To mark the launch of her UK-based label on YUGEN, designer Alanna Wain opens up about her story and the motivation behind the brand, as well as the set backs she has had on the way.
Founded in 2016, Conflict of Ego is the brain child of Alanna Wain, the British designer spearheading female empowerment within the industry. COE is a fascinating, modern clothing brand that takes strong influences from streetwear and combines them with luxury quality and detailing to create a unique, fluid style. Channelling narratives of sexuality, political statements and equality in her collections, Alanna imbues femme power into every unique piece. Conflict of Ego is not only perfect for the modern world in terms of its versatility but also its fierce progressivism - in the designer’s own words:
“Each collectable piece is ultimately designed to empower people. Make an entrance to be remembered – start a conversation in clothing that is #CUT2LAST.”
Indeed, Conflict of Ego isn’t just a fashion brand, it’s a way of communicating socio-political messages through clothing. The brand is disruptive, aiming to work against outdated and potentially harmful traditions in the fashion industry. Conflict of Ego is seasonless, freeing itself from the constrictions of the traditional system and leaving space to organically create. Alanna is a dedicated proponent of the slow fashion movement, a campaign that emerged in response to the fast fashion industry and promotes clothing production that is far smaller in scale and uses sustainable fabrics to make long-lasting pieces. Conflict of Ego has forged a unique identity by making pieces with both eco-friendly materials and by upcycling old garments to create one-of-kind new pieces.
This socially-conscious ethos can also be seen in Conflict of Ego’s designs. There is a pervading sense of rebelliousness in the Conflict of Ego style. Bold, all-over prints are recurrently used, often with a mix of colour and busy artwork. This shows off Alanna desire to design for a person who is not just internally unorthodox but also wishes to be seen as that, unafraid of being an individual. Other elements also contribute to the feel of rebelliousness - elements of deconstruction on sweatshirts and the addition of frill neck to t-shirts build the brand’s distinctive identity.
Slogans are another common motif in the brand’s style, and Alanna has used this to promote her feminist beliefs - her ‘I Meant Everything I Said On My Period’ t-shirt is probably the most notable example of this. Even the pieces made from recycled garments add to this vibe as the patchwork style communicates a rejection of the ordinary. Conflict of Ego avoids stylistic categorisation, incorporating 90s and Y2K-inspired looks with influences from 60s and 70s trends; all brought together by a sense of youthful revolution.
This awareness of socio-political movements and a desire to represent them is rooted in Alanna’s background. While at school she used to be sprinter (which she credits with providing her with confidence and motivation) and afterwards, she began a blog called ‘I Was A Runner’ that sought to support girls to overcome the body image issues that are prevalent in sports. Additionally, before starting Conflict of Ego, Alanna was employed as a fashion buyer for a large off-price retailer. While Alanna enjoyed her time there, she became uncomfortable with the unsustainable and disposable nature of the industry. So when she decided to pursue her longtime ambition of starting her own business, these strong, ethical standpoints became fundamental to her brand.
Though having this unique identity was essential to building Conflict of Ego, Alanna still faced many challenges on the journey to where she is now. The first and most major obstacle was determining the brand’s desired customer. Initially, Alanna envisioned that an older customer might be more interested in her socially-conscious designs. However, as she received more and more feedback, it became clear that the ethos of the brand was incredibly appealing to a new generation of progressive young people. In keeping with the brand’s forward-thinking identity, Conflict of Ego’ ideal customer isn’t a woman, but rather a person of any gender-identity that connects with the values of the brand.
While understanding the Conflict of Ego customer was a crucial step, Alanna chooses not to try and chase their desires. The digital age has increased the power the customer has in fashion, and mainstream brands are stuck in a system of desperately trying to predict what their audience wants. Alanna recognises, however, that with brand loyalty on a downturn, a smart marketing move is to follow her own design instincts, produce collections when she is creatively inspired, and the people that appreciate her work will find her.
A further obstacle in the Conflict of Ego story was the reaction of the rest of the fashion industry at the brand’s outset of. As she was not an alumnus of one of the prominent design schools like Central Saint Martins (whose graduates dominate the London fashion scene) she found there was little support from major industry players like the British Fashion Council. Alanna constantly found many doors closed to her because she did not have the right caché, and this would go on to inspire her first collection ‘No Sense of Community’. Later, once Alanna had established Conflict of Ego, collaboration became incredibly important to her and she regularly works with other independent brands to help develop a new, alternative fashion community. Now that Conflict of Ego has organically grown by itself, major fashion players are approaching Alanna instead: the brand has been featured in Grazia, Elle and Nylon and worn by celebrities like Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jorja Smith and Dua Lipa.
Conflict of Ego is a brand with its finger on the pulse of society and is perfect for the individual who wants to make a statement. The eponymous conflict represents the versatile styles Alanna has created as well the social fluidity demonstrated by their wearers. We here at Yugen are so impressed by Conflict of Ego’s dedication to social responsibility and absolutely love the fashion Alanna produces - hopefully you will too!
Written by Jonny McKinnell
Photography by Claudia du Lièvre