Having cut her teeth at Nike, Kristin Hildebrand founded minimalist, luxury activewear brand Wone. Newly launched, the all-black, no branding label looks set to skyrocket with clients the globe over. We sat with the founder to find out more.
TL: You launched your company only a year ago years ago. What was the eureka moment you realized this was the path you should go and how did you start?
KH: I’m not sure there was one particular moment in time that WONE finally came together. I believe that its conception has been happening for a while and is just now coming into form.
Who were the first people to support you in the early days from the retailers to magazines and how was their support key?
Our largest client base is actually New York, then Los Angeles followed by the UK. The brand is very much rooted in philosophy and thus had a broader global feeling. To be embraced by the world at such an early stage in WONE’s existence is not something I expected.
With todays’ luxury global client in mind, how do you cater to and how do you ensure to speak to every demographic when advising a brand?
I think we need to look at traditional demographics differently as people are constantly changing and don’t necessarily fit into the metrics we used in the past. I believe people are emotionally and philosophically attracted to what we are doing as the brands conception was born this way.
As far as advertising is concerned, the most effective advertising a brand can do is word of mouth recommendation. This is obviously harder to do however far more effective and also creates a deeper more meaningful relationship with your clients. If I’m building the best performance apparel on this planet people are sooner or later going to find out. You can’t hide phenomenal product.
Brand wise, how easy was it to define the overarching pillars of Wone?
Everything comes from the Tao Te Ching (a traditional Chinese text dating back to the 6th Century) so it made it really easy to build from that platform. It blows my mind that other brands don’t take this same approach by starting with a philosophical basis.
Since you launched the company, what to date has been the most challenging aspect you’ve had to overcome and how did you achieve that?
I started the company coming from a creative director background and moving into a founder/CEO role. I’m still growing into this role and learning however in general the role is far more challenging than anything I’ve ever done. Every day is different and harder as we grow so I’m constantly learning how to navigate.
With all the elements it takes to build a company, what have you found is the secret to finding the ever-elusive lifestyle balance and do you ever disconnect?
I’d love to tell you that I’m totally zen and have the best-balanced lifestyle but that wouldn’t be the truth. I’m human and need just as much help as anyone else with this thing we call life. Disconnecting is absolutely a priority and I try and integrate it as many ways as possible into my day.
What do your first 30 mins look like in the morning / do you have any rituals which set your day and the last 30 mins before bed?
Mornings for me revolve around gratitude as this sets the tone for my day.
The minute I open my eyes I say, “thank you”. I remind myself that I already have everything I need. I avoid looking at my emails until I’ve been up for a while and already have some good energy going. I don’t believe in allowing exterior circumstances to affect my happiness.
My night-time routine is a stoic practice of negative visualization. As I’m getting each one of my three kids to sleep, I think about what it would be like if they were not around, didn’t exist, when they go off to college etc. It gives me the opportunity to appreciate their existence, my own and our time together here on this planet.
Generally speaking, most of us were were programmed with some nonsense in our formative years that still guides our day to day operations and functionality as humans. This Hypnosis practice is literally unlearning this and replacing it with more intentional, positive beliefs.
Did you have a mentor in business and if so, what knowledge did they impart?
I believe we can and should learn from everyone around us, making everyone we work with a potential mentor. I can’t say I’ve had one specific person that I look to for guidance.
Why for you was the minimalist approach to creating the brand, so key?
Desire is a natural human trait however I think we are evolving to a more sophisticated place of wellbeing where we understand that things can’t make us happy… and if that is the ultimate goal of life (happiness) then creating space for that goal should be a priority. Minimalism in this sense and how we built the brand is really more about emphasizing mindfulness.
You partner with the world’s best manufacturers and leverage patented technology. To achieve elite performance functionality seen only on the world’s best athletes. What has been the feedback from your direct clients on this?
Our clients love what we do because it’s honestly the best product we can possibly make. It’s beautiful, durable and is clearly superior to anything in the marketplace so it’s hard not to love it.
You’re focused on a sustainable approach to production volumes and distribution. Tell us more about that…
Producing a larger number of units in a more cost-effective location is typically how the apparel industry runs however this is not the case with WONE. We cut to order meaning we don’t over produce, and we manufacture with factories that pay their employees fairly which all adds to the coast of the garment however we believe that our clients supports product made in this sustainable way.
How do you connect with your clients and what’s been the most important feedback you’ve received?
We love interacting with our clients one on one. We know each one of our core customer group via our website. We’ve set it up this way so that we can interact on more of a personal level because it’s something we’ve all been missing in our lives – real human connection should always be a priority in anything we do.
Which three pieces are in your Wishlist on The List?
What does 2020 hold for WONE?
Growing the women’s collection and introducing a men’s collection.