Founded in 2014, Whole9Yards is an international womenswear label headquartered in Singapore. Its collections are intrinsically feminine grounded by touches of urban and grunge. The label inspires to bring contemporary femininity to the streets. WJ had a conversation with Widelia Liu(WG’18), the CEO and founder of Whole9yards and got to know the story behind it.
- Launching a startup could be daunting. What inspired you to start Whole9yards?
Whole9Yards was started with a simple aim of creating beautiful clothes for real women that do not cost an arm or leg to own. As an avid fashion shopper, I was often torn between two options. On the one hand, we have high street brands which offer pieces at affordable prices but often at the expense of uniqueness and fabric quality. On the other hand, we have high end designer brands. They offer pieces with great design creativity, high quality fabric and craftmanship. But their high retail mark-up meant that only a small group of privileged shoppers can afford these pieces. Thus, I hope to create a brand to fill the elusive gap between High Street and High End.
- Who is your target consumer and what do you want to offer to them?
We do not segment our consumers simply by demographics. We believe what really define a woman is her personality, her experience and her poise. The Whole9Yards woman in our eyes is someone who is confident, free spirited and independent. She may have a tough façade with tomboyish haircut and large tattoos but deep inside, she is defined by her feminine instincts. Equally, she may have a feminine façade but a very tough innate character ready to take on any challenge she faces. This multi-facet depiction of modern women is captured in our SS17 campaign image below.
- What have been some major wins for Whole9yards so far and how did you achieve it?
Fashion is an extremely competitive industry with a constant wave of new brands entering the market each day. We have a very long road ahead of us. But one major turning point of the brand was when Lin Chi Ling, a famous Taiwanese model, wore Whole9Yards’ dresses to attend two consecutive high profile fashion events within a period of a week. This brought Whole9Yards to media attention and led to tremendous sales growth in Asia.
- What have been the greatest challenge to you as the CEO and founder?
The greatest challenge is with managing and leading people. This is especially true while working with creatives. As I am not design trained, it is very crucial for me to build strong rapport and great understanding with the design team to ensure that the design of our products capture the essence and vision of the brand.
- What’s your immediate goal/ long term vision for Whole9yards?
My long-term goal is to establish Whole9Yards as a true global brand with flagship stores in major fashion capitals of the world.
- In what ways did Wharton help you in growing Whole9yards? How do you think Wharton can do better in promoting entrepreneurship?
Wharton has a great network of contacts within the retail/fashion industry. I was able to make meaningful connections to push forward the brand development in the US. I think that there are many opportunities and resources within Wharton. Often it is up to an individual to explore and take full advantage of what is available.
- How do you manage the multiple roles as the founder, CEO as well as a student?
I think the key is to prioritize. As time is an external constraint, it is important to acknowledge one’s limit and accept the need for sacrifice.