When thousands of doors slammed shut during lockdown, digital gateways opened up instead. Gym classes, fresh pints, and haircuts were all temporarily banned whilst the country sheltered from a global pandemic, meaning that health, hospitality, and headwear all moved online instead.
Online exercise memberships and craft beer box subscriptions skyrocketed in 2020, whilst dozens of other new brands popped up to fill the void in retail – providing hats and caps to help people hide their dodgy lockdown dos.
One of them was HEX MCR.
But once the barbers and hairdressers did finally reopen, a funny thing happened. Nobody wanted to take their HEX hats off.
Luke Powell and Andy Gibson launched HEX as a way to stay busy when their own work in the construction industry dried up. But they actually ended up creating something that’s stood the test of time.
HEX has now become one of Manchester’s most familiar and fastest-growing fashion labels – with the headwear and clothing being paraded by footballers and reality TV stars, including the likes of Aaron Wan Bissaka, Danny Simpson, Georgia Steel, Charlie Frederick and Jordan Defay.
Next year, company sales are tipped to top £1 million.
Whilst caps and heats remain the brand’s ‘bread and butter’, the company has continued to expand into a diverse unisex range of premium streetwear – all of which blends style with a casual feel.
Co-founder Luke thinks that coming from such a different background may be part of the reason why the fashion line has proven such a success.
“Our vision is different, we’re not from the style industry,” he explains.
“Because our background is construction, we’re looking in with a different set of eyes. We’re not trying to re-engineer how the industry works or anything. We’re just in a different lane – taking a refreshing approach.
“We’ve been taking business skills from another industry and transferring them across.”
From the get-go, HEX has also strived to stay clear of fast fashion – ensuring all of the products are crafted ethically to quality standards. This careful philosophy seems to be stitched into the brand’s makeup, with the company committed to scaling slowly and making sure it takes the right steps at the right times.
“We’re not in profit mode – we’re not trying to rush anything,” Luke emphasises.
“We want to do it properly – running out a full campaign and getting models that suit our style.”
Despite its unwavering commitment to standards, HEX has shown a fluidity since launching in November 2020 – tweaking its product offering whenever it feels suitable to do so.
A special product range was launched for the Euros, for example, and new items are introduced according to demand.
Now, the next step is determining where HEX sits in terms of wider culture. And Luke thinks he knows where that place is.
Plans are already underway to turn HEX into the clothing line of Manchester’s underground music scene – including collaborations with up-and-coming local artists.
The brand already has that urban feel to it, and after seeing a number of celebrities donning HEX gear, Luke says the brand is now working on striking agreements with those in the creative industry.
“Manchester has got this historic music scene, and we’ve been having some exciting conversations with some big people in that world,” he explains.
In time, Luke says he wants the brand to go worldwide in a similar way to Madchester – pushing the HEX logo across continents.
But one thing about the brand that will remain intact is the focus on providing premium products.
Everything about HEX screams quality – from the design and fabrics used to the packaging in which the clothing arrives.
“We’ve always wanted to create this great user experience,” Luke says.
“It’s not just about the product, but the packaging you get when you open the parcel.
“I think part of the power is in the reveal as well as the product. We get a lot of people sending our stuff out as presents because of that – it just looks good.
“There are no shipping costs for our customers, either. We want the user experience to be premium as well as the clothes.
“That will stay. We don’t want to sacrifice the user experience.”
What started out as a “pandemic project” now has projected seven-figure sales in 2022.
From absolutely nowhere, HEX is all set to become a seriously big player in the fashion market over the next few months.
The name is already splashed across the media and press pages. But as Luke testifies, this is only the beginning.
“Going worldwide is definitely our aim,” he clarifies.
“That’s where we want to take it. There’s lots of exciting things coming.”
In addition to that, 50 fashion students from Manchester Metropolitan University were invited to work backstage at the Chanel show, dressing models and supporting rehearsals.
Council Leader Cllr Bev Craig said: “The Chanel event is one of the highlights in the global fashion calendar and the choice of Manchester as the host city received international acclaim.
“But for us it was never about the glitz and glamour – events such as this help cement Manchester’s reputation on a global stage and come with both direct benefits, through the money spent within our economy while they are here but also indirect benefits by showcasing the city and helping to capture investment, jobs, visitors and attention, all of which open up opportunities for Manchester residents and communities.”
Victoria Braddock, Managing Director of Marketing Manchester, said: “The scale of the impact of the Chanel Métiers d’art show in Manchester will be felt for years to come.
“The global media coverage of the event has put a spotlight on Manchester and its rich heritage in textiles and home of iconic music, which will drive conversations about the city and bring new visitors.
“The £8m economic impact is a welcome boost across accommodation, restaurants, and attractions, and demonstrates the importance of global events in the city.”
Sarah Boyd, managing director of Sephora UK, said: “We are extremely excited to bring Sephora to Manchester, one of the most vibrant cities for beauty in the UK.
“Expanding our presence beyond London is something that consumers have been screaming out for, and we are listening hard to them when deciding where to go next.
“The Trafford Centre, known for its iconic atmosphere and diverse retail offering, is the perfect location for our third store.”
Russell Loveland, managing director at Pradera Lateral – Trafford Centre’s Asset Managers, said: “This iconic beauty giant already has a cult following, and our own social media has been blowing up with enquiries from excited customers eager for Sephora to open.
“We are very proud Sephora chose the Trafford Centre for its next location, which will be its first store in the North of England, and know it will be a fantastic success and a great addition to our strong international brand lineup.”
One person commented on Sephora’s Instagram post: “This is the best news I’ve heard all year!”
Another said: “OMG ITS HAPPENING, STAY CALM”
And someone wrote on Trafford Centre’s post: “Omg omg can’t wait.”