In the fall of 2019, one of my first encounters with re—inc was a Pentagram case study— a renown design firm I’ve followed since I was first introduced to Paula Scher’s work as a Cornell freshman. The brand identity and the meaning behind the company’s inception were immediately compelling. But, the overarching reason why re—inc resonated with me so much was the people behind it.
Before joining, one of my passion projects was founding Let’s Hear It, a female empowerment platform. Initially concepted as a directory resource during the #MeToo movement in 2019, it then transitioned into a publication about a year in. It was enriching getting to know incredible women (Bethany from Humane, Sian from Barnard, Carly from Modern Fertility) and learning about their careers and personal stories. I loved being able to share them to inspire other young women. Having been keeping a pulse on women across industries, I started following the gender pay issues circling the US Women’s Soccer team. When the team won the World Cup in 2019, they also filed a gender pay discrimination lawsuit. The women helping lead the charge (Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Meghan Klingenberg) created a company as a next step in owning their narrative and changing culture at large with a female-founded and run startup promoting equity, creativity, progress, and art.
re—inc stands for re-imagining the incorporated, giving way to our brand ethos “reimagine the status quo.” To our team, it means never settling for less, redefining new norms, and doing things “again, but better.” The mission encompasses culture & progress, equity & representation, art & creativity. Two years later, there continue to be infinite possibilities of what the brand could become. What continues to hold true is the fire and passion of the team and our growing community that feels the same.
Our progress & accomplishments
Debuting with RWB
re—inc debuted as a brand right after the four founders won the World Cup in 2019. The first products beautifully capitalized on the moment, with the “Liberte, Egalite, Defendez” tees, reimagining the French motto “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.” Thereafter, our primary focus was launching our first capsule, the RWB (Red, White, Blue) capsule. Similar to the tees, the intention was to “reimagine patriotism”, launching the brand as uniquely championing sustainable, gender-neutral streetwear. The colors were muted red, white, and blue, sizes ranged from XXS-XXL and the models were of all different backgrounds. The collection ended with our first art auction, Tobin’s first public set of 3 original paintings, setting the stage for debuting art at the onset of every forthcoming collection.
We quickly shifted gears to what our next big moment for the brand would be as well as define our brand pillars. The verticals of “re—wear” and “re—create” came about to define our path to creating the “re—inc world.” re—wear would champion our unique take on streetwear, constantly re-defining and re-thinking how to design well-intentioned products, with a primary focus on sustainable materials and artful messaging. re—create would introduce our membership and champion creativity and community conversation. We also began to host Reset The Table (NYC, LA) gatherings, to bring together cross-industry leaders (Sophia Bush, Adam Schiff, Sophia Amoruso) for open and imaginative discussions.
2020: Change & Progress
We debuted in the Spring with our BW capsule, transitioned to summer with our vibrant and fun Popsicle Capsule, and ended the year with our Reimagine your Vote collaboration and the Source Capsule. BW was truly our debut capsule in expressing what a changemaker sounds and looks like. BW expressed the importance of being “one of one,” embracing your individuality and the struggle that comes with change. At the time of capsule and product conception including our debut Reset the Table cards, little did we expect the impending changes that were to define the year.
We were transitioning into summer planning when the pandemic showed force in April. Coming off our strong brand moment with BW, we intentionally continued to craft a narrative of change & freedom. We also started to craft a vision for what a community membership could look like. Drawing from the feedback we received from our live Reset The Table gatherings, our community wanted to be more engaged with the brand with discussions and content. The re—inc membership started its first recruitment right after BW. For re—wear, Popsicle became our expression of freedom, evoking the question, “what does it mean to be free?” Amidst the start of quarantine, we wanted this collection to be a moment of nostalgia of one’s young self (like imagining a young kid eating a popsicle). We encouraged our community to find small moments of celebration and creative expression amidst an incredibly difficult period.
The fall was a tough transition to the ongoing pandemic and the 2020 election. We partnered with Michelle Obama’s “When We All Vote” organization to launch a micro-capsule of “Reimagine your vote” products, taking a stand on encouraging young voter participation. Complementing an instant sell-out, our membership was thriving with resources to help our community members reimagine certain aspects of their life and work e.g. reimagining education, healthcare, work style. It became a time for reflection within our team and how we share our principles, values, and products to service our community. “Source” ended the year as an encouragement of honoring one’s internal source (“your source is within you”). After a year of stress and change, Source was our moment of respite with cozy mountainscapes, a creative kit, and warm natural colors. It became one of our best-selling collections, striking a chord with our growing community looking for support.
2021 to Present
After Source, we decided to divide our product efforts into “Core” and “Seasonal.” Core is intended to be staple B&W classics on our site across re-wear and re-create (our bread & butter). Seasonal would be a way for us to develop art-driven narratives of re-imagining (our playground). Core is intended to be the first entry point people have with re—inc — we encourage people to learn about our narrative to challenge norms and reimagine. Seasonal collections are to promote bold messaging and experiment with products. Contributing to causes and championing sustainability is equally important across both.
GAMER was our first experiment into loud & colorful design, inspired by the stories of women, BIPOC, and activists in gaming. The colors were inspired by vintage game boys, our typography was revamped as a retro pixelated graphic, and the artwork represented the work of female trailblazers in STEM (in particular Ada Lovelace). The arcade-inspired messaging of the collection drew upon the founders’ own experiences as players fighting for representation and equity (“the queen does not need to be saved”) and encouraged our community to change the game themselves (“Smash the patriarchy!). My favorite product from the collection ended up being our limited edition playing cards with each of our founders replacing the Jack, Queen, and King cards. The product ended up being debuted as a release of the first NFTs by female olympians as well as gifted to winners of Google Play’s gamer design challenge.
