Why starting a fashion brand takes more than gut feeling.

On building a fashion brand driven by consumer behaviour.

For years I’ve been circling around the idea of starting a project that combines my interest in fashion with my skills as a design thinker. One day I decided to research the fashion landscape across segments and I couldn’t help to notice the wave of new street-culture brands washing up every day. So many young brands enter the market based on gut-feeling without knowing the challenges of building a business in this already crowded industry. Although most of them are not in it for the long run, it’s pretty interesting to see how they disrupt the industry, snooping away sales from renowned fashion houses for a brief moment, before dissapearing like a puff of smoke. It struck me how easy it became to connect with suppliers and production-companies overseas. It might even be fair to say that launching t-shirts with fun prints is the easiest way into the market, but probably not the most sustainable.

So, I decided that I wanted to do things differently. But beside having an idea, how do you really enter the fashion landscape? I asked myself: Where does a brand live in a market that is so saturated? What does it take to build a sustainable label in this time of change? Can brands still live up to expectations and not go under the first year?

Well, last year opportunity came knocking and I decided to take a shot at this. This is my journey so far and the way I approached these challenges.


Market + Consumer (research in a nutshell)

We’re living faster than ever before. Even in our free time we do things in a hurry. It’s not unusual these days to combine a busy day at the office with an after-work-get-together, blending professional and personal time. Modern life is messing up your colourcoded calendar, shuffling your beautifully curated schedule in a way that it’s impossible to even dress right for some occasions. Life in the fast lane requires new types of product-solutions to match this capricious behaviour, and clothing is an important one of them.

A part of Wright.’s initial workshops: defining problems first, followed by possible milestones as solutions.

THE CHALLENGE

— Fast Fashion vs. Couture (A tale of 2 worlds)

Maybe it has happened to you before: Your new pants looks like it has suddenly aged two years with one wash. A thread is hanging from your shirt after a few wears, threatening a much greater unraveling. Not all clothing is made to last and the quality of our clothes is in decline. We shop constantly, and always want more new stuff, creating a culture of disposable, low-quality clothes. You can imagine that combining lightning-fast production with a cheap price tag is not the most sustainable answer out there.

On the other hand, buying a designer piece every time you need something new is quite expensive, to say the least. Plus, the majority of the people isn’t even slightly interested in sporting the latest designer clothes, nor wanting to be ahead of trends. It’s merely the symbolic 1% who is actually willing to pay more for a product that stands out from the crowd.

THE INSIGHTS

— Applying Design Thinking To Solve The Problem

When I started researching people’s shopping behaviour, linking them to their buying habits and then matching brands in the fashion landscape to it, I immediately noticed a big difference between the larger group of new menswear brands, compared to the ones who offer womenswear. The most interesting insight I got from this was the immense gap of product offering between the world of fast-fashion and the world of couture. The past years, people’s shopping behaviour also made a noteworthy shift, leaving behind quantity for quality, trying to jump more often from one world to the other.

While studying these key insights, mixing them up to reach the right amount of chemistry, there it was: the foundation of the brand. Together with the team, we decided to take on the challenge to bring the world of luxury fashion closer to the one of daily clothing.


Enter the solution: Wright.

One year ago, we started Wright. Born out of interest to bring sustainable designer fashion with a real world approach, we as complementary members of the Wright. design office chose a “no season” approach to the clothing-line and its garments. A place where each piece is conceived as a pure blend of the creative idea and the technical and artisanal know-how of bringing it to life.

Campaign image of the Fall/Winter 2017 collection. Photographed by Jef Claes.

1 — A design office where no one is bigger than the team

One of the most important lesson I’ve learned while working in the creative industry the past couple of years is that no one is bigger than the team. I believe that great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people. You might be really good in one or two things, but in order to reach greatness you need to get over yourself and realize that it takes a group to get things done.

Last year I joined ranks with like-minded people who share this belief. I teamed up with our more than capable Managing Director, Nathalie De Nil. A powerhouse woman who is extremely talented in helping the team reach their goals. With over 15 years of experience in developing the highest production standards for renowned fashion brands like Dries Van Noten, A.F. Vandervorst, Paul Smith, Essentiel, Alexa Chung, and many more, she knows the ropes of the global fashion industry.

Behind the scenes of our Fall/Winter 2017 photoshoot.

Meeting Nathalie never meant to happen if it wasn’t for Gaetan Goesens, Wright.’s Brand & Sales Director. After being an irreplaceable member of the Strelli Homme brand-team for a couple of years, he decided that it was time to move on. Gaetan, a warm-hearted person, is known for his people skills. He has a knack for building real relationships with people, not the salesman-type-of-talks kind of guy. With his impressive know-how of the Belgian & European fashion landscape, he is Wright.’s firestarter, bringing a dynamite personality to the table.

With each member having a different background, all bringing something of our own to the drawing board, we were able to seamlessly combine creative, business and technical know-how and decided to start Wright. As the creative director of this core-team, I’ve sketched out a framework where the brand lives in. A set of living guidelines wherein I’ve worked with several complementary experts, ranging from fashion designers to product-technicians, photographers to graphic designers, sales-representatives to ambassadors, in order to reach several goals of the brand.

2 — The holistic product approach

We built the brand around the idea of creating understated fashion essentials for the style-conscious woman. Wright. functions as a design office that focusses on the needs of the woman instead of on the designer. This way we envision growing a brand that creates collections which consist of expertly made pieces that complement today’s busy schedule of women across the globe. By having a DNA born in research, it became a part of our mission to bring intelligently crafted items to the market. Every single one of them designed for work, play and everything in between.

Lookbook images for Fall / Winter 2017. Photographed by Kris De Smedt.

Personally, I’m intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe. The idea to design a complete dressing room that travels throughout seasons, combining quality materials, comfortable cuts, a subtle palette and non-ostentatious style, inspires me a lot. However, the interesting challenge here is to balance both the artistic and commercial side to it. That’s why I lead our studio into focussing on product designs that fill the void in the market that exists between luxury labels and accessible ready-to-wear fashion. This way we can combine both the essential (commercial) and the creative idea (artistic), so we can offer the perfect blend of sustainability and seasonal highlights.

Left: “Forget about trends.” article feature in the September issue of Vogue magazine NL / Right: “Young blood” article feature in Elle magazine’s fashion issue

3 — It’s in our name

We bear high attention to quality. That’s why we are destined to thoughtfully create every item (!) in our in-house atelier. A place where a team of wrights and makers blend time-honoured craft skills with a contemporary design aesthetic. A place where products are cut in solid materials, chosen for their durable side and functionality. This explains our name “Wright.”, the ancient English word for craftsman. We are a straight-forward brand with a name that immediately gives away what we stand for: a design office that is focused on quality, not quantity, and this reflects in both the materials used and the boutiques selected.

On to the second year

Starting a brand goes hand in hand with a tremendous amount of challenges. Will you be able to bring something to the table in a saturated market? Are your collections selling enough? Is the team going in the same direction?

This year, I’m proud to say that we did. As a team, we were able to figure out how to conquer our greatest challenges, launching both a brand and its first collection (Fall/Winter 2017). That’s why I am extremely honoured to say that we are nominated for Belgian Fashion Brand Of The Year, alongside many renowned Belgian fashion houses we look up to. A true confirmation of the hard work that we have done the past year.

With pride, yet always humble:
On to another year, a year of new challenges!

Thanks for reading,
Max Heirbaut
Creative Director, Wright.
studio@wright-label.com
office@maxheirbaut.co


Show some love 🖤 & CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR US as Belgian Fashion Brand of The Year 2017.