August 10th, 2006
Michael Wesetly’s story reads much like a modern day version of the Tortoise and the Hare. While other designers scurry to crowd the catwalks of New York Fashion Week and push their clothes towards as many retailers as possible, Michael is deliberately taking it slow.
And one step at a time, Michael is gracefully opening doors, fine tuning his product, and building his brand. With an international fan base and pent-up demand in the US, Michael Wesetly will be launching in the US this spring—you’ll be hearing more about the deliciously brilliant designer in the coming months. Goes to show that slow and steady wins the race.
Omiru: Describe, in a nutshell, the Michael Wesetly brand.
Michael: We’re a tailored suit company with a contemporary edge. We’re not for the younger generation, and we’re not for the older gentleman, but we’re a high quality designer suit company with athletic, European style fit.
O: How does the suit market differ from the sportswear market?
M: It’s so hard to gain access to the market, especially at the high-end level. With sportswear, you get a nod in. But with suits, it’s hard to be recognized. A suit is like a steak; you can make it taste good, but you need to know what you’re doing.
O: Why did you focus on high-end, luxury men’s clothing?
M: There aren’t too many new designers out there in this market, since it’s hard for a new guy to break in. By new, I mean designers like John Varvatos—not established designers like Gucci or Zegna. Because of this, I didn’t launch my brand at home. I went overseas to Russia and sold the brand there for Russian Fashion Week.
O: Why overseas?
M: Within this game, there’s no blueprint. It’s not like all designers need to start in Texas, move to Chicago, and then go to New York. With the company we had, I felt it was a strategic move to not start at home. I wouldn’t face judgment based on styling or income. If you look at high-end designers, or African American designers, you don’t see many in the high-end market. You see them in the sportswear section. But not in high class, high quality clothing. Also, Moscow is one of the top fashion cities in the world.
O: Thoughts on Project Runway? Do you watch?
M: Oh my gosh no. I don’t have time. God bless those guys though, if that’s the way they want to start their career. I don’t pay too much attention to it. It’s interesting to see the judges really discriminating and judging the contestants, since the contestants are their future competition.
O: Do you think that the show is an accurate reflection of the industry?
M: Yes and no. Yes in what they pick. Sometimes people think designers set the trends. But it’s buyers who select what’s in stores. However, there are so many other aspects than just design. Many people can make good clothing, but it’s also about how you run your business. It’s so much more than great clothes. I would say that only 40% of the game is the actual clothes.
O: Biggest challenge?
M: We’ve conquered most of them. It’s about making sure infrastructure is where it has to be. What do we need to work on? We’re about to launch into the US market. Everything that we’ve done up to this point is promotion and marketing. Wanted to make sure that people knew who we were before we got here.
O: What’s your game plan?
M: We’re working hard and playing slow. We don’t want to burn out. Everything is calculated so that we can serve the end user and make sure they get the best products from us. If you give the customer an authentic, awesome product, customers are going to come. We’re a global designer company. We look at it from a global, not a US standpoint. For Fashion Week, we’re going to Tokyo [Fashion Week] then Rio de Janeiro [Fashion Week], then Olympus [Fashion Week] in New York. In my eyes, Olympus is the best fashion week in the world. And instead of being a niche designer label, we’ll be at the footsteps of Ralph Lauren and Gucci.
O: What’s a typical day like for you?
M: Currently, I live in Pennsylvania and work in New York. I drive from Pennsylvania to New York, where I speak with my team. Mornings are spent doing PR and getting the word out about Michael Wesetly. But most of my work is actually done in Pennsylvania. It’s not like New York—it’s where I can come home, relax, and hit the sewing board. It’s the best part of my job.
O: Little known fact about you?
M: There are a lot of secret things about my brand. I’m 6’6”, and when fans come to see me after my shows, it catches them off guard to see that (1) I’m a black guy, and (2) I’m 6’6”. Also, I lived abroad for seven years. And I was a law major at Penn State.
O: How about some Michael Wesetly company trivia?
M: We test our clothing. If people like it, then we can sell. The fashion industry is backward. In other industries, and especially pharmaceuticals, they test and then they sell. With fashion, the testing stage is nonexistent and designers have to cross their fingers hoping that the customer likes their work, hoping it sells. In part because of this, making millions as a designer is rare. It’s almost like going to the NBA right out of high school.
O: Best fashion tip for men?
yourself. Many people want to change this and change that. That’s
fashion. But if you feel comfortable, it’s fashionable. Great clothing
makes you feel like you’re wearing nothing. Less is best. Keep it
simple. The simplest design is always your best seller, but it’s also
what makes people comfortable.
O: What can we expect from your Spring 07 collection?
M: Luxury from both markets—high-end suits and funky sportcoats. I don’t have stuff for everbody, but I’m damn close. It’s a good mix of products. Look out, it’s coming!
O: Where can we purchase Michael Wesetly clothes?
M: We’ll be in 42 exclusive locations across the country for our US launch. We’re not going for the big bucks, but the big bucks are going to come.
O: Last words?
M: I don’t have a design team. It’s just Michael Wesetly. I personally design everything, down to the fiber content of the suit. I’m also a relentless editor. I’m not going to give you 99 garments. I’ll give you the 15-20 garments that I know will sell.