It’s hard to walk past an Incu store without going in. From the outside, the window displays catch our attention and stand out as that little bit different. Inside, the shopping environment is just so: the understated music, the flattering lighting, the warm welcome from staff who give you time and space to browse. As we move around we mentally make room in our lives for a few choice items, which sit next to each other in the store like they were made to be there.
We love Incu for many reasons. Not least because it’s a local success story driven by two of the most straight-up decent guys you’ll meet. Twin brothers Brian and Vincent Wu launched Incu in 2002 with vision, conviction and a little self-confessed naivety. Unfulfilled by their jobs in IT and inspired by the impressive retail experiences of Hong Kong and a childhood spent trailing around shops with their mother (subconsciously absorbing everything), they saw what was missing in Australian retail, and imagined a store. Now, they have eight.
And those stores – while undeniably clothing-focussed – are different from other fashion offerings in Sydney and Melbourne. We may love Comme des Garçons, Acne Studios or Adidas, but we know there’s more to life and so do the people behind Incu. “When we were first working out what sort of store we wanted, the customers we pictured weren’t necessarily obsessed with fashion,” says Brian. “They weren’t obsessing over catwalks and the latest trends; they were everyday guys like us, who obviously had an interest in fashion but had other interests, too.”
Incu now represents around 100 carefully chosen local and international brands that make everything from jeans to jewellery, sunnies to socks, grooming products to greeting cards. Here, they’re concisely curated and aligned in the space where progressive and accessible meet.
We love shopping at Incu because it’s a low-pressure environment. For Brian and Vincent, that’s an important distinction from other higher-end stores. “We wanted to create a store that people like us could go to, where you didn’t feel that pressure of having to buy something or having to look a certain way,” says Brian.
It’s in the same, low-key spirit that Incu creates its own line of clothing, Weathered, designed to be “an essentials wardrobe”. “It’s not supposed to be really loud,” says Brian. “We designed it to be the brand that’s in the background, but that you learn to love and keep going back to.”
Another part of Incu’s appeal is almost invisible until we stop to notice: the thoughtful design by Akin Creative, who’s hand guides every store. The curved shelving, the neutral tones, the negative space are all qualities we’ve come to subconsciously recognise as an Incu store. “We’re trying to showcase these brands that we find in the best possible way,” says Vincent. “A good comparison would be to a gallery. It’s there to present the work that’s inside: whether it’s making sure the ambience is right, or the lighting perfect. It’s the same with clothing.”
That’s not to say that Incu’s own personality doesn’t shine. While other retail stores are being increasingly influenced by overseas design, the twins say they saw an opportunity to create something distinctly Australian instead. That doesn’t have to mean koalas everywhere, Brian grins. Rather, the stores reflect our country’s weather, openness and friendliness.
Besides the tangible store experience, these more abstract concepts add to our admiration. Incu seems less like a standard retail space, and more like a community of like-minded people who are creatively inclined and curious, classic with an unorthodox twist. Whether that’s communicated through an artist or music collaboration, a cinema event or the thoughtfully produced free magazine, Incu EDITION, it all serves to make us feel like Incu gets us.
Which in turn, keeps us coming back. When Incu began, Brian says, brand loyalty was traditionally created through discounts and reward schemes. “But it’s so superficial, and I think the younger generation can see straight through any kind of marketing gimmick.”
For us, Incu’s sincerity is part of its appeal. “I think the whole thing is a reflection of our personalities,” Vincent says. They also credit the individual tastes and talents of the entire company, and it’s clear there’s a great work culture. “We already had all our arguments when we were 12!” laughs Brian. “We do love working together and that’s pretty sad, but it’s true.”
Great concept, genuine people, well executed and always evolving: that’s why we love Incu.