We then transitioned to hopeful preparation for the Olympics and a summer theme. We envisioned Summer as a time for reunion, a moment for people to get back to what they love. Field of Flowers and Reunite were thought of as complementary — Reunite being a moment to celebrate our founders on their way to Tokyo and Field of Flowers commemorating a summer of love and planting seeds for future collective prosperity. A special moment for us was our debut retail pop-up in LA. In partnership with locally-loved streetwear shop Bodega, we brought our community together to meet one another and engage with our products and team.
Learnings along the way
1. Focus exclusively on the experience people want to have with your brand
Consumer-centric brands and products are maniacally focused on the experience being delivered to customers, whether that be online (e.g. Masterclass, Spotify) or offline (e.g. Sweetgreen, Specialized) or a hybrid of both (e.g. Reformation, Glossier). As coined by Andy Dunn, the Founder of Bonobos,“digitally native vertical brands” (DNVB for short) are companies that take advantage of two things simultaneously: a novel product offering and a connection tied to cultural relevance. When he started Bonobos, he championed building a strong line of physical products coupled with a 5-star service experience. Companies like Airbnb go so far as to define what a 10-star experience may look like.
DNVBs all share similar attributes: 1) they have a strong emotional and rational value proposition to become institutional vs niche 2) they are creating a category-defining product 3) they tap into cultural behavior (e.g. the cultural rocket fuel that makes you competitive). Companies that are the most successful land all 3. Across all, core values that resonate with your community are critical. For instance, for most brands today, championing sustainable and ethical practices is not just a differentiator but rather table stakes to target conscious consumers. Companies need to gain trust and share their purpose more than ever to resonate with value-first customers. Two examples to reference: Italic’s editorial on their candle and Reformation’s Ref Score and Sustainability Report .
2. Cultivate & reward your loyal community
Customer loyalty has fueled our growth and engagement over the past 2 years. Instead of being too fixated on new customer acquisition, we’ve invested time and effort in honoring and engaging our loyal customers to stay with us. This is certainly not a new practice — 90% of companies have some type of customer loyalty program. Some of the best examples include Nike (members account for 70% of sales in newly opened stores), Starbucks (reward members account for 50% of company revenue), Sephora (members drive 95% of sales), Ulta (members drive 95% of sales). Loyalty has grown immensely among young consumers (GenZ) with more and more consumers () aspiring to be rewarded for repeat engagement beyond their purchases and are more likely (88%) to prefer a brand that has a loyalty program they belong to over another that is offering lower prices.
At re—inc, we knew our community was interested in getting more engaged when we would receive links to people creating their own re—inc projects like skateboards or questions on how to take action to re-imagine in their own lives. Our membership was created to be a playground for re-imagination. Since its launch, we’ve introduced member-only features such as early access to drops or first invitations to founder chats and IRL experiences. Our members continue to be incredibly active whether it be through sharing content or buying a product from every new collection.
3. Scale what works to enable growth
When first launching a brand, don’t overthink where and how it should be presented to your audience. As a product person, the first thing that comes to mind when launching a brand is building a website from the ground up. However, re—inc’s first website was built on top of Shopify and continues to be hosted on the platform. It certainly has evolved substantially—from a simple B&W landing page to a fully navigational product and editorial navigation—but we’ve focused on scaling it vs building it up entirely. Investing in a fully custom web experience may be the best approach if you intend to maintain your own data warehouse or intend to have a unique CMS. However, most can be built on top of the Shopify foundation. Plug-ins and integrations such as Klaviyo marketing emails, Attentive customer messaging, or Alloy automation can all be used on top of Shopify to streamline reporting and workflows.
Highly successful brands such as FIGS (IPO’d earlier this year) have also taken this approach — being one of the first brands to IPO that’s built on the 3rd party platform. In their S-1, they champion their accomplishment in building the “largest DTC platform in healthcare apparel, leading the industry in the shift to digital” and achieved $250M in revenue last year, growing and scaling quickly after a 2017 boom.
4. Collaborate with great people that will further your mission
When collaborations and partnerships are done well, it can do amazing things for a brand to reach new audiences, capitalize on a cultural moment, further a cause, or take part in a new product development process. We’ve always tried to reach brand alignment first and foremost as well as take note of the expertise another company can bring to the table. Good product collaborations closely help brands reach new customers as well as share expertise. Some examples are the ones that generate coveted and community-favorite goods (LV x Supreme, Aime x Porsche), create useful interactions (Barilla x Spotify), champion sustainable practices (Reformation x Blueland, North Face x Gucci), provoke outrage (MSCHF),
At re—inc, we’ve partnered across causes, manufacturing and production, retail, and media. We’ve dabbled in resale with StockX, we’ve worked with manufacturers to repurpose excess inventory into new products, and have donated a portion of our profits ($70K in the last year) to 13 partner organizations including Children of Promise NYC, The Movement for Black Lives, #GetUsPPE as well as offset our carbon emissions.
At re—inc, we invest our efforts across content, community, and product. We don’t pride our success on one distinct hero product or set of products, but rather our community’s response to the experiences and products we create. Our success outcome will be dependent on how well we can scale our mission to millions of people around the world. We measure our impact across the different ways people interact with us. Whether a reimaginer purchases a product, engages with membership content, or simply tells us that the brand has inspired or changed them for the better, we equally value them as supporters and champions of our mission.
I’m so happy to have been on the re—inc journey these past 2 years and look forward to the future of the brand and team. Here’s to re-imagining our world, and we hope you will #ReimagineWithUs.