Urban Sophistication is Growing Its Expressive Universe

The viral brand’s founders speak with V about developing their concepts into a community with a purpose and its latest design, the SOFTWARE BAG

Urban Sophistication has taken over the internet and IRL with its adorable and functional Puffer phone cases. The brand’s quirky, expressive accessories have become a marker of coolness far and wide, being hailed by celebrities such as Selena Gomez, Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber, and more —but the heart of the brand emphasizes unity and connectivity within its community over profit and clout. 

Neta and Elad Yam started the brand as young adults; it was a passion project through which they could channel their personalities and favorite pop culture references in hopes that it would resonate with others. After releasing a few experimental designs, Urban Sophistication found its stride in signature pieces such as the ‘Social Media Seriously Harms Your Mental Health’ phone case. Now, Neta and Elad are ready to expand that world, and the first tenet of the brand’s evolution has begun with the release of the SOFTWARE BAG.

Below, V caught up with the founders below to discuss the brand’s growth, new designs, and more.

V MAGAZINE: Tell us a bit about how the brand began and what the initial intentions were—how did you want audiences to perceive Urban Sophistication?

ELAD YAM: I’d say we started as less of a brand, it was more like we had these ideas that we wanted to put out there. We thought we could use t-shirts and hoodies to really translate or start conversations between Neta and myself about fashion and pop culture. So when we originally started, we thought hopefully we could comment on certain topics or people, and then they would wear it or share it. One of the first big moments was with the Kris Jenner ‘Momager Tour’ t-shirt. It was that vintage rock band era vibe, but we were thinking about who will be on those t-shirts or who are the faces of our generation 20 years from now. And then from there, we continued building that world. There is a point of view that people relate to that we can share.

That’s when we moved on and experimented with other canvasses, which were the phone cases. We had the idea to use the phrase ‘Social Media Seriously Harms Your Mental Health.’ We had a conversation and said, ‘That’s cool, but I don’t see that on a t-shirt.’ Your phone case is actually where you need the warning. It was interesting to see our followers beginning to engage with that message, even though they may experience it in a different way or on a different scale. From there, we focused on four cases. But when I’m thinking about what brings the brand together, it’s about encouraging thoughts, feelings, and conversations.

NETA YAM: They’re special pieces, but they’re easy to wear.

V: I know a big part of the brand was setting out to create pieces that personified both of your personalities. How would you describe your personalities and how are they brought to life through the brand?

NY: If we’re speaking about our personalities based on the phone cases, I feel like Elad is the Puffer case and I’m more of the Soap case. My style is very simple; timeless pieces, but I like to add some fun to my looks too.

EY: I’d say my personality is characterized by the puffer case as well, but it’s also sometimes just random pieces put together. Even when we came up with the logo for the brand, it was very random. We were thinking “What should this logo be about?” I asked Neta and she mentioned Rihanna’s profile photo on Instagram. I liked it because I don’t have good drawing skills, so that’s something I could make. That has been the logo since the beginning. Our version shows two people, so that’s obviously the two of us, but it can also be a general portrait of any two people. The brand can appeal to different aesthetics but there is still one core DNA.

NY: And I feel like the new bag really embodies both of our styles.

V: I really love that description you just gave of the logo, because like you said, it portrays you two, but when other people look at it they can place themselves within it as well. Tell me a little bit more about the process behind conceptualizing the ‘Social Media Seriously Harms Your Mental Health’ design and why you chose to promote that message.

NY: At the time, it was very much inspired by conversations between both of us.

EY: That was something we both experienced during that time. But I think with almost every product, there is this thought of the story that will be taken from it. How will it be interpreted? We felt like if we put it on a phone case, people would actually talk about it. Not about Urban Sophistication as a brand, but the case is a conversation piece that connects people. 

NY: And I also think that with that specific design, it’s attached to negative feelings. But when you see it all over social media, it makes you feel more connected to a larger community and like you aren’t experiencing those feelings alone.

V: What else sets Urban Sophistication apart from other brands out there currently? 

EY: I think the first thing that sets us apart is we aren’t viewed as a phone case company — but more of a place to buy an accessory from if you want to express yourself. Every brand puts a lot of thought into its products, but our signature is creating a thought or perspective beyond the product. The idea of the case closet that we’ve built throughout the years is similar to people who have a lot of sneakers — you don’t need a lot of sneakers. You have six different pairs of sneakers because you want to express different things at different times. And that’s how we see phone cases.

V: Signifying the brand’s evolution past early Urban Sophistication designs, you recently released the SOFTWARE BAG, a purse that explores the grey space between physical and digital. Tell me more about that — how does the bag portray that message? 

EY: It’s interesting because it goes back to the dynamic between the two of us. Inspiration for the bag came from many different areas. It came from the idea of the gigabyte, which is why it has that small graphic on it. And again, starting a new conversation — it actually connects to the Cloud case that we put out last year. We wanted it to be functional, but also you can choose which bag and which shape you like based on different looks. Then the material, the puffer aspect that is similar to our cases, is comforting and fun. It’s satisfying to touch and there is a tactile experience to it. It connects to that sense of security you have regarding your physical belongings. The fabric was the hardest part. We knew we wanted to keep it very timeless and classic — it’s not about reinventing the bag, so the silhouette may be something you’ve seen before. But the fabric makes it very unique. It’s not leather or trying to look like leather. It’s its own kind of thing. It’s not shiny, but you still have that metallic feeling, kind of like the back of an iPhone.

V: Many of your products are inspired by your past designs. Do you think the SOFTWARE BAG would exist without the iconic Puffer Phone Case

EY: I think viewing them as part of the story is more interesting. Even with our other designs, like the sunglasses that we’re making, they all go back to early pieces we put out and it’s an evolution in the storytelling.

V: Totally. How do you hope Urban Sophistication continues to evolve in the coming years?

NY: I think in the coming years, we see the brand as a place for people to come and find everyday objects and items that have that little twist of coolness that adds to self-expression and personality — that you can’t find anywhere else. From clothes and accessories to homewares.

EY: I see it also as that space or universe around this DNA we spoke about. One thing that I’m very excited about is collaborating with other people and learning from them and their expertise. We can always grow. Maybe we don’t put it out there enough, but something else that I’m very happy about and excited to show people is that this brand is a result of passion and love. We started this when Neta was 17 and I was 20. We’re not from the U.S. — we live in Tel Aviv. Instead of focusing on viable work, we focused on how we could make this work with the tools we had. I think that’s really powerful and I hope we can inspire others to do whatever it is that they want to do. We never said, ‘Let’s make phone cases.’ We said, ‘There’s a story we want to share with the world.’ So I’m just excited looking back at where we started and also looking forward to what we have coming.

The SOFTWARE BAG is available for $99, $150, and $199 on urbansophistication.com.

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