Designer streetwear chain Incu, owned by brothers Brian and Vincent Wu, is up for the challenge of “tougher than ever” retail conditions.
What were the early foundations of Incu?
Brian and I were both in the IT industry but we weren’t very passionate about what we were doing. We always met up to discuss what other opportunities there were. We always loved the shopping experience and felt like we could contribute there. So we started Incu in 2002 with the premise that we would create a shopping experience that wasn’t available in Australia between the luxury sector and mainstream streetwear or surf shops. At the time, there really weren;t any shops targeting this area so we set out to create a store that was essentially for us and hoped that other people would also like it. We didn’t have any experience so we basically learnt on the shop floor and fine tuned our vision. Looking back now I think the fact that we were so naive and our willingness to learn from our mistakes were two contributing factors to our success.
What are some of the brands you stock?
We call our area contemporary designer. We stock brands like A.P.C., Acne Studios, Rag & Bone, Alexander Wang, Isabel Marant Ètoile, Frame Denim and Equipment. We also have our own brand – Weathered – which has been around for about 10 years now.
Image: Terence Chin
What do you look for when recruiting a new label?
We look to see whether a potential brand complements all our other brands and whether it fills an area that we either lack or want to strengthen. We make sure we understand the unique handwriting of a particular designer and how it plays a part in our overall vision of the store. We also look at whether a brand is set up for growth and whether they have the infrastructure in place so that we can get our product on time and their quality is consistent.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in retail?
We’ve learnt so many lessons in the last 15 years but one that we still need to remind ourselves of is to know when to say no. Obviously being around for so long, we have been offered a lot of opportunities but we have gotten better at knowing when to say no to them. Sometimes they are very enticing but we have to try to stick to our game plan as much as possible and not stray too much away from our core competencies. To this day, it’s probably been one of the hardest things to get right.
What’s been the biggest milestone for Incu and how did you make it happen?
I think surviving for this long in a pretty tough industry is one of our biggest accomplishments. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we have been around for this long… especially when we have seen so many stores we have admired close down. I think it comes down to remaining humble about what we’re trying to do and treating all our employees with respect. We owe them everything and they have all contributed to our success. Without them, we wouldn’t be around… we truly have great people at Incu.
What’s been the biggest challenge for Incu and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for Incu has been to manage our growth and to make sure we keep our organisation very true to our original vision. To do this we have to make sure all our staff embrace our vision and understand where we want to take it. Lately, we have spent a lot of our time making sure everything is communicated to all our staff. With a growing workforce, we want to make sure we keep elements of the energy we had when we only had one small shop.
How do you see the market going for independent retailers?
To be honest, I think it’s going to get tougher than it ever has. That’s because there are a lot of big retailers either already here or coming into Australia with much bigger marketing dollars. This means their brand is in people’s faces all the time. But I am a believer of multi-brand retailers like ours because we have the ability and flexibility to constantly curate our brands to suit our customers. We can move a lot faster than what some of the fast fashion retailers think we can and it’s through this ability that we’ll create opportunities.