In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout, the businesses of young, emerging and independent designers are likely to be the most vulnerable. In a new series, FN will spotlight these creatives to learn how they are adjusting to a new way of working and living.
Before the spread of COVID-19, Ty McBride, the founder and creative director of Intentionally Blank, was working on expanding the brand’s retail footprint by launching a second brick-and-mortar store in addition to its flagship in Los Angeles.
Over the past six years, McBride, who was the former global brand manager at Jeffrey Campbell, has grown Intentionally Blank’s influence and reach. Stocked at Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and directly on its site, Intentionally Blank is an emerging brand that helped to usher in the renaissance of ’90s-inspired footwear that’s been prevalent for the past few seasons.
“This [brand] is my dream,” said McBride, who has been working out of Intentionally Blank’s unopened store in Hudson, New York, a sleepy upstate town that in recent years has become a weekend destination for city-dwellers and artists.
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With store closures and social distancing in practice, McBride is taking the unexpected downtime to get creative with brand strategy.
“I have been dealing with a lot of cancellations from big customers and small customers. Everyone is dealing with this in a different way. So I’ve just been trying to get creative with my direct-to-consumer,” McBride said.
To buy: Hanna sandal in Haze, $200.
Now McBride is focusing on networking with content creators to brainstorm ideas for material that’s fun and engaging on social media while most are stuck at home.
“During this time I am continually working on the brand identity of Intentionally Blank and furthering our voice on our social platforms,” said the creative director on what’s next. “We are also working on a site re-launch which we hope to have done sometime in May.”
McBride also added that he was able to get Intentionally Blank’s spring ‘20 collection out to stockists before the toll of the pandemic. He’s also communicating with the brand’s manufacturers in Spain and China, who have been slowly opening back up with restrictions such as operating only half days with a reduced number of people in the factories.
While the novel coronavirus has certainly slowed down workflow figuratively and literally, McBride said that he’s focusing on how the pandemic will influence trends.
To Buy: Ving sandal in black, $190.
“I feel people are going to be going more casual, functional, and even less gender-focused than before,” said McBride, who is in the early stages of creating a sneaker.
In the meantime, McBride and his small staff based in LA are working on ways to bolster the brand during the extended downtime. McBride is still hopeful that his new store on the East Coast will be active once social distancing rules are relaxed. The store located Hudson, New York is on Warren Street, a hub that receives heavy foot traffic thanks to the funky boutiques, array of eateries and antique stores that line the block.
“I’m just waiting to open,” McBride said.
To Buy: Albany Stacked boot in tan, $195.