A year after launching Wellwear, I’d like to update you on how it’s all going
I am so happy to be able to celebrate our first year in business this month. I’m so incredibly proud of the Wellwear team and what we have achieved in such a short space of time and given that we are still here – and thriving – I thought it would be a good time to tell you all about why and how I came up with the concept of Wellwear in the first place.
I have always tried to look after myself and have actively campaigned for mental and physical health long before they captured the zeitgeist of recent years. Many people assume I got in shape and stay in shape for the modelling world and my work. However, training and sport have always been a major part of my life – you name a sport and I’d put my hand up for it; my competitive spirit has always certainly helped! But the training, keeping in good physical shape and staying healthy was for me, not for work or anyone else. I didn’t do it for any reason other than that was how I was happiest; the better physical shape I was in the better my mental well-being became. Over the years, I learned that to be the best version of myself a long walk or a gym session would give me the mental lift and clarity I sometimes needed. Nowadays, due to being a dad and founder of a brand my life has changed somewhat. But the training doesn’t stop and every day starts with a four-mile dog walk.
Over 20 years of modelling, I also realised how much my mental well-being was impacted by clothes and style. From very early on, I found that even though I was fortunate enough to be styled by the best brands and stylists in the world, in the latest trends and fashions, I was happiest carving out my own style and way to dress. These were never influenced by the latest fashion trends, but with designs and clothing that I felt worked for me, and that I felt most confident and comfortable in. I’ve always thought that it was important to set future trends, not follow them.
I suppose Wellwear was born in my head around 10 years ago, around the time I realised that my ultimate goal was to start my own clothing brand. I asked myself, ‘What if I was to create the “ultimate” collection? What if I were to offer people the kind of clothes that I, and many other people, really live in day-to-day? The ultimate in comfort and luxury, but attainable to many.’ Like I had discovered with clothing, could I create a brand that positively effects people’s emotional and physical relationship with clothing?
I was aware that if I went online, I could look at pages and pages of white T-shirts priced from £30 to £1,000. The choice was huge and rather bewildering. So, what if I could rival the best in the business and make my own version that was attainable for many people? Make it affordable? And also think more progressively, inventively: working with sustainable factories and exploring modern technologies such as biodegradable fabrics and wellness-enhancing treatments? Surely that would help people narrow down their shopping options – like it used to be, when you’d rely on the buyer to curate things and we were less spoiled for choice. When you would seek out the advice of those who could tell you, ‘This is the best you can buy’.
I was also motivated by a desire to rethink the very idea of luxury. For me, it has never been about things being expensive. Instead, it is about being best in class. But I didn’t want to just make lovely pieces, however fun that might have been. I wanted to do things a bit differently and try to make people’s lives a little bit better. That’s where the Wellwear aspect came in.
‘I didn’t want to just make lovely pieces, however fun that might have been. I wanted to do things a bit differently and try to make people’s lives a little bit better’
Of course, I was no designer, so I knew I needed to go back to school (which was never my strong suit!) and effectively learn the ropes. So, my team and I put forward the idea of a collaboration with a high street stalwart to help it develop a range of clothing under my name, and this became my education. During my six years with that great British institution, I absorbed everything – from the principles of design, to how to manufacture and market goods, to shop layout and creating imagery and digital campaigns.
‘When you spend years wearing clothes by the world’s best designers, you start to get an idea of what you might like to do if you were making them in the first place’
So, a couple of years ago, I decided it was time to finally have a go myself. I put a great team of people together who had experience in all the necessary skills to launch a collection. Naturally, I needed the help of experts, but what I did have myself was a foundation of knowledge, and an idea of how we could do something exciting rooted in quality and sustainability. And at an attainable price.
I adore tailoring and when people associate me with tailored suits, it is because they have seen me wearing them in campaigns, editorials, at events or on the front row at fashion shows. But that sort of occasion accounts for only a small percentage of how I spend my time. If I’m in tailoring for, say, 20 per cent of my life, then the other 80 per cent is spent in T-shirts, sweatshirts and essentials.
‘I was also motivated by a desire to rethink the very idea of luxury. For me it has never been about things being expensive. Instead, it is about being best in class’
I’d been fascinated by the progress that was being made in the science surrounding clothing, the advances that mean how we feel can be influenced by what we wear. What could we do with the tech of clothing, I wondered? How can we change the narrative of what clothing is all about? Could we enhance the power of technology to contribute positively to well-being?
My team went out to discover what was available, and from this we developed breathable, anti-bacterial, anti-odour and moisturising fabrics. I then married these with my favourite aesthetics. I knew what made a great T-shirt, for example, a garment inspired by those worn by the Hollywood greats, like Paul Newman, James Dean and Marlon Brando. I had been around the greatest designers in the world such as Dolce & Gabbana and Ralph Lauren, and seen that they also where always in a simple but beautifully made tees. I knew from the months I’d spent in lockdown wearing sweatshirts up in Yorkshire, taking my daughter, Matilda, out for walks on the moors, that they needed to have practical elements such as pockets in the sides. I started to understand the difference between a loopback sweatshirt, which allows air to move around to keep you cool, and a sweatshirt in fleeceback that keeps the heat in and how these differences could impact the comfort of someone wearing them. And I knew that a scoop-neck T-shirt adds a little heightened touch of elegance under a jacket, because I’ve lived in them for a decade. I design like a consumer, always thinking about how to combine fashion, function and feeling.
‘I knew what made a great T-shirt, for example, a garment inspired by those worn by the Hollywood greats, like Steve McQueen, James Dean and Marlon Brando’
Throughout everything, comfort is the main thing. The positivity you get from comfort is remarkable. What you wear affects your mood, and we looked into the psychological effects of comfortable clothing, and into how to deliver comfort through the fit and materials.
The result, I’m proud to say, is not a fashion brand – instead, it’s about lifestyle. Yes, I may have spent my life in the fashion industry, but I’ve always gone my own way, always valued practicality and real style.
‘I design like a consumer, always thinking about how to combine fashion, function and feeling’
So, I’d like to thank you if you’ve been on this journey with us over the past year and the support that so many of you have shown the brand. Over that time, I’ve certainly learnt a lot; at times it certainly hasn’t been easy and of course I’m still constantly learning. One of the things I’ve discovered is that what I’m trying to create with Wellwear is a new category of clothing. People have said it’s a leisure brand, or sportswear. They’ve said it’s about sweats and workwear. Or it’s loungewear.
Well, to my mind it’s none of these things. It’s Wellwear. And Wellwear is about what to wear to live a balanced life well. Whether that’s the best T-shirt, Polo shirt, pair of pyjamas or joggers.
This is an everyday wardrobe that is expanding into all sorts of new areas. We’ve just launched our Easy Set, which is the most comfortable, casual way to look smart: an unstructured cotton jersey chore jacket and a pair of flat-front trousers in the same fabric with an elasticated waistband at the back, as smart as a chino but as comfortable as a jogger.
‘Wellwear is about what to wear to live a balanced life well’
In the year to come, we want to keep on experimenting and exploring, offering an ever-wider range of clothing. One of the most obvious moves, given the garment that kick-started my modelling career in a small boat in Capri, was the introduction of swimwear. But there’s so much more to come. Look out for a big surprise from Wellwear at the end of the year.
However, whatever we create, it will always be with the aim of making you feel good when you get dressed.
Best wishes, and stay well,