When Academy Award-winning actress and producer, Hilary Swank, couldn’t find clothing that met all of her lifestyle needs she designed it herself. After years of perfecting the concept, in the fall of 2016 she launched her start-up Mission Statement, a new crossover women’s clothing category that goes far beyond athleisure and merges high-fashion design with high-performance textiles.
Swank’s superbly constructed collection offers an array of jackets, dresses, sports bras, and pants with a variety of layer-able separates made from sumptuous technical fabrics that are eco-friendly like washable cashmere and leather.
Swank’s outerwear is exceptional both in terms of style and materials as well as versatility and construction. The sports bras look and fit more like a well-constructed bustier rather then the bust crushing alternatives. Her thoughtfully designed tennis-inspired dresses easily transition from the courts to an elegant dinner with a change of shoes and fit like couture. Her leggings (just like her sports bras) support you in all of the right places without constricting blood flow or cutting into you when worn for prolonged periods.
What Swank and her team have created is impressive by any standards, but especially since this is her first foray into fashion. I recently got the opportunity to catch up with Hilary about her new venture to dig in littler deeper about what made her choose to create Mission Statement and what her goals are moving forward.
Is this your first foray into entrepreneurialism ?
Yes, although I feel it parallels making movies in that you start with an idea and have to find the right artisans to collaborate with bringing that vision to the world.
I read that you had been thinking about doing this for roughly ten years or so. Was there a pivotal moment in your life that made you pull the trigger and launch your own business in 2016 rather then over the last few years?
My dad needed a lung transplant so I took three years off to be his caretaker. I was spending lots of time in the hospital and at home with him where I could really work on the business plan, due diligence and designs.
How would you describe your line to someone who is unfamiliar with it and who is your target demographic?
I like to think that the clothes we’ve designed are the most comfortable and stylish luxury clothing you will ever own. It’s chic and versatile wear that you can move and relax in while also feeling stylishly dressed in social or professional settings.
We sourced our clothing from Italian and Portuguese factories, putting the highest attention on the quality of the cut and functionality of the apparel. We have proprietary fabrics, not just sourced out like most others. I’ve been told by many that there’s nothing else like it in the market right now. This is exciting to hear and keeps me inspired to create more like it.
What is behind the name of your brand?
The underlying purpose of the brand is to encourage women to live their own personal Mission Statement.
I can imagine that being an actress can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to starting any business. What has been your experience breaking into the fashion world especially while creating a new category?
When I’m cast in a role I have to research the life and world of each character extensively. In some cases I even need to learn new skills (like flying a plane). I suppose this has helped me a bit in jumping into a world of which I was unfamiliar. It has definitely been a crash course in business and e-commerce for me, but I’ve enjoyed understanding and trying to become skillful in how things work in that world. Fortunately, I’m also lucky enough to have access to a number of experienced minds and brains because of the work I’ve done as an actor. This has been a tremendous help.
Did you self finance Mission Statement?
Yes, I have financed half the investment to date. I’m thrilled to have some experienced and insightful individuals that have stepped up to invest alongside me. Having people who believe in me has always been and continues to be so humbling.
How hands on are/were you in the development of the designs, fabric selection, where to manufacture, etc.?
Being involved in all aspects of the creation of this brand is critical to me. I have visited our factories and know the artisans who are making my clothes. While I don’t sketch, I design with a sensational co-designer who can materialize my ideas. But I have chosen each fabric and weighed in on every detail (even in the creation of our proprietary fabrics that give special functionality for the ability to use our clothes in a variety of situations). We actually fit each style across the full array of sizes in my house in LA. It was a weekend of round the clock fittings and model go-sees!
I am proud to say that with a small group of other talented women, we created ground breaking technologies and superior quality that extend across a broad range of how you spend your day. All of our garments are conceived with multi-purpose intentionality. It becomes one wardrobe that will control 80% of your closet but only takes up 20%.
I read on your website that your clothing is made in heritage factories—are there any other recognizable brands in the luxury space manufactured in these factories so that readers can make a connection in terms of what kind of quality to expect from your collection?
Chanel, Prada and Moncler are just a few.
Do you have a favorite outfit or combination of separates that you think best epitomizes the transitional functionality of your collection?
I love that our pieces are designed to layer. It not only enables the transition from one activity to another or to the changing temperatures throughout the day it makes your wardrobe year round.
What is the most rewarding and challenging aspect of starting your own business?
Like everyone else in life, I constantly have to balance what needs to be done every day. With a full-time acting career (of which I’m still so passionate) and getting a new company off the ground (of which I maintain creative and managerial leadership) this can sometimes be a challenge. The guiding light for me is that I’m passionate about both of them (and want to excel in both of them) so I somehow manage to find sufficient time every day. I also have incredible support and teams in both worlds – without which I would not be successful.
Starting a business will inevitably spotlight character strengths and weaknesses (of course neither is good or bad simply opportunities for personal growth and awareness)—what have you learned about yourself in both respects so far?
My strengths are definitely my ability to persevere and the work ethic my parents have instilled in me. My weaknesses, which I always see as you said—an opportunity for growth—are also my perseverance and work ethic, as I don’t always take the time for myself and to rest.
Do you intend to remain direct to consumer or do you have plans to also partner with select retailers (either online or brick and mortar types)?
We initially launched online and will continue to remain a direct to consumer business for the short term. But yes, we have been approached by retailers and we plan to sell through one or more of them once we land on the ideal partnership. We want to be available to women where they are making it easy for them to go about their days.
Where do you envision your brand headed in the next 3-5 years?
We hope to be dressing women world wide—head to toe.