Categories Articles & Interviews

How #HilarySwank Built A Modern Fashion Brand For The Modern Woman

Like many successful entrepreneurs, Hilary Swank is a doer. She solves problems rather than struggling through them. And the issue she’s fixing in this particular instance, is how women with busy lifestyles can navigate through every aspect of their day, from workouts to business meetings to social engagements, without having to change multiple times or just appear to be wearing fancy gym clothes. So the actress, producer and now founder, launched Mission Statement, a new line of luxe leisure clothing that merges high fashion and high performance.

The first time I met Swank she was showcasing the collection at a trunk show in New York. Friendly, relaxed and confident and wearing a dress from the collection, she looked like the living embodiment of Mission Statement’s goals, a successful woman whose outfit could easily transition from day to night. She explained that she’d picked the brand’s name because she wanted the line to truly support women’s ambitions and help them live out their own personal mission statements.

We talked a second time by phone from Los Angeles where she shared more about her inspiration for the line. Tired of the daily inconvenience of having to constantly change and even pack an extra bag in order to move comfortably through a typical day, she decided a new approach was needed. “I realized I wasn’t alone in this challenge and felt strongly that women and their activities were being so stereotyped and restricted.”

So Swank did her research and eventually assembled a small handpicked team of experts, all of whom saw the same white space in the market and what she calls “a very viable niche for a line that not only performs but meets the highest levels of taste.”

If you believe clothes can affect your sense of self, and impact your ability to deliver your best performance, and I do, then Mission Statement will become your go to. The collection looks and feels beautiful and via its myriad styling possibilities, succeeds in its mandate to allow a woman’s individual style to shine through. Swank and her team were meticulous in identifying the right manufacturer and now work with seven factories, five in Italy and two in Portugal. Swank visited them all personally. “The texture of the collection is very much based on what I want to wear in all aspects of my life and so it was important to me that they be crafted in the same factories as the major designer brand names to ensure quality and ethical soundness,” she explains.

But what really sets Mission Statement apart is its functionality. Whereas many companies outsource fabrics and just vary the cut, the brand developed proprietary fabrics to meet Swank’s very high standards. “If I’m going to do something different and if I want it to meet someone’s needs, I really need to go the distance,” she states. “We had to search very hard to find both tailoring experts that understood our ergonomic requirements, and technical experts with fashion sensibilities.”

One example of a high performance item is the Stride Run Tight. Lightweight and comfortable, it features toning technology that provides knee and hip support. Other (non proprietary) collection highlights are super soft Italian cashmere tops and machine washable leather pants.

Swank particularly loved the collaborative process of creating a brand and seeing the designs come to life. “Meeting the artisans, watching them make things with their hands that we’d designed with so much thought and care, just seeing this dream become a reality was so rewarding.”

Also noticeable with Mission Statement is the absence of logos, a subtle signifier that you the customer wears the clothes and not the other way around. “We specifically left logos off because we want a woman to define herself,” Swank explains.” And fortunately, Mission Statement has had a phenomenal reception. We really appeal to women who want the freedom to go where they please and do what they please.”

In keeping with the increasingly popular business model for forward thinking luxury fashion brands, Mission Statement is direct to consumer and sold via their website. The company was financed by a small group of investors including Swank, with the strategy being to launch in a small targeted way and have customers’ voices be a part of how they grew.

At this stage in our company’s development we want optimum flexibility. It’s been important to me to grow mission statement thoughtfully and with measure, while we figure out the perfect niche for our product and how to best capitalize on our various strategic opportunities.

Although she particularly loves the designing component, as CEO and Co-Designer Swank is very hands on and intricately involved in every aspect of the business, from brand development to the financials. This is all the more impressive given she also juggles a very successful acting and producing career. Swank has won two Best Actress Academy Awards and has produced fourteen of her own projects. She credits the skills required to manage a production from inception to creation, with helping her make the leap to CEO. Making movies is a similar creative experience to making a clothing line in that you start with an idea and then you need to find the creative artisans to help see the vision through. So if anything, how I navigate as an actor and producer has really helped me navigate in this new world rather than vice versa.

The most challenging part has been the level of attention she has to give all aspects of the business at this stage of its growth. But although balancing parallel careers is far from easy, Swank is up for challenge and is drawing from years of having to stay focused on chaotic film sets, to navigate the demands on her life.

I find that it’s really trained me to move easily between a multitude of tasks during my day. It’s a ton of hard work but I love to work hard. It suits my personality and I’m beginning to see more and more of the fruits of that effort every day.

Clearly this is only the beginning for the brand and there are exciting plans on the horizon.

This has been a super exciting year for Mission Statement and I think what we’ve learned is that the concept can translate into so many aspects of designed living. We are constantly thrilled by the opportunities that are emerging.