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Incu 18th Birthday – The Founders: Brian & Vincent Vu Q&A
Incu Staff
October 19, 2020

It all started out with an idea: create amazing stores that people love to visit. Eighteen years on and Incu's founders, Brian and Vincent Wu, have gone from careers in the I.T. industry to building Incu into the multifaceted fashion and lifestyle business it is today.

...it's very surreal to us that we’ve been around for 18 years and we still feel like we’re learning so much. As much as there’s so much going on right now, we feel very fortunate to be still around doing something we love.

To celebrate Incu's coming of age we've sat down with 'the boys' (as they're known around these parts) and took a trip down memory lane with them...

First off, Happy Birthday guys! 18 years… did you ever think you would make it this far?
No, it’s very surreal to us that we’ve been around for 18 years and we still feel like we’re learning so much. As much as there’s so much going on right now, we feel very fortunate to be still around doing something we love.

For anyone unfamiliar with your story, what are both of your backgrounds? How did you get to the point where you opened the first Incu store?
We both came from the I.T. industry but we weren’t very passionate about what we were doing so we would meet up all the time and think about doing something together. Our mum used to love shopping and when we were kids, she would take us with her. So I think our initial understanding of retail came from all those shopping trips and experiencing good and bad service. We definitely saw a gap in the market and being quite naive at the time, we jumped in the deep end and opened our first store in the Galeries in 2002.

 


Brian & Vini pre-Incu opening

What was the very first brand to sign off on working together? How did you land on this decision?
One of the first brands we approached was a t-shirt brand called 2K by Gingham which was based out of Los Angeles. The guy who ran it was a Japanese guy named Yoshi and he had all these relationships with great artists so he put all this art on t-shirts. I don’t think anyone has been able to replicate close to what he did back then. He had tees with artists such as Takashi Murakami, Kevin Lyons, Geoff Mcfetridge, Neckface, Tom Sachs as well as rights to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. We loved the fact that the tees look really cool but there was actually a story behind each tee and so when we first opened Incu we displayed each t-shirt on a large table and had descriptions of each artist next to them like how an art gallery would display them.

I’m sure you’ve both accumulated quite the collection over the years… can you give us an insight into what we would find in each of your wardrobes?
Vincent:
I probably have a bit more statement pieces than Brian but I would say generally I have a lot of Acne Studios in my wardrobe because I have loved that brand for a very long time. I do tend to get carried away with buying outerwear even though Sydney doesn’t have a long stretch of cold weather. I really love discovering new brands so I tend to buy across quite a lot of different brands.
Brian:
I am much more conservative compared to Vini so my wardrobe comprises of mostly what I would term essentials such as oxford shirts, slim pants and white Common Projects. A.P.C. probably features the most in my wardrobe and I find that I’m starting to build a pretty solid Stone Island collection.

 


Original Incu logo with monkey design
When we started our stores, we were one of the only Australian buyers that were travelling around discovering new brands but nowadays you hear so many Australian accents when we do our buying trips.

How much have things changed in the Australian retail space since you began back in 2002, and what has surprised you about this?
I think the biggest change has been the information that customers have access to these days compared to when we first started. They sometimes know more than we do so things come and go pretty quickly. I still remember when we first started, it took us a long time to educate our customers about the brands that we carried but nowadays most customers find out a brand before they set foot in our stores.

When we started our stores, we were one of the only Australian buyers that were travelling around discovering new brands but nowadays you hear so many Australian accents when we do our buying trips.

 

Original Incu Galeries Store – 2002

Are there any collaborations/projects that stand out as being extra special over the years?
Collaborating with any partner has always been very special to us. We learn so much from each and every one of them. The one that comes to mind is when we partnered with Opening Ceremony and opened a small pop-up store for them. They weren’t that big at the time but they had this cult following and it was nice to do something a little different with them.


First Melbourne Store – Flinders Lane

What’s one brand each that Incu now stock which you never thought we would?
I would say that Dries Van Noten is a brand that we would not have thought we would stock but we’re so happy because we’re both big fans of the brand. I still remember going into their store in Hong Kong every time we visited and loving the detail and quality of all their garments. It now feels so natural that we would have the brand as part of our portfolio of brands.

It’s fair to say that Incu’s staff are the lifeblood of the company… how would describe the staff at Incu?
The staff make up so much of what Incu is about and we would not be where we are today without all their hard work and passion. When we first started Incu, we made sure that the staff felt empowered and they could contribute to our business. Our staff have always been so dedicated to Incu and I think it really shines through during the last six months where COVID has really hit them really hard. It has been so inspirational seeing how they have responded and I think we have all become a lot closer during these unfortunate circumstances.

You’ve both spent a lot of time and energy on keeping the Incu culture alive and well... how would you best describe the Incu culture?
I would say our culture has always been inclusive and humble. We don’t pretend that we know everything and have always focused on continuously learning from our experiences. Hopefully that gets passed onto our in-store and digital service to our customers.

We have known the Messina guys for many years and always loved catching up with them. They are just a great bunch of guys and we love what they have created with the brand and their passion for their craft. It is really infectious and when it came down to thinking of who we wanted to work with for the birthday, we naturally thought of those guys.
Original Incu Paddington Store – 2004

Is there anybody you would like to thank for their support over the past 18 years?
There are so many people to thank but I would say our staff and customers throughout the time we’ve been operating. I hope they all have had great experiences during their interactions with us. We would also like to thank our family who has always supported us even though we didn’t know what we were doing in the beginning and all our partners that we have collaborated with that have contributed to our success.

 

Incu expanded Galeries Store – 2007

Incu expanded Galeries Store - 2007

What’s next for Incu?
We’re just about to open a new concept space in The Galeries which we’re extremely excited about because it is our flagship store. There are some really exciting collections coming in and we’re looking to provide more reasons for our customers to come and visit us there. The men’s store is going to go downstairs in a new 330sqm space whilst the existing men’s store will be an extension to our current women’s store. There are also some other interesting projects coming up before the end of the year so there’s definitely a lot going on!

Explain to us your relationship with Messina and how this has formed over the years…
We have known the Messina guys for many years and always loved catching up with them. They are just a great bunch of guys and we love what they have created with the brand and their passion for their craft. It is really infectious and when it came down to thinking of who we wanted to work with for the birthday, we naturally thought of those guys.

Last one… when you both head to Messina after lunch, what’s the go-to order?
We’re both pretty boring but Brian usually goes for Chocolate Chip and I like the Tiramasu. In saying that, it’s always dependent on what's on the special board!!

WORDS BY PETER BAIN
IMAGES FROM THE BRIAN & VINCENT WU ARCHIVES
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