WAY the label is a joint venture by recent University of Minnesota graduates Heidi Woelfle and Regena Yu. Woelfle and Yu combined their unique design aesthetics and skillsets to create WAY, a brand which aims to create timeless, well-crafted clothing using sustainable practices. Designed and manufactured in Minneapolis, WAY is a brand for the modern woman who curates a wardrobe of ethically produced versatile pieces. The brand is defined by its tailored, easy to wear separates with unique and interesting details. To see WAY designs in person, be sure to stop by the upcoming Fashion Week MN Spring 2017 Market at Modist Brewing put on by Minneapolis Craft Market.
Talk about the beginnings of WAY. What inspired you to begin this endeavor?
We (Heidi and Regena) weren’t seeing the clothing that we wanted at the price point that we were able to afford or like. We originally began discussing the idea of making clothes to sell on the side, then it moved onto “why don’t we start a brand?” and that’s how it all began. Regena moved back to Minnesota to make WAY happen. We started designing and sourcing fabrics in December of 2016, and then our first collection was born.
We knew who we wanted to design for, how we wanted to present WAY, and the business model we wanted to design and operate off of. This is where Abby, the third co-founder and graphic designer, comes in. She was able to bring our branding and the look of WAY to life through her design. All three of us together collaborated in different ways to create a full picture and future for WAY in just a few short months.
As creative partners, how do your individual backgrounds and experiences come together through WAY?
All three of us studied at the University of Minnesota at the College of Design between 2012 and 2016 and in fact, all graduated together last May. Heidi and Regena studied Apparel Design whereas Abby studied Graphic Design there. All of our strengths in each of our own disciplines learned both by ourselves and through the program complemented each other so well, and ultimately helped us develop WAY into the brand it is now. We each had such a unique design experience and aesthetic that suited so well with each other and is now represented through WAY.
How has your business evolved? How have you evolved alongside it?
WAY has evolved from an idea of selling clothing on the side into a full fledged business. Originally, it began with just Heidi and Regena, but with the aspects of growing a business, we knew that we need another person to help with the more digital marketing and graphic work and that is where Abby comes in—through the addition of Abby, we grew from a partnership into a trio!
We have evolved from strong, but small creative thinkers to business minded people. However, we still have lots of room to grow and are each so excited to see where WAY takes us both professionally and personally.
You describe your clothing to be suited for the modern woman who curates a wardrobe of ethically produced versatile pieces. Is the key word in there "ethical"? Why is that an important aspect of the clothing you make?
'Ethical' is definitely one of the key ideas of WAY's design and business model. We want to be able to design timeless pieces that cater to the slowly disappearing 'slow fashion' aspect of the fashion industry. With that, WAY aims to produce only limited runs of each design each collection in an effort to minimize waste each season. Our designs are minimal, versatile, but also unique detail that creates interest as well as increase quality.
Have you always been creative? What forms or channels have you explored in your creative journey?
We have definitely each grown up to be quite creative in our own ways.
Regena has always delved into a variety of arts and design crafts while growing up. She began with a lot of drawing and painting whenever she could, loving the idea of intricacy of drawing and painting in more realistic forms and bringing it to life. This reflects now in her love in bringing a sketch/idea of a garment to life through sewing. She was gifted her first sewing machine at the age of 12, and since then has used her skills as well as internship and course experiences to develop her design process to include not only fashion/apparel related inspiration, but to incorporate more creative forms of inspiration and exploration in her design work.
Heidi has always been creative as well, but hadn't always pursued creative fields. In high school, she was incredibly involved with Math and Science and was originally pursuing pre-med at the University of Minnesota before deciding to study Apparel Design.
Abby started out loving drawing at a young age and it evolved into taking on a lot of creative hobbies to learn new things. Her interests spanned across a lot of different creative fields, but right as she was applying for colleges she discovered how much she appreciated the creative depth she could pursue as a graphic designer. The rest is history.
What do you see for the future of your business?
We have high hopes for WAY. In the near future, we hope to begin seeing our designs pop up in local stores in the Twin Cities area. This will hopefully spark a following here in the cities and prompt us to work harder to spread WAY's vision even further.
Do you feel like making and creating through your business allows you to contribute to something larger than yourself?
Oh definitely! We are not only growing personally and professionally as more business-minded people, but we are contributing more to the creativity in the Twin Cities as well. We're able to fulfill the satisfaction of women who are in the same shoes as we are, and we are able to design for our modern 'woman' who strives for classic elegance in timeless, and sustainable staples.