Revolutionizing Retail: Jamie Schisler’s Insights on the Creative and Innovative Path of UpWest
Jamie Schisler, UpWest’s Chief Comfort Officer, shares his insights on how creativity has been a driving force behind innovation in the retail industry.
Creativity and innovation are vital in a world where retail is a fiercely competitive landscape. These qualities are essential for establishing a brand and ensuring its continued relevance and success. Jamie Schisler, the Chief Comfort Officer of UpWest, understands this better than most. In an exclusive interview with Entrepreneur Tribune, Jamie Schisler shares his insights on how creativity has driven groundbreaking innovation in the retail industry.
UpWest is a purpose-driven lifestyle brand founded in 2019 with a singular mission— to provide comfort for people and the planet. Guided by the philosophy of “Comfort for good; progress over perfection,” UpWest is committed to creating quality apparel that prioritizes sustainability and mental health awareness. The brand seamlessly blends innovative design with eco-friendly materials, offering a mindful fashion experience that goes beyond clothing. As part of its commitment to progress, UpWest continually strives to use more sustainable fabrics, actively supports charitable causes, and exclusively partners with “Brands We Believe In” for non-apparel items. UpWest represents more than just a brand; it embodies a movement toward a more comfortable and purposeful world.
When it comes to comfort, UpWest gets creative with its approach. “Comfort is at the heart of everything we do at UpWest,” begins Schisler when asked about his journey in the world of retail innovation.
“For example, when we launched the brand, our creative team had the vision to build an UpWest cabin that we could take across the country. It was awesome because beyond serving as a pop-up store, it was a 400-square-foot cabin with porch swings and a guided meditation that visitors could experience once they came inside. It was extremely creative, interactive, and so cool to see come to life.”
The Role of Creativity in Retail Success
Schisler emphasizes how important creativity is in a crowded retail market as brands compete for attention and share. He adds, “I believe creativity, when focused on the right things and executed in the right ways, is vastly important when introducing a brand to new consumers.”
“There are a few ways I encourage creativity within our team,” says Schisler. “One is taking a solution-oriented approach to product design. We strive for our products to not just be clothes but provide some type of practical solution to the busy lives of our customers.” He also encourages a fearless approach to innovation, saying, “Secondly, just adopting a ‘fall forward’ attitude. Mistakes are inevitable; we just have to make sure that the ones we make are new ones.”
Schisler’s personal journey has also influenced his approach to creativity and innovation at UpWest. He explains, “I always grew up with anxiety and, to this day, still battle with it. And in just talking to our team and our customers, I am not alone. So, I use that personal experience as an opportunity to introduce creative options to help others via our clothes and our content.”
Innovative Initiatives with Social Impact
UpWest also uses product initiatives that combine creativity with social and environmental responsibility.
“When we first launched the brand, we made too much of a specific sweater style,” says Schisler. “We got creative and scrappy with a company called Re-Circled, and they actually took all of the unsold inventory and converted it into three new products: blankets, mittens, and dog sweaters. We ended up donating the mittens to people experiencing homelessness to help during the cold winter months. That was the perfect triangulation of manufacturing, creativity, and social impact.”
When asked about the strategies employed to keep UpWest’s products innovative and relevant, Schisler explains that it’s not so much about strategy as being in a place of curiosity, adding, “It’s about asking what is our ‘why’ and ensuring that our offerings have relevance in the lives of our target consumers.”
He highlights UpWest’s commitment to sustainability and infusing creativity into sustainable practices, too. Schisler says, “We said from the beginning our journey in making clothes more mindfully is one of progress, not perfection.”
“I love the work we did with Re-Circled, where we took excess inventory and converted it into new products. I am also extremely proud that each of our stores operates a garment take-back program with the intent of keeping clothes out of landfills. We will take back any piece of clothing and ensure it either gets re-purposed into new fabric or gets donated to communities of need.”
The Evolution of Comfort in Retail
Schisler reflects, “Comfort used to simply mean soft. Soft and great mobility are merely table stakes at this point. Consumers want comfort from the product but also want to have comfort in the product.”
He also highlights, “Our partnership with Aura Health is a perfect example of that, where we provide access via a QR code printed on the interior label of the garment to allow customers access to guided meditations.”
Schisler acknowledges there are some challenges of integrating creativity and innovation into a traditionally structured industry like retail.
“Sometimes, cost can be a barrier when trying to do something that hasn’t been done before,” he says. “That has held us back on a few things because, as cool as they were, we had to consider the price our customers would ultimately pay for it. Testing is also important to ensure you introduce things at the right size and pace.”
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs and Creative Professionals
Entrepreneurship is not just about creating a product or a service; it’s about crafting a mindset, and UpWest is an example of where innovation and creativity intersect.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, Schisler offers this advice, “Understand your why, and don’t try to do it all. Sometimes, the biggest waves start as the smallest ripple. But you have to know the why. Often, entrepreneurs want to focus on the what and the how, but the best ideas and brands clearly understand why they exist. That ultimately drives their what and how.”
The Future of Retail and UpWest’s Role
Schisler envisions the future of retail evolving in three significant ways. “One is speed, driven by technology. The second is re-purposing, driven by the circular processes established in our supply chains. The third is apparel brands that appeal to more than just the sense of sight and touch,” he says. He sees UpWest continuing to push the boundaries of comfort and innovation by creating clothes with context, focusing on quality, versatility, and content.
For more information about UpWest, visit upwest.com.