about fashion in the North East they’re always centred around high street brands, there’s so many national and global brands focused on when we have so much on our doorstep. Brands like Barbour, Berghaus and Nigel Caborn were born here, yet we feature high street brands that everyone knows, it’s a shame the area gets missed off the map.”

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To wrap up the interview I wanted to ask Ross something fun, I asked him to describe himself in three words, his wife in three words and ISYB in three words, about himself he jokingly said “damn near perfect” about ISYB he said “f**k sh*t up” and for his wife, which to me was possibly the best answer he’s given through the interview (although he laughed when saying it), he said: “she’s fu**ing amazing.”

Ross didn’t want the interview to be about the people behind the brand, but when you have a brand that is powered by people who are dedicated and passionate about what they do, it’s kinda hard. But, to keep him happy, check out ISYB for some amazing menswear clothing and accessories. Or pop down to their launch event at Capology in Newcastle this Thursday night (May 28).

Keep up to date with I Sunk Your Battleship by following their social media accounts:

I Sunk Your Battleship Facebook

I Sunk Your Battleship Twitter

I Sunk Your Battleship Instagram.
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