With the founding team in place and a clear vision for Atelier Wen, it was time to start thinking design. At the end of 2017, we therefore set out to find like-minded creative souls to help us create and define our microbrand.
The Journey Officially Begins
In the winter of 2017, Wilfried and Robin graduated from Warwick Business School and decided to follow different routes for their postgraduate studies. Wilfried headed to Beijing to attend the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University while Robin went to pursue a master’s degree at London Business School.
Top: London Business School; Bottom: Tsinghua University
We were set to launch the brand in a year, and despite our good understanding of the watch space, we knew we would need help to translate our vision into concrete designs.
Fortunately, Robin’s mentor, Li Wei, was one of the directors of the China Horologe Association and as soon as Wilfried arrived in Beijing, he connected us to a brilliant academic, Prof. Song from the renowned Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology (BIFT) who specialized in watch design.
Prof. Song runs a year-long module for students in their senior year, where they must create a design from scratch and manufacture an item of their choosing. It was a great module only open to her top students and this is where the idea of a joint project came to be.
Indeed, by working together, we would bring the students an international platform to showcase their work and Atelier Wen would get its first designs. It was a win-win situation.
The project was met with enormous enthusiasm. Prof. Song’s students were all ready and eager to show off their talents and we were overwhelmed by the volume and quality of the applications.
Out of those impressive applications, there were two that stood out to us – those of Li Mingliang and Liu Yuguan. These two budding watch designers resonated with the vision we had in mind and with them onboard, Atelier Wen’s team was finally complete.
Creating the Designs
Putting our minds together, we set out on this design journey in an efficient and iterative manner. To start, Robin and Wilfried would collaborate to produce an extensive brief for Li Mingliang and Liu Yuguan. After in-depth discussions, Liu Yuguan and Li Mingliang would set about producing design after design and refining them until the whole team was happy with the results. Everyone’s creativity and strengths was put to work!
All throughout that Beijing winter of 2017/2018, Wilfried, Li Mingliang, and Liu Yuguan would meet at the design studio on weekends and evenings to discuss their latest ideas and designs.
All throughout this process spanning over 100 iterations, we shared regular updates on several watch forums and social media platforms to get real-time feedback on our efforts. The many reviews and comments we received were invaluable and we could not have built this first series without them!
And in this way, step by step, a first series came to life...
Next Step: Prototypes
After getting the team together and successfully creating our first designs, the next challenge would be to turn these into working prototypes. And intent as we were to build one of the very best Chinese watch microbrands and give due attention to every detail, there would be no other option than to build our supply chain from the ground up. This was something we knew we could not compromise on.
In our next post, we’ll share the process of how we went on to create our first watch prototypes. Stay tuned!