In two short years, Portland-based clothing brand Wildfang has shattered all rules of women’s fashion. Anticipating its second anniversary on March 14th, the menswear for women line has solidified its position as the face of fierce, and the embodiment of independent expression – liberated of any gender bounds.
On the heels of its anniversary, I had the fortune of interviewing CEO Emma McIlroy to talk about the company’s customer-focused mission, and how it’s been the driving force for breakneck growth and major competitive edge.
Wildfang is going to be celebrating another anniversary this month – congrats! What is the biggest challenge you faced in 2014?
Emma: 2014 was all about focusing and becoming experts. In 2013 we experimented a lot to see what our girl wanted from us. In 2014 we started to put in place enhanced systems and functional experts. We spent a lot of time becoming good at online retail.
Did you have a particular mantra you worked and lived by this past year? How about for 2015?
Emma: The biggest lesson we’ve learnt is to surround yourself with great people – people who are hungry, passionate and fearless. That’s the key to success. Even if you fail, you’ll recover fast. We are building a team of really great, passionate, fearless people who believe our brand can be the next Nasty Gal or Dolls Kill.
You’ve spoken in several articles about delivering high value to customer by building strong, near family-like connections. When starting Wildfang, why did you decide to focus on social and community building? How does it tie back to your bottom line?
Emma: We didn’t start this brand to make money. Actually, we all took massive pay cuts or no salary at all, in order to start this brand. We started this because there are millions of women out there who want this brand to exist. They have no favorite retailer; they don’t have a store that allows them to express themselves. That’s why we exist. The reason we obsess [over] her and focus on her, is because she is our raison d’etre. We exist to make her life better. It’s that simple.
Marketing has become increasingly data-driven in the last few years. Content is now as much a part of SEO strategy as link building and keywords. How have you used data to continue reaching and building relationships with your target market – the free spirit, fierce, female?
Emma: SEO and paid media are both equally important in the growth of our business. We know our girl – we are our girl – so our strategy is to be her brand of choice by owning the entire tomboy space. This translates directly to our keyword choices for paid and also our content strategy for SEO. We monitor her searches—on site and off, we follow her path to our site, her path to purchase and then we use that data to confirm we have the right content and keyword strategy.
Your campaigns in the last 2 years have scored some major celebrity brand ambassadors – Sara Bareilles, Casey Legler, Kate Moennig. How do you think these female icons contribute to the authenticity and “relatability” of the Wildfang brand?
Emma: First off, it’s important to note that many of our influencers found us organically or started as customers. Each of these women is a clear example of a strong, bold, confident woman who is talented, driven and not afraid to break some rules. In that respect I think these women reinforce our core values and authenticate our mission. These women are tremendous sources of inspiration for us and our girl.
As you continue to grow internationally, how do you maintain competitive edge?
Emma: We are seeing huge growth in Europe, Canada and Australia. I think our biggest problem is not in differentiating, but in awareness. We are still relatively unknown. First we need to tell our girl we’re here. That’s our number one priority.
Talk to us about how you use Alexa. How has it impacted your marketing and/or business decisions this year?
Emma: The platform is unique insofar as it combines the best features of Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, HootSuite and New Relic. The dashboards are easy to digest and contain the most important nuggets of information to monitor user behavior and glean actionable insights.
For us, Alexa’s biggest benefit is in the SEO audit tool that runs monthly. They show us all the optimizations that can be made in our security and SEO and it’s all in one simple, digestible format. These have allowed us to make major enhancements to our site and be really focused about our development priorities. It definitely makes our lives easier.
What’re your views on the Wildfang movement in year 3? What’s on the horizon?
Emma: We have an exciting brand project in the works with a well-known influencer. It should create some really special content for our girl. Additionally we have a new line launching in March 2015 and opportunities to grow our offline retail footprint. 2015 is about reach and awareness for us. We want to let millions of badass women know we are here to serve them and make them better.
Logo and imagery owned and provided by Wildfang.