Established in 2018, ICON. AMSTERDAM is all about standing out from the crowd and staying unique. In just a few years, the Amsterdam-based label is now part of the Dutch capital’s burgeoning streetwear scene and a leading online destination for the latest menswear trousers. FashionUnited recently interviewed Samuel Onuha, the founder of ICON. AMSTERDAM, to find out how he revels in ‘the journey’, learns by taking risks and continues to stay true to himself by doing things other brands are not doing. Onuha’s entrepreneurial spirit and brand embodies exactly why his customers from all over the world are drawn to ICON. AMSTERDAM.
How did you start the brand?
Since a young age, I’ve always been interested in business for the sake of making a living. When I founded ICON. AMSTERDAM though, that was when I began to think long term. It all started with a jacket that I wanted to wear myself, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Shortly after, I noticed a trend amongst the bodybuilding and fitness community in the UK for pants with a stretchier material and tighter fit. However, this type of pants didn’t exist at all in the Netherlands and I found my friends and I ordering them from the UK. That’s when I really thought, I can start something like this myself. It was crazy, from the beginning with those pants everything skyrocketed, within a six month period we were global. Now we’ve got all types of pants from trousers, jeans, track pants to shorts.
Why did you decide on the name ICON. AMSTERDAM?
I knew I had to put Amsterdam in the name because even though the Netherlands is such a small country, everyone everywhere knows this capital and loves it. The city itself is modern and there’s people from all over the world which represents my brand as well. We have the most diverse clientele from Europe, to the US and even as far as Japan. Maybe it’s because in countries like Japan, they love things that are unique and different. So the message of my brand “stand out from the crowd” really connects with them even from afar.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from running your own business?
We have so many returning customers and in this current state, I’m so grateful for that. Seeing their reactions and hearing what they have to say about the new collection means a lot to me. It has been an amazing journey because my team and I had to learn every step of the way to get to the level we are at now.
Today, we ship to the US within 2 business days and customers leave reviews saying that we deliver faster than when they place an order from within the States. In the Netherlands and Belgium, delivery is the next day. I think what I’ve learned from running a business is that it will always come back to what you have to offer to your customers (the products, service). Everything you do should be built around that.
Will you expand to other product lines and sell at retailers?
A lot of people ask me why I don’t add a men’s topwear line. For me, I always look back and see why it worked out. A decision I’ve always made is to keep our products exclusive which is really important for the brand in my opinion. I’ve also had hundreds of retailers ask if they can carry ICON. AMSTERDAM in their stores, but I feel that if my customers can find my product everywhere, it may lose its value.
I want people to think when they’re looking for men’s pants that they will come directly to ICON. AMSTERDAM. Still, there are a few retailers such as de Bijenkorf, Harrods and Farfetch that I’d be glad to work with. I think why things have worked out so well for the label is because we have the type of product you can’t find elsewhere for the modern man.
Was your business affected by the pandemic and how?
I really wanted to launch the new collection during Black Friday 2020, but because of the pandemic there were delays. Our best seller used to be the denim jeans, but as expected lounge and home wear started to take off. We had to pivot quickly and took a really big risk by placing a huge order for the new collection without being able to test it first. Fortunately, hands down, this has been the best selling collection we’ve launched so far.
How has ICON. AMSTERDAM digitised?
When we started we processed each order manually. It’s unbelievable to see how today our orders are fully automated when they arrive at the warehouse. When 70 percent of your business operates online, I feel that it is really important that you are moving together with where the world is going and even better if you can be one step ahead. If I see that there is something we should invest in digitally, I will just try it even if we make mistakes. We started digitally and will continue to adapt as we keep expanding. A lot of brands are scared to try new things, but I think that’s exactly what has brought us this far. Taking risks is all part of the process.
We’re going to keep doing things other brands are not doing. Taking risks is all part of the process.
Rico Verhoeven, the Heavyweight World Champion of Kickboxing, was seen wearing ICON. AMSTERDAM. How did that happen?
For me it was never about famous people wearing ICON. AMSTERDAM, but since the beginning we received a lot of attention from celebrities and influencers contacting us wanting to wear our clothes. One day, Rico Verhoeven started commenting on the pictures on our social media and we just started talking. To see him wearing ICON. AMSTERDAM, it really shows where we began (fitness, bodybuilding) and that he connected with the brand. My mom saw him on TV wearing our clothes and called me. At that moment, it really confirmed to me that we have something big.
What do you see next for ICON. AMSTERDAM?
We’re going to keep adapting to the digital world, continuing to expand the business. Every calculated risk we’ve taken has shown our confidence in the brand. Currently, we’re also working on the summer collection and all I can say is that it will be even more fresh. The number one thing that has brought us this far is to keep doing things other brands are not doing. All of this is just the start of what ICON. AMSTERDAM can do!
Photos: courtesy of ICON. AMSTERDAM