The People’s Poncho: Founder, Johnny Ratcliffe Tells Everyone to Ditch the Umbrella

The People’s Poncho has reinvented the essential festival piece and aims to replace the essential UK-weather piece (the umbrella of course) for good. Founded by Johnny Ratcliffe, The People’s Poncho creates high-quality ponchos from waterproof fabric sourced in Japan, that you won’t want to throw away.

From festival goers and travelers to pub crawls and beer runs, the ponchos are for everyone, come rain, come… more rain. We sat down with Johnny to get the low-down on the brand.

What’s the story behind the people’s poncho? How did you start?

I was inspired by my time living in Shanghai, China where I came up with the initial idea of the people’s poncho. Due to unpredictable weather, under the protection of a simple lightweight poncho locals are able to hop from place to place regardless of the pouring rain.

At this time, my sister Iona was living in Amsterdam and she said ‘in this cycling and outdoors mecca they don’t really have any decent premium ponchos, and then I said let’s make an affordable, 100% waterproof high quality poncho!’ and that was the start of reinventing the Poncho.

You say you are reinventing the poncho – what are you taking it from and to?

Ponchos have always been perceived as a throwaway bin bag type of thing you pick up for £3 or a £20 really average item you use once and end up leaving at the festival.

Our ponchos are the complete opposite of this, they are something you can actually be proud of and use for many a festival season. They’re designed to be affordable, lightweight and practical. In today’s marketplace, there’s no reason why you can’t have an affordably brilliant product.

What sets the ponchos apart from other rain gear that is on the market at the moment?

Our ponchos are 100% waterproof and practical and provide credible protection from the rain. It is something you can easily throw on and off and fits in a dinky bag making it the perfect travel accessory. Rather than spending loads on rain gear, you can spend £50 on a poncho that is versatile, easy to use and wear and one that endures over time.

How do people use their ponchos?

What’s great about the people’s poncho is that it really is for the people. Anyone can wear it, its versatile – you simply take it on any outdoor activity whether it’s your cycling commute, your trip to Machu Picchu, your first Glastonbury or to take cover when pushing your child in a pram. You can keep it at your back door for a quick dog walk or nipping to the shops, without any fuss. We’ve seen some really creative uses for our ponchos and it is really great to see!

Just ditch the umbrella and test one of these out.

What was the main thing you had in mind when designing them?

Predominantly we’re a brand that’s about functionality, something that more and more brands are leading with to find a place within culture. Function is now cool. You don’t want to be that guy at a festival who gets his gear wrong.

Brands like Patagonia have established a trend out of high quality performance wear, and this is what we also aim to do. People look good in our ponchos too which is a plus, but our main goal is to make you feel good about being safe and dry in your poncho whilst everyone else struggles trying to keep their umbrella up. It’s that smug feeling!

Off the success of the brand, what is next for people’s poncho? Will you be creating more, a larger range, more items?

Kids ponchos are definitely the next project for us. We’ve had an overwhelming number of people requesting them so we’d be foolish not to answer this. Plus, how cute would a little printed poncho be!? For the moment though we’re focusing on spreading the word.

We’ve also had high demand for more colours, so we are hoping to expand our range, and collaborate with other designers to create some cool prints for the ponchos that would fit in perfectly at festivals.

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Words: Julia Cohen