GREGERHAGELIN

A few hours spent with the founder of WeSC is enough to understand what makes this street fashion brand both effortlessly cool and extremely popular. Greger Hagelin finds us in Athens and we learn the secret of success.

So, how did it all start? WeSC is a great id, it is a brand about us and it is all about heritage. I started skateboarding in 1977 as a kid, skateboarding was really big back then. In 1982 I went to California right after school, I had been working at MC Donald’s in the weekends to save money for the air ticket, it was the only place that skateboarding still existed. I stayed there for three years and then came back home. At that time I thought that maybe I must had wasted those years just skateboarding, surfing, meeting girls and drinking.

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owadays, I understand that those were the most important years of my life, I met important people who today run companies like Etnies and DC, people that work for magazines around the world, club owners in New York. All these people have a heritage in skateboarding. I started in 1988 my first company that was about skateboarding style. In 1999 I felt I was growing older and that there was a gap in the market. We felt we wanted to make street fashion and expand the life of our skateboarding resources and we decided it. It was hard at the beginning.

What was the first WeSC store? It was in Stockholm. We created a pretty big collection of like 100 pieces, we wanted to show the whole collection, no other shop would take so many pieces. We founded WeSC on January 7th 2000. We celebrate 10 years now, just like our Greek partner, Prime Timers.

A decade of WeSC then; how different was the consumer then and how the company changed since then? Back then the consumers were not that many. Some skateboarders and djs, maybe. We have grown a lot since then and now we are in 21 countries, we run a business in United States. We distribute our collection in great shops like Fred Seagul, Collete, even Bloomingdale’s and Prime Timers. The audience grows day by day. Even with this bad economy we grew 40% this year.

How about the crisis? We are worried about it. But the company is very healthy right now, we grow in every market.

What do you think makes WeSC so successful? We have a reason to be here. Our WeSC activists do a great job, we have a great id, unique stores, we are a street fashion brand. There is engagement, everybody works really hard, I guess we also made the right decisions.

What do you think is the biggest risk you could face? To lose your heritage and forget where you are coming from.

What are your feelings about collaborations? We are seeing a lot of them in the market recently. We had great collaborations with Adidas and Nokia. There are plenty of them now, everybody invents a new collaboration but they are based only on PR. Collaborations must create products that take us in a new level. There must be a reason to it: Consumer

You are putting emphasis on denim lately, although you are not a denim company. Isn’t that risky with all this competition? We always made good denim, quality denim. We work with the best Japanese company for this over the last five years. Our denim is among the best today. The best denim shop in the world according to my opinion is American Rag in L.A., and they chose to sell WeSC denim.

One of your most iconic products is WeSC headphones. Why do you think they are so successful? We needed to have our angle to that, so we saw headphones as a fashion accessory. We started working with djs, skateboarders and artists we let them free to design, change colors and design. It was pure fun and a great product to keep presenting.

We see so many changes in the international fashion trade fairs lately. How do you see that? Bread & Butter went back to Berlin, because by moving to Barcelona a few years ago they lost their heritage, they became too big, too massive, it was not fun anymore. We need to be more specialized and be surrounded by the right people. The brands that feel they are unique they do not want to be surrounded by other brands that they are not.

You travel a lot. Which country or area of the world is ideal for WeSC clothes? You travel a lot too, you must have noticed that there are islands of different styles and trends wherever you go. So it does not matter if you are in Tokyo, L.A. or here in Athens. You need to be good wherever you are. It is the people that you work with that help you find your public. You need to be part of every different culture through the network of your partners, otherwise if you go live on your yacht you’re gone.

Does traveling mean inspiration for you? Traveling means meeting new and interesting people. The right people give new ideas and energy. It does not matter where you are but who you meet.

What is your vision? To make the best street fashion brand in the world, to travel and meet great people like today in Athens. I am not saying the biggest but the best.

What makes you happy at the end of the day? Being surrounded by great people, being part of the superlative conspiracy and have the feeling of engagement and dedication in whatever you do on a daily basis. I got this feeling from this trip here in Athens, I feel the people I work with take our work seriously, they are full on it. They do not compromise, I do not either. That makes me happy.