Henry Lee of by H. New York presents his apparel with dramatic photography. His secret to refining your look: Creating with a clear purpose in mind.
Henry founded by H. in 2013 and has been going strong ever since. As the company’s Creative Director, he plans out his product line a year in advance. That strategic focus carries all the way through from production to product photography, to the point that photoshoots are just a natural part of the process. One of Henry’s clear messages: Develop a plan, stick to it, and you won’t have to fix mistakes later.
Where did the idea for by H. New York come from?
The original idea was very simple - I wanted to make clothes that I want to wear. My goal is to create a brand that is not driven by trend and hype, to be purely focused on the construction and silhouette of the garments.
by H. 2015 Editorial II
Did you have formal training for this line of work, or are you self taught? Looking back, how do you feel about the path you’ve taken to get here?
Both my partner, Naomi, and I graduated from Parsons majoring in fashion design, so yes, we learned how to make clothes at school. However, running a brand is not only about designing clothes but also to run a business. Luckily I had had a business diploma before, but for the rest, such as handling social media, making ads, setting up an online store, and sending out newsletters, we had to figure them out little by little by actually doing it.
What’s your process for deciding when a new product is right for your brand?
We normally plan a year ahead what we want to do for the season, so we’ll have a clear picture of how many tops, bottoms, and accessories we will be designing before we start anything.
During the design process, we always start with sketches and drawings while thinking about the construction and the execution of the garment.
What’s it like to plan that far in advance? Is it ever difficult to stay motivated when you’re working on something that you won’t have completed for a long time?
We enjoy the process of making things much more than the moment of having them done. The motivation is when you don’t know what’s going to happen or what it will look like at the end. Since there’s no absolute right or wrong when it comes to designing, there’s always room for change, but the limited time at the end becomes the thing that forces you to commit. It’s always fun to look back to what we’ve done in the past, and think about why we did that instead of something else. Instead of looking back to the garment as a piece of product, it’s more like looking back to your old self as a designer.
To us, planning in advance isn’t a big problem, because we don’t really design by following trends. Since by H. is a seasonless clothing brand, we look back at what we have and make improvements to the collection we’ve made so far.
The images in your lookbooks, and especially your Instagram profile, are striking. Do you take those, or do you work with a photographer? What’s your process like for shooting a new product or promotional photo?
Most of our lookbook images were shot by my brother Chris Lee, and we’ve also collaborated with our friend Danny Roche for several editorials. Other than lookbooks and editorials, we basically shoot everything ourselves, including images for Instagram.
The process of every shoot comes very naturally. As I mentioned, we tend to plan ahead, so our photography is just refining the ideas we had in mind in the beginning.
How do you keep such a consistent aesthetic across all your photos and in different environments?
When you are really committed to a certain aesthetic, it’ll become part of your life and change the way you see the things. We hardly try to do much to setup Instagram photos, or to rearrange the composition of certain photos. It’s just more about what we naturally see, then we share those photos with our friends.
Having great photography is hugely important to attracting new customers and selling your products - but not everyone invests as much into it as you have. Why’s it such an important part of the process to you?
We believe the way we execute our photos can communicate a very clear message to our viewers. We work very hard to build our specific aesthetic and that’s why we always want to be very precise on what we post.
Have you ever had a shoot not work out? What do you do if you feel a photo or piece ultimately doesn’t fit your style?
We don’t force to post anything that we are not 100% happy with. So when it comes to an image that we aren’t fully satisfied with, we’d rather reshoot it. Most of the time this isn’t a problem since we always had a specific image planned ahead.
You sell your work at some physical retail locations - how do you approach the process of getting into a retailer?
We regularly present our new designs twice a year in Paris and Tokyo. We show during fashion week in the showroom. A showroom is similar to a tradeshow, but in a more exclusive and private space.
We organize these events by sending out invitations to buyers and press prior to the event. Showroom dates are often set during fashion week, and buyers and press will set up appointment with us to view the new designs and place their orders.
We wish we had known more buyers and press to invite before our first exhibition in Paris, but it’s more about the experience and the connection you build up over time, not really something you could learn.
What led you to using Big Cartel for your shop?
We were looking for a very clean and minimal site when we first started the brand. And we found out Big Cartel is very simple and user friendly. That’s why.
What do you consider to be your biggest success with your brand to this point?
Being able to share our aesthetic and vision to our friends and customers. We appreciate all our customers’ support.