friday feature: Megan Williams
Director of Sales & Merchandising at Henry & Belle
I went to their event last evening and left in a pair of Super Stretch Ankle Skinnys in ‘Chili Pepper’. I do not want to take them off!!
JS: Tell us about Henry & Belle.
MW: The story of Henry & Belle begins with the eponymous couple, whose love of style, philanthropy and each other laid the foundation for the company we are today.
They met in 1931, against the backdrop of Chicago’s thriving garment district. Henry Mann was a young designer; Belle, meanwhile, worked as a fit model for the elegant, tapered styles of 1930’s couture. Henry and Belle fell in love and married in 1932. From that point forward, she was Henry’s constant muse—the inspiration behind each collection he created. Through innovative, new materials, these designs weaved Henry’s vision with Belle’s insight into fit, movement and feel.
While she loved fashion, Belle eventually made the decision to give up her modeling career and become a volunteer philanthropist—a calling she embraced for the rest of her life.
In the end, Belle was Henry’s vision of perfection: a woman who was confident yet caring, chic yet natural. She looked good. She “did good”. Together, Henry & Belle not only built the successful family company that continues today, but also a legacy of steadfast commitment to philanthropy.
JS: What are you best known for?
MW: We have over 80 years of history making quality garments from the best materials available and a true focus on fit. This level of attention to fit and fabric are often overlooked in our industry. Henry & Belle merges its heritage and tradition with a modern and contemporary flair for a product that is both timeless and sexy. We combine the most important trends in fashion with the most technologically advanced fabrics on the market - fabrics that offer amazing fit, feel and shape retention while still allowing us to be true to the authentic looks we’re known for. Our aesthetic is clean and refined. Our denim is known for authentic washes and textures. Our non-denim offerings pay homage to the couture markets. Here we emphasize fluid lines and soft textures, while still working in technologically advanced fabrics that have excellent shape retention.
JS: What is your favorite pair of jeans right now?
MW: Each morning I wake up, open my closet and have a difficult decision to make. Henry & Belles all fit me so well and are so comfortable that it truly is a hard decision to pick a pair to wear that day. I will say prior to owning a pair of Henry & Belles I had a stack of jeans that could only be worn when I was having a “skinny day”. I am sure many women can relate when you put on a pair of jeans in the morning that didn’t feel this tight the last time you wore them. With Henry & Belle jeans I don’t have to worry about that feeling. Our fabrics are so soft and have a great amount of stretch that they fit me every day all day! As I mentioned earlier, Henry & Belle only uses fabrics that retain their shape. Many women shy away from fabrics with too much stretch because they are afraid they will stretch out at the end of the day. This won’t happen with H&B. Currently I am in love with our Super Stretch Ankle Skinny Jeans. They come in many great colors and are the perfect length for me because I am only 5’2! I also love our new Micro Flare which also uses our Super Stretch fabric. This style is fitted to the knee and has a slight flare opening at the bottom. In fitting women all over the country at our in-store events, in almost every fitting, women can take a size down!
JS: H&B was recently featured in Lucky Magazine. Tell us more!
MW: Eva Longoria is on the cover of the September issue of Lucky. The main feature of that issue is “Eva’s Favorite Things”. We were thrilled that Eva chose Henry & Belle as her must have, favorite denim brand when she said, “I threw out every pair of jeans I owned and replaced them with these. I live in them and have them in all the colors!” Celebrities have access to all the new brands so when you see them wearing your jeans it’s a real endorsement for the brand. From early on we’ve been fortunate to have garnered a strong celebrity following. Charlize Theron, Emma Stone, Gisele Bunchen, Halle Berry, Megan Fox, Jessica Alba, Katherine Heigl, Sarah Jessica Parker, Olivia Wilde, Ann Hathaway and many others are regularly seen in Henry & Belles.
JS: You are based here in Chicago?!
MW: We’re Midwesterners. We like to work in an environment where people are hard-working and generally nice to each other. In 80 years there have been tremendous changes in the Chicago apparel industry. At one time there were over 500 manufacturers here. Today there are a handful of upstart designers but there really isn’t any kind of denim industry here at all. Rather than allow that to be a disadvantage, we think it helps us to create our own identity. We travel throughout the world several times a year looking for trend inspiration from Europe, Japan as well as New York and Southern California but when we come home to Chicago, we put our own unique stamp on things.
JS: H&B is carried at The Blues Jean Bar, which is how we connected! Explain the importance of being in specialty boutiques over department stores.
MW: Henry & Belle focuses on partnering with retailers that truly focus on the customer. Buying denim requires a lot more attention than buying other types of apparel because the fit is so critical. It’s a lot like buying a bathing suit. It is so important to have a knowledgeable salesperson guide you through that process, especially for a new brand. Partnering with retailers like The Blues JEAN Bar that truly understand fit and fabric (in addition to trend) has enabled us to grow very rapidly in the two years we’ve been in the market. Time and time again, when a woman tries on Henry & Belle she’s hooked for life. More often than not, her first exposure to our brand is through a knowledgeable sales person at a great specialty retailer.
JS: You mentioned Philanthropy, and giving back to the community through fashion. What is ‘Right Amount of Give’?
Our company is based on three important things: Family, Fashion and Philanthropy. The owner of the company, Rob Mann, has an extensive background as a consultant to philanthropies throughout North America. When Rob launched the Henry & Belle brand in 2010 he wanted to merge his passion for Philanthropy with his love of denim. From our inception, Henry & Belle has partnered with dozens of charitable causes throughout the country. We’ve contributed close to $50,000 through in-store events that raise money for deserving local causes.
Later this month, we’ll take this approach to a whole new level. Corporate philanthropy today rarely considers the interests of those buying the products. Our new initiative, Right Amount of GiveSM will change all of that. Through this program, customers will be invited to determine how we allocate our charitable dollars amongst a group of well vetted causes dedicated to helping women, children and families. What’s more, once a customer voices her choice, we’ll send her updates from the actual recipients of the funds so she can see how her involvement truly makes a difference in someone’s life.
Get yourself a pair, or two, at The Blues Jean Bar (2210 North Halsted Street)
Check out their website: www.henryandbelle.com
facebook: Henry & Belle