- Wone is a company that sells expensive gym clothes, with $US320 leggings and $US200 T-shirts.
- When the company first launched, co-founder Kristin Hildebrand Googled everyone who applied for an account before letting them buy anything.
- The Hildebrand defends her products as luxury items, but some people find the prices shocking and the application process invasive.
If you want to buy $US320 leggings at Wone, you might have a tough time.
The exclusive luxury activewear brand doesn’t let just anyone to buy from it. It produces a limited run of each of its few products, and first gives access to people who have already purchased from Wone before.
If everything doesn’t sell out during the pre-sale, only then do regular users who register on its site have a shot at buying its clothes.
Kristin Hildebrand, Wone’s cofounder, told INSIDER that the exclusivity is part of a business model that values loyal customers.
“In my mind, you should not be forced to stand in line the next season [if you’ve purchased something before],” Hildebrand said. “I think that’s wrong, honestly. And I think that’s a part of the system that’s broken.”
Wone used to be even more exclusive. For its first season of products this summer, Wone employees Googled every applicant to see if they were deserving of purchasing their “luxury activewear” products. Some applicants never make it off the waitlist, Hildebrand told Women’s Wear Daily in June.
“We actually Google everyone,” Hildebrand said. “The thing is we want to know who our customers are. It’s very different than having a mass of customers, email marketing and Google ads. That’s not who we are as people or is aspirational for us as a company.”
According to Hildebrand, the process was used to weed out employees of competitors in the activewear industry, and to make sure no one sketchy was trying to rip off Wone’s products.
“I have a lot of friends who work in fashion. As I was buiilding this, they cautioned me about some of these buyers who will buy an excess product and try to knock it off,” she told INSIDER. “You can see by their numbers. If someone on the site is purchasing four of the whole entire collection, you know that something is probably wrong there.”
Hildebrand launched Wone in the spring, and its first collection sold out. She previously worked at Nike as a creative director and cofounded Wone with her husband, Ryan Hildebrand, who has a background working at various financial companies.
Hildebrand said the brand is deliberately meant to be exclusive. The fabric, she said, costs five times as much as the material used in Nike’s products – they’re garments that would be used by professional athletes. Aside from $US320 workout leggings, Wone sells a sports bra for $US150 and tops at around $US200. Everything is black.
Despite only word-of-mouth advertising, Hildebrand said Wone is on track to sell 15,000 items by the end of the year.
“We’re trying to be a brand that does things differently from the rest of the industry,” she told Fast Company. “Our goal is to build personal relationships with our customers, and so we are keeping the brand deliberately small and niche.”
Some people, though, feel that the prices are shocking and Wone’s practice of personally Googling every customer earlier was invasive.
If I’m buying $320 leggings they better go to the gym and work out for me https://t.co/bjcmj8CQJi
— Katey Psencik (@psencikk) October 9, 2018
$320 for leggings? No. https://t.co/LirX36TQns
— Courtney Forrest (@courtyforrest) May 11, 2018
There’s a lot to unpack here if you can get past the fact that these leggings cost *$320*
— Kami Mattioli (@Kami) September 17, 2018
Instead of using digital advertising to assess demographic information about potential customers, Hildebrand Googles the people she’s interested in selling her items to. Unlike other retail companies, Wone has almost no presence on Instagram. It has just one post, a blank white square.
“My goal is to blend real, human contact with all the benefits of the internet,” Hildebrand told Fast Company.
This article has been updated with Hildebrand’s comments to INSIDER.
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