“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men`s blood...Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever- growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.”
- Daniel Burnham (Legendary American Architect and Urban Designer)
Building a brand can be a very difficult process. Many who go through the exercise end up agonizing and spending hours and hours on the name, the logo, the tagline. And while those are useful and important building blocks, a brand is so much more than that—it is the underlying foundation of what you stand for—what message you want to emanate from everything you do and ultimately what people associate you with. After all, customers form their own opinions—they don’t care what you say you want to be, they only care what their perception is of you and rightfully so. Here is a great Business Insider article on brands slogans vs. what customers think they should be.
In building Rhone we are constantly striving to build a brand that is more than just a clothing company. Forget the business reasons—and I believe they are many— it would be a pretty meaningless existence and to Mr. Burnham’s point lack all magic—it would not stir men’s souls to simply make stuff to sell.
So before even determining our name, our logo, our tagline, as founders we asked ourselves what we wanted our little (read non-existent) brand to stand for. We spent hours talking about quality across the product from cut to color to fabric selection. We agreed the brand needed to have a level of sophistication and a standard that men would appreciate and rise up to. But most of all, and I mean this as sincerely can be conveyed in the written word, we aimed to build a brand that stood for fraternity. I do not mean fraternity in the overtly Greek frat-house sense of the word, no I am referring to a genuine brotherhood. We wanted to build a community that relied on each other and stood by each other promoting everyone in it to be their best individual self; that the collective sum of the parts would be stronger than the individual pieces.
For me, this strong drive to create a culture of fraternity comes from my childhood. I am blessed to have 3 blood brothers. They are without question my closest friends and confidants. Growing up however, like brothers do, we had our fair share of bickering, wrestling matches and arguments (which generally involved some sporting activity). Three of us are very close in age and I vividly remember after one particularly bad-brotherly-brawl my dad asked us to come into his office. I am also blessed to have a wise father, one who erred on the side of teaching principles rather than demanding strict adherence to artificial house laws—but still—going into his office was never good news. As we all sat down he reached up and pulled a book from his shelf called “The Book of Virtues” by William J. Bennett. I had seen him read it often as it contained poems, fables and stories that taught valuable lessons. He read us a story called “The Bundle of Sticks” which is a derived Aesop Fable.
“The Bundle of Sticks”
“A certain man had several sons who were always quarreling with one another, and, try as he might, he could not get them to live together in harmony. So he determined to convince them of their folly by the following means. Bidding them fetch a bundle of sticks, he invited each in turn to break it across his knee. All tried and all failed: and then he undid the bundle, and handed them the sticks one by one, when they had no difficulty at all in breaking them. “There, my boys,” said he, “united you will be more than a match for your enemies: but if you quarrel and separate, your weakness will put you at the mercy of those who attack you. Union is Strength”
He then explained that we had to make a decision—we could be each other’s greatest allies and support or constantly in competition and filled with envy. It was a powerful lesson for me—I remember distinctly looking at my brothers and thinking of how I already relied on them for so much—how I never wanted that to change.
That lesson came back to me as we were building out the branding for Rhone. In the process we developed a mark called the Captains Stitch. It is the interlocking of 3 stitches and is prominent on every piece we develop. This mark was meant to symbolize strength in unity and serve as a reminder that we are trying to build more than just a clothing company.
More recently, this August, my wife and I were blessed to have our third child--all of which are boys. As the nurse handed this handsome baby boy to me, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of responsibility, the need to raise my 3 boys into good men. As my eyes filled with emotion, I noticed in my periphery the three stitches on my shirt, interlocked and standing for strength.
I sat there reflecting on the lesson of the sticks and the community we are building. Sometime down the road, when they are old enough, I will sit them down and read them that same story. That a collection of sticks that cannot be separated cannot be broken. That there is indeed strength in union. And that hopefully that is what the Rhone brand stands for, a banner for men to be united in a pursuit of their individual best through a collective effort (hence our journal's name).
I recognize it is ambitious to build a community that lives up to these high expectations and more to build clothing to match it—but as Mr. Burnham says “Make big plans; aim high in hope and work .” So whether or not you have brothers en masse as I did, grew up as an only child, or somewhere in between; we invite you to come join and be a part of the Rhone brotherhood--The Collective.
We want you to join, not simply follow. We want you to participate, derive and provide value and help this become a community we are all proud to be a part of. We cannot promise perfection, only a continued drive to stay the course and get better each day. Thanks for being a part of the journey—we are just getting started.