Function = Freedom

The below is a little talk I gave at Hearken in Summer 2019.
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In the beginning there was the word, and for The Willary, that word was pants. I was having one of those, oh god, what-do-I-do-with-my-life days and my wife said to me, you know, we know a lot of women who need better pants. And with that, The Willary was born.

In those early days, better pants meant obvious things, like excellent fit and actual, usable pockets. I was designing for function and I assumed that was enough. 

But the company evolved and so did my vision–after a lifetime watching women hemmed into submission by their clothes I realized function could actually be a vehicle for freedom.

See, if your pants fit you don’t spend half your day tugging them up. You’re free to reach across that boardroom table without the fear that all your hard work will be undermined by your underpants poking out when you make that bold reach.

Good fit frees you from that nanosecond of body shame you feel every time your clothes pinch/pull/drag/drop/droop or otherwise remind you you’re not the “ideal” shape for that week’s passing trend. 

And pockets, oh my gosh, the freedom of pockets! If mom has a purse no one else has to ever carry anything–but mom is stuck with the schlep.

Ditch the purse, unshoulder the burden.

If we have pockets for our phones, our keys, our lipstick...we freely participate in life with BOTH HANDS.

And delivering freedom? To women? That makes my life awesome and my work fulfilling.

Freedom became my variable to solve for in every design equation and the answers led to some pretty unlikely places.

Take odor for example. We use fabrics that are inherently odor resistant, like merino wool. So you could say The Willary Wardrobe frees you from odor.

If less odor equals fewer washes then you spend less time doing laundry. Add a pair of our stain resistant Un-Leggings to your wardrobe and multiply out the time saved.

Now let’s think globally. You’re doing less laundry, which is great because 80% of your clothes’ carbon life cycle impact comes from post-purchase washing and drying. Wash and dry less and you reduce the carbon footprint of your household. Freedom x global impact = the right kind of design.

So freedom is valuable. But as with everything, there’s a cost–The Willary isn’t cheap. I always thought that while we couldn’t compete with other brands on cost we would always blow them away with value.

One dress, 4 seasons, countless ways to wear it. Versatility = value.

One pair of pants–I challenge you to find an activity you comfortably can’t do in ours. Ease = value.

Invest in The Willary and you get a piece of clothing so durable it could put me out of business. Longevity = value. 

But in today’s social, political and literal climate my vision is evolving again. Now I do believe The Willary can compete on cost and value–but we need to rethink what cost means and in doing so even further expand what we value.

Unbridle “cost” from “price” and we start heading in the right direction. A $6 t-shirt at H&M is priced cheaply, but once you dig into the labor & environmental practices involved in making it the cost starts adding up. 

That $6 t-shirt is priced to be thrown away so you can rationalize buying into the next trend. We all know that’s an environmental disaster, but have you thought about the cost of being played like that versus the value of trustworthiness? What would our world look like if we only bought into companies that were designing responsibly?

I’ve talked a lot about value already but here’s one more–the value of authentic connection. The Willary grows by word of mouth. And other than wishing the grapevine worked a little faster I feel really good about that.

It means that across the country there are little pockets of like-minded women talking about us and it’s not because we inundate them with ads–our advertising budget is actually zero.

People–like Jenn–spread the word because they believe women in their circle would be well served by what we offer. 

I think they like helping their friends even more than they love their pants, and I feel great about that. In a world of tagging, commenting and liking this is holding, conversing, and loving. This is the world I want to live in and help build with my company.

In closing I want to tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity to share what’s on my mind with you–I’m a one-woman business and most days end up grappling with these ideas by myself.

More importantly though, since we’re all here together now I want to hear your thoughts. Come tell me what you value and how you share what you love with other people. And for sure try on some clothes if you’re curious. My clothes are awesome but they won’t change the world. But I’m convinced the women who wear them, working together will.