Former Nike creative director on her novel athleisure label and the philosophy behind it
Kristin Hildebrand launched Wone because she couldn’t find designs that were both functional and beautiful, she says; her chic, minimal sportswear is a cinch to wear with anything and designed to withstand high-impact gym routines
“The brand is called Wone, pronounced won,” Kristin Hildebrand, referring to her line of minimal women’s performance wear, launched earlier this month.
The American fashion designer left her job as creative concept director at Nike two years ago and – after a brief hiatus – she is back with her first direct-to-consumer initiative. With decades of commercial success under her belt, she spotted a gap in the market for sleek workout basics that cater to women who are not into logos.
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“A real and inspiring factor behind building Wone was the lack of versatile product on the market,” she says. “I was buying all of this stuff online and was disheartened by the absence of beautiful, and functional, design for women. I racked my brain, as I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been addressed, and then decided I had to do something about it.
“I took stock of my own personal shopping criteria and created a brand for women, like me, who are frustrated with the impersonal blueprint of the e-commerce business.
“With Wone, I’ve intentionally kept the production numbers low, so that I’m able to listen to feedback and have one-to-one interactions with every single woman who buys it.”
She adds: “To me, the future of luxury is about having that connection – a direct line between individual clients and the designer behind the garment.”
Hildebrand’s hope is that women will feel confident to wear her athletic clothing in non-athletic settings.
The concept isn’t exactly new, but her execution of it is. From an aesthetic standpoint, the debut Wone collection is a cinch to wear with just about anything.
In short, it’s black, minimal, and has no “sporty” details. “It seems obvious to make an entirely black collection, but traditional apparel brands are just adding more elements every season,” she says, referring to the current trend in workout wear where clashing, bright colours and mesh cut-outs have become the standard.
“Creating a simple aesthetic – that is actually really difficult to do. It’s about taking out as many superfluous details as possible, rather than adding new ones in.”
Behind Hildebrand’s passion for minimal design lies a long-standing appreciation for Eastern philosophy. After growing uneasy with the teachings of Christianity throughout her childhood, she found herself turning to the grounding principles of Buddhism as a young adult, which led her to discover Taoism, and Stoicism – an ancient Greek school of philosophy – and develop a meditation practice.
“In the West, we tend to put labels on things, which is why Eastern philosophy first appealed so much to me,” she says. “Its non-obstructive guidelines avoid labelling things as good or bad, offering up building blocks to approach life on a daily basis.
“Wone is about taking these deeply Eastern philosophical concepts, (like simplicity, discipline, and silence), and applying them to your wardrobe. It’s the direct opposite of the Western ‘more is more’ mentality.”
In accordance with the above, Hildebrand set a perilously high benchmark for her first collection.
All promising designs had to look the part and withstand the practical challenges of a high-impact gym routine before being considered for production.
Wone’s debut offering includes five pieces that meet her formidable criteria.
For sale now at www.wearwone.com you’ll find one sports bra, two tops, one pair of shorts, and a pair of leggings. Each garment is approved for 10,000 machine washes and is crafted using a hi-tech, four-way stretch fabric sourced in France.
Before placing an order, prospective shoppers must sign up via email to become part of the brand community. After that, Hildebrand encourages members to check in with Wone and let her know how they like their purchase.
“That is part of our insurance policy: I work for the clients who are supporting the business, so I personally check our company inbox regularly. If there’s something you love or you need a problem remedied, drop me a line and I’ll do what I can to fix it,” she says.
“After all, that is what you’re paying for.” In other words: Welcome to Wone, the luxury business model of 2018.