The Story of IQ

An Englishman and an Italian were drinking in a bar…

Inevitably, the conversation turned to football! Best friends Mike Williams and Cristiano Marzoli began to extol the virtues of Manchester United legend Paul Scholes. They agreed that Pelé, Zidane, Socrates and Xavi had already said it best when it came to the redheaded midfield maestro. The fateful words “Wouldn’t it be great to get those quotes on a T-shirt?” were then spoken and a new concept was born…

Inspired by fashion icons Phil Knight, Alexander McQueen and Malcolm McLaren, they toasted their fledgling venture. With 4.6bn football fans in the world, a best-selling brand of quote-based T-shirts was officially in the works!

Eager to get cracking, Mike put together a database of quotes – making informed choices that best celebrated ‘The Beautiful Game’. Music and film were soon added to the mix and the design possibilities grew endless.

Next, Mike’s lifelong friend – and highly talented graphic designer – Ant Wilcock came on board, with full artistic license to bring his own unique designs to market.

With the football-themed ‘Starting Eleven’ debut collection in production, Mike and Cristiano fielded potential business names – from which the enigmatic ‘IQ’ was chosen. For some, it refers to intellectual prowess; for others, it stands for ‘Inspirational Quote’. What is certain, however, is that the brand promotes ‘Freedom of Speech’ whilst celebrating the power of words.

With branding and marketing support from seasoned PR pros Michelle and Christian Ewen, Team IQ knew who they were and, more importantly, where they were going.

Next, they had to find a T-shirt printer who could offer the complete package, but Mike’s decision to use the world’s best cotton – Supima – complicated matters. Thankfully, the stars aligned… A state-of-the-art cotton spinning facility, English Fine Cottons (EFC) had been established in Manchester for the first time in 50 years. It was perfect: having been conceived by Mancunian visionaries, IQ’s handmade Supima cotton T-shirts would be born in the cradle of ‘Cottonopolis’.

EFC went above and beyond – agreeing to fully label every order at no extra cost. Mike’s instincts were right: EFC understood the level of quality control required by designer brands, and the partnership has since evolved into that of a close family.

The search for the right printer, who could print, store, pack and ship IQ’s T-shirts in bespoke tubes, proved more challenging. In keeping with IQ’s commitment to sustainability, the ink had to be vegan and everything had to be recyclable. Costs were mounting – adding to the price point of the T-shirt – but the team felt confident that consumers would be willing to pay more for an eco-friendly product.

To promote financial inclusivity, however, the team decided to source a second printer – one that could deliver more products at a cheaper price whilst still offering the perfect ‘garment to fulfillment’ service. Critically, IQ’s secondary partner had to demonstrate a commitment to environmentally friendly practices – maintaining the brand’s core business ethics. After two months, IQ found a company which could produce 100% organic cotton T-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts (in unisex, women’s and children’s styles), tote bags and bamboo prints.

IQ has since launched a new website – featuring a wider range of apparel. Inspired by business models such as Versace and Versace Versus, the same IQ designs are now available on either premium or organic cotton – offering vastly different price points suited to individual budgets.

With more unique and exciting designs in the works, and a presence on London’s Regent Street St James’ at the Next Big Thing store, there’s never been a better time to get smart about your streetwear and discover IQ!

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