ULTRA Minimalism


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by Ultra 10
31 Sunday 31st July 2011

At the launch of the ULTRA 10 range in Shanghai, in May 2011

How did the Ultra team get together?

Co-founders Jamidah and Anita are long time friends who met at an airport ten years ago. One day Jamidah had some sparks going off around her newfound interest in a conscious lifestyle. She called over Anita to elaborate and the We Are ULTRA blog was quickly born.

We like to be open to organic growth and possibilities, which is how we met the ULTRA designers Jonathan and Syahmi. They happened upon our stall at a local pop-up bazaar, we got talking about our excitements over fashion and a sustainable lifestyle and ULTRA began.

How long has the Ultra 10 project been in development?

Prior to its launch ULTRA 10 was in development for three months. It's an idea from a few different applications that we hope to execute within ULTRA.

How did you go about sourcing the materials for the collection?

We hunted down everything online. We like the Source4Style resource but have found Alibaba to be the most responsive :).

We've also seen that you work closely with sustainability networks like Greennovate in China & LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health & Sustainability) in America. How did those link-ups come about?

Amena from The Wellness Works approached us to link up in collaboration with Greenovate and LOHAS for the ULTRA 10. She's been aware of our direction for a while and approached us directly. She lives in Shanghai and is a mutual friend of Anita's.

Who are the principal designers behind the scenes at Ultra?

Jonathan Liang and Tengku Syahmi.

Model wearing pieces from ULTRA 10 and S/S 2011 collections

And how did their collaboration come about in Malaysia?

Jon and Syahmi were in the same graduating class at their fashion college. Best friends since they were tiny, they also snagged the Malaysia's Most Promising Designer Award two years ago. They shared it, which was the first time that's ever happened.

And as with the story above, we met by chance and are happy it happened!

Which other designers do you think have inspired the Ultra 10 minimalist style/aesthetic?

Phoebe Philo for Celine for the minimalism, and Alexander Wang for the 'street' thought.

What's the story with the 365-day challenge?

We designed the ULTRA 10 so that it could carry a woman through her year: it’s modular, interchangeable and as easy to mix and match as possible. So with this in mind we encourage owners of the whole ULTRA 10 set to wear only the ULTRA 10 alongside a few basics and document it. We hope that the sharing of their journeys can go towards the effort and understanding of a conscious consumption mindset towards our wardrobes.

Why do you think the world needs a brand like Ultra right now?

We feel that we're true to who we are and we'd always like to see more of that from creative communities and brands. Also, in terms of sustainability, we feel that it's a good time to move on from an 'eco' way of looking at things to a 'conscious' way of sustainability. By integrating this into the core of who we are, we feel that it is timely. Be it what people put on their skin, in their mouths, on their bodies or what we can do for each other, it should become a collaborative effort.

With fashion's desperate need to make everyone feel like they're a unique consumer by offering them so much choice, how do you think people will react to a capsule line like Ultra 10 that limits their choice?

We think that the ULTRA 10 gives people a choice to make a conscious statement through what they wear and how they approach their wardrobe. There are many unique voices, personalities and opinions looking for this option.

We have been met by shock from some individuals declaring that they simply couldn't take on the challenge. But we only hope that this gives the one who does want it the option, and those that are simply just listening, an extra thought to the amount of contents and then meaning of a wardrobe.

What are your hopes for Ultra 10 after the first round of the 365-day challenge?

We are going to keep going forward with this idea, creating a new set of ULTRA 10 for the upcoming year. This last year's set can be sent back to us for upcycling, recycling or donation.

We also hope to explore other opportunities of alternate application such as online based 3D-printing tailoring, modular open-sourced designs and more.

And finally, how many of the team do you think will actually be wearing the Ultra 10 pieces for the next seasons?

Well our co-founders Jamidah and Anita will be wearing this first season this summer once our second batch is done. Everything is made by hand, and made to order.

And they hope to be able to grow with it as the ULTRA 10 itself matures.


The We Are ULTRA collective have plenty of projects on the go at the moment, which you can read more about on their blog and site. If you'd like to take part in the ULTRA 365-10 challenge, see more information here.

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at panic@dontpaniconline.com and we will respond asap.