When co-founders Esteban Saba and his wife Petra Brichnacova set out to create håndværk, they were on a mission to create simple pieces that span the test of time. With their shared passion for textiles, Saba and Brichnacova went head first into a collaborative journey in October of 2013 to create a lifestyle brand grounded on the essence of quality.
Saba spent more than 15 years in the investment banking divisions of Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan, and Citigroup as a senior strategic advisor to corporations on their major transactions. Brichnacova earned a degree in textile design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and spent a decade managing and curating Waldmann, Inc., a jewelry and antiques company. Both of their backgrounds came in handy: Brichnacova would lead the creative design and textile development of the brand, while Saba would handle the production and brand marketing for håndværk; moreover, Saba has family in Peru that have been making garments for over 100 years.
MR recently had the chance to speak with Saba about their journey in developing their brand.
Q: What niche are you guys out to fill in the marketplace?
A: We really wanted to learn how to walk before we run! When we first set out in 2013 we wanted to focus on the core of what we call the essentials: t-shirts, crew neck sweatshirts and underwear. We want to stay with simple pieces that are timeless. This allows us to also stay true to the garment construction and fabrics. Overtime, we developed clean, minimal living essentials. In October of 2013 we initially only launched direct-to-consumer on our own e-commerce site, but a year ago we started to wholesale our brand, which is what we are focusing on now. We want to have strategic retail partnerships with stores that align well with our values of really appreciating design and construction.
Q: How did you and Petra come up with the name?
A: We didn’t want to use our names for our brand. In Danish, håndværk means a craft or work is done with pride. This name pulls us back to the process of working with pride, which defines the soul of the brand.
Q: What are some of the best and worst things of starting your own brand?
A: One of the best things is that we feel like we are doing what we are meant to be doing. We’re following our passion and we truly do complement each other. This journey has been an amazing way to grow together. We’re constantly learning a lot and feel a great sense of freedom and accomplishment. One of the more difficult things was getting the brand off the ground. We are self-funded and we had to cut down on our lifestyle to grow the brand. It’s all about making sacrifices.
Q: Have you been utilizing any unique marketing ideas to grow the business?
A: Well, we don’t have a formal marketing plan. We are, however, very involved in social media and building content on our website. We want to tell our story the right way. Instagram is the number one social media channel where we have the most dialogue with our community. Pinterest is the second most utilized one for us; it sets the tone of where we are as a brand. Both channels actually drive a good amount of people to site. Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter are secondary for us.
Q: Do you have any advice for people out there thinking of starting their own business?
A: People get stuck on the dream stage. Get as far as you can and open the door. Learn as much as you can. Stay true to your vision even if it may not be a mainstream vision. It will define you. You can’t be all things to all people.
Q: What’s next for håndværk?
A: We want to complete our lifestyle vision. We are working to develop leather goods to add to our mix, and eventually down the road we’d like to add home goods. We are also focusing on finding the right partners that have the natural customer base for the brand when building our wholesale accounts. Like I said, we’ve only been doing wholesale for a year, but we have seen a nice success with East Dane, Mr. Porter and Steven Alan. We want to continue to expand internationally to Japan, South Korea and Europe. There is a lot of wood to chuck for us, but we feel confident that we’re on the right path.