I Love Ugly (ILU) was started in 2008 as an art project by our founder and Creative Director, Valentin Ozich. Initially a passion project, ILU was conceived through late nights spent pondering over a rapidly expanding body of designs and illustrations within his bedroom in Auckland, New Zealand.
Valentin studied graphic design but was also an aspiring artist with an insatiable desire to bring his work to market. After exhibiting his work through solo art exhibitions, he decided to do a screenprinting course, where he was exposed to a new medium for his art and designs to exist. With no business experience, no fashion experience, and a bold vision to create a global brand, I Love Ugly was born.
By 2011, I Love Ugly had grown & developed with a primary vision to create the world's best premium men's streetwear brand and to inspire its customers to achieve their creative aspirations. Soon, Valentin and his small Auckland-based team opened the first I Love Ugly online and retail store. To this day, I Love Ugly does not wholesale its products and has decided to remain a direct-to-consumer brand through its own online and retail stores to maintain exclusivity and a premium brand experience.
After rapid growth thanks to innovative products such as the now iconic Zespy Pant, distinctively patterned headwear, and outerwear garments, ILU found traction through word of mouth and social media platforms. From this, the brand quickly gained a cult following, with its products worn by A$AP Rocky, Kanye West, Rita Ora, and Justin Bieber, to name a few. I Love Ugly quickly claimed international recognition for its high quality, sophisticated yet simple designs aimed at the creative and aspirational individual, winning multiple international awards for best menswear brand in the world.
Today I Love Ugly continues to grow as an internationally recognised brand. Still independently owned, despite hitting some rough patches along the way, it has carved out a niche as a premium yet accessible lifestyle brand with a fanbase spanning globally throughout New Zealand, Australia, the US, Europe, and Japan. Collaborating with some of the world's most prestigious heritage brands, such as Onitsuka Tiger and JanSport, yet never forgetting our homegrown roots. Throughout our growth, we continue to show love to lesser-known creatives, musicians, artists, athletes, and innovators from New Zealand and around the globe.
To this day, we continue to showcase the ups and downs of our journey along the way. We want to inspire the underdog through our podcast show, our social media platforms, physical retail stores, and our product. Our product categories are evolving, and we are set to introduce womenswear as the next chapter of our brand.
For a more in-depth version of our story, and the full history of I Love Ugly, listen to this episode of our podcast, The I Love Ugly Audio Show.