Meet Mark, creator of The INC. Mark started the brand in college. He had always been into clothes, not necessarily fashion, but clothes. At first, the brand was strictly streetwear, such as The Hundreds and Diamond Supply. He did that through and after college on the side. When fashion began making the shift towards high fashion, the brand shifted with it and became a sort of streetwear, high fashion hybrid. That’s when Mark made his first official collection. He was still living in his parent’s basement then, but they made it clear that he needed to get some sales, or try and move onto something else.
So, he found a couple of models and a photographer and shot a look book. Then he sent a press release out to Highsnobiety… they picked it up! Before long, some German sales agents hit him up asking to sell the brand! He didn’t really know what they meant, but after some back and forth, they had a deal and The Incorporated was put into six stores around the world.
Also on the phone was TJ, the sales director for The INC. Mark brought TJ on the team right before their first Paris fashion week. Mark needed a team to help. He had met TJ through some artist friends of his - he was a stylish guy, young and excited. When Mark offered TJ a spot on the team, he jumped on it, and they’ve been going strong since.
I asked Mark about the process of going from initial idea, to that first shirt. He had worked at a screen printing shop, but most of his knowledge came from Google. When it came to making his first collection, he had a connection with a factory owner in LA. When he discovered how much it’d cost to work with them, he found a student from the local art institute who knew how to sew and got the clothing made that way instead.
To this day, Mark and TJ have a lot to do with the making of their clothes. It’s cheaper and they have more control.
Next we spent a bit of time discussing their time at Paris fashion week, how fashion weeks work, and how you can work fashion week for your brand. Their first fashion week was a bit of a whirlwind. They had never been before, and just sort of threw themselves into it. They rented a random spot, ran around Paris trying to find audio equipment, and invited every retailer they could find. DM’s, emails, and whatever else they could do to get the right people in the door looking at their clothes. Some of the best retailers in the world ended up coming through and making orders!
Fashion week isn’t nearly as structured as I, or Mark originally had thought. There’s no “sign up” necessary. You just go. If you can find a room and get people in your doors, you’re officially a part of fashion week. It could be an Airbnb!
Since their first fashion week, Mark and TJ have been to five and things have changed. Historically fashion week was simply a place to connect with retailers. Now, it’s more of a cultural event. A showroom isn’t enough - it has to be an experience for retailers and fashion lovers alike.
I asked Mark where he thought fashion week belongs on a brand new brand’s priority list and his answer was telling. “If you’re planning on spending $100,000 or more on your first collection, you should definitely go.” But there’s a distinction: going is different than showing. And that’s so important, because, odds are, you’re not planning to spend that much money on your first collection, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go.
Since that transition into a streetwear, high fashion hybrid, things at The INC. have gone really well. Fashion is always changing, so it’s really just a matter of adapting to the times while remaining unique to your brand.
One change as of late is a drop off in their retail sales. Not only does fashion change, but the way in which people buy fashion changes and is changing fast! Like everything else in our world, the internet is taking over, so Mark and TJ are making a greater effort to create a better presence for their brand on the web.
Mark also shared a bit about their Hard Work Vacation capsule. For him, it’s really just a mixture of his experience in LA and Seattle - he imagines the beautiful red sunsets of LA setting on the trees of Seattle. He really wanted to put a personal touch on this collection with hand painted imagery. It’s dope - go check it out.
They’re also looking to make a transition from releasing a big collection every season, to dropping smaller capsules more often. They want to make more and engage their audience more while doing it. I mentioned Chinatown Market - a brand that successfully releases new clothes on a weekly basis. I’d check them out too.
For new brands, fashion week can be an important cultural experience to have under your belt - GO! To show, on the other hand, may not be worth it - especially at a low budget. Now a days, Instagram is the new show room with a much larger audience and much lower entrances fee (it’s free).
As important as Instagram is though, it’s still important to get out there. Maybe going to Fashion Week isn’t even an option - do you have local retail spaces that might be interested in carrying your clothes? There’s no shame in starting small, in fact it’ll give you the experience to grow into larger ventures, and it’s far better than not starting at all!
“There are so many different ways to sell shirts and become successful, and they’re almost always unique.” Mark talked about the urge we can so easily have to do what we see another brand doing to achieve the same result, when in reality - it’s doing your own thing, and doing it well, that works.
Money is a lot easier to spend if you have it, and will save you time… but at first Mark didn’t have the option, an odds are you don’t either. So, he spent the TIME necessary to learn how to do things on his own. Need a website? Go learn how to design a website. Hint: when it comes to a lot of things, Google is your friend.
FOLLOW THE INCORPORATED
Podcast SANS END theme music: Church by BenJamin Banger. Find him @ http://smarturl.it/hjfi20