Mac Bishop was fated to work in wool.
That's what happens when you're born into the Pendleton Woolen Mills family—he's the son of chairman Mort Bishop. Five years ago, the 29-year-old struck out on his own with the clothing line Wool & Prince, with which he set out to prove the titular fabric wasn't just for outdoor adventurers. Now, with spinoff brand Wool&, Bishop is looking to do the same with womenswear.
WW talked to Bishop about launching his brand, designing his first dress, and that time he wore the same shirt for 100 days straight.
WW: What was the origin of your initial brand, Wool & Prince?
Mac Bishop: I graduated in 2011 from Cornell and moved to New York City and was working a marketing job for a company called Unilever, in a big kind of corporate office setting. The standard corporate outfit was kind of a cotton Brooks Brothers non-iron shirt. I was a pretty frugal, being a recent college grad, and I was tired of the dry cleaning bill. So I started wearing a vintage Pendleton shirt into work. It wasn't quite the right pattern for work, but at that point I didn't really love that job and didn't really care what people thought about what I was wearing. But then I quickly realized I liked the functionality of this whole shirt, and that it was awesome for the business-casual customer. There wasn't a whole lot of innovation and storytelling and marketing in the wool-shirt category. So that was the original kind of a hypothesis: Wool shirts are super-functional; how do we get people to adopt them as something to replace their standard cotton shirts for work?
The company caught some attention when you pulled this stunt of wearing the same wool shirt for 100 days. What was the idea behind that?
It kind of goes back to what outdoorsmen, and outdoors women, were saying about merino wool and how they're using it. There are a couple larger wool companies that market wool as a great natural fiber for outdoor activity because it's odor-resistant, it's flame-resistant, it's breathable. I was seeing that excitement around those products and thinking to myself like, "Why can't we wear this amazingly functional fiber every day of the week and not look like we're going camping or hiking?"
Is the mission statement behind the women's brand different from the men's brand?
The mission of Wool& is to equip women with dresses that are versatile and functional to the point where they don't need a closet full of clothing. We're very big on the idea of less is more. We have a tendency to over-consume in this country, and I really liked the idea that merino wool is a natural material—something that lasts a long time, that's water-resistant and wrinkle-resistant, and that you can kind of cut back on consumption with a limited wardrobe of things you really love.
Tell me about the development of the Rowena Swing Dress.
Our designer is very tuned in with what's going on in the womenswear space, and she really comes at it from, "What's the most functional, versatile design that we can make?" We really liked this swing dress, because we felt it matched the aesthetic we were looking for—you can dress it up, you can dress it down, you can wear it year-round. Really what sets us apart is the material. It's a merino-nylon blend, and there are no other companies using this specific type of yarn that we're using. Wool can sometimes be a little delicate and finicky as a knit, so the nylon just really reinforces it and gives it that durability we're looking for.
So theoretically, could somebody wear this dress for 100 days straight?
We've been kicking around the office of, not doing the 100-day challenge, but more like a monthlong kind of thing. But if you know anybody who wants to wear that dress for 100 days in a row, we will gladly give them a dress.
BUY: Wool&'s Rowena Swing Dress is available at wooland.com. $128.