Henrichs is a fashionable yet functional high-visibility reflective clothing brand for outdoor activity. We sat down with founder, Sara Henrichs, to find out how she went about creating a safe, savvy and sustainable brand for children and adults (oh, and dogs too!).
What made you decide to launch Henrichs – and how did you set about doing this?
While studying fashion design in Paris, I designed the Henrichs Cape for myself to stay visible when cycling. Made from an incredible reflective material, people would stop me on the streets to ask where I got the cape from and I always said to myself that I should create a brand for this. Throughout the years travelling around the globe, I noticed a lack of fashionable hi-vis clothing for the urban cyclist in various cities including London, Paris, New York, Mexico City and Berlin – so I decided to launch Henrichs, and the rest is history.
Travelling around the globe, I noticed a lack of fashionable hi-vis clothing for the urban cyclist in various cities.
You used to work as a travel editor for Wallpaper* magazine and have previously studied fashion design, going on to work with Jil Sander and Hermès. What lessons did you learn from these jobs that you have fed into your development of Henrichs?
Working for Jil Sander gave me the skills of precision; I was trained in the art of ‘petite main’, so proper haute couture – all hand-made – and it was incredible. I loved it. I started gaining a good knowledge of exquisite textiles and sewing techniques. Hermès was different as I was working for the menswear collection and we were under a lot of pressure working day and night, but I learned a lot of in-house politics and staying calm no matter what. The combination of working in fashion and then travel was the reason for me to create Henrichs – a fashion brand very much linked to travel!
Can you talk us through the process of designing and developing your products, and then taking them to market?
I first designed the cape (which was a pattern I originally used for my fashion degree) and then worked around it to create accessories – they are practical for running or cycling yet look good. All of the designs are easy to throw over whatever you’re wearing and can be folded in your pocket when you arrive at your destination.
The menswear part of Henrichs was a separate story as I spent months in the Victoria and Albert library studying the samurai armour; I liked the idea of men being urban heroes cycling across the city. I created a samurai cape after the original samurai, which was suitable for men to wear with a rucksack underneath when cycling – so a hero with a practical element to it.
I spent months in the Victoria and Albert library studying the samurai armour; I liked the idea of men being urban heroes cycling across the city.
One of my favourite pieces is the angel wings cape, which I designed when watching all those little kids walking to school wearing the yellow hi-vis vest – I thought they would likely prefer dressing like little angels glowing in the dark.
You manufacture all of your products in London and the logo on each garment is hand-embossed by a single craftsman in west London. Can you talk us through these decisions and the benefits they bring compared with overseas production?
Working in luxury travel inspired me to create a sustainable brand and working with local craftsman was one of my first decisions. It is certainly not the easiest way to produce but is definitely the most rewarding one. My clients value this and understand the importance of buying something that they know how it is made… also, I didn’t want to produce something in China made by little children working in terrible conditions, etc. I like to be present and have good relationships with all the workers at the factory where we produce Henrichs in London.
Working with local craftsman was one of my first decisions. It is certainly not the easiest way to produce but is definitely the most rewarding one.
What advice would you give to other businesses and entrepreneurs looking to expand into developing fashion collections for outdoor activities?
I would encourage them to first do proper market research and write a business plan, then get a business Angel or good investors. I would also tell them that it’s one of the best things I have done; and even if it’s hard work and an endless lonely battle, there is nothing more rewarding then creating something for yourself – so do it!