Dan Wright Keeps Pace With The High Speed Marketing And Design Industry While Working Subtle Shifts Into His Personal Style
Jacket by Etro from Henry Singer. Shirt by Tom Ford from Harry Rosen. Pants by Dior from Barneys. Watch vintage Rolex. Glasses byMykita from Brass Monacle.
The artwork in the background by Mark Dicey from Paul Kuhn Fine Art.
Dan Wright has the kind of coy, calculating demeanor you might expect from one of the city’s top ad men. He’s the founder and president of WAX, the advertising and marketing agency behind campaigns including the Calgary Farmers’ Market’s creative fruit photography and the Calgary International Film Festival’s tearful posters promoting the best in movies.
Focused, driven and a little mysterious (when asked for his age, Wright replies “nice try” with a mischievous grin), the self-made advertising and design impresario is constantly looking for the next coup de grace. “While WAX is well regarded by our clients and peers and we have several national clients, we’d like to leverage our experience and talents on an even larger scale,” the sharply dressed Wright says.
Armed with a bachelor of commerce degree from the University of Calgary, Wright dove pretty quickly into the shark tank by starting his own business and marketing consulting service, which eventually became the model for his first boutique design firm.
While recognising the importance of his education, Wright credits hands-on experience for his business pedigree. “I learned about business by being in business. Being an entrepreneur has helped me understand the difficulties and challenges of bringing products and services to the market.”
He’s fierce about getting the job done. Wright knows his strengths and is not afraid to use them in an ever-shifting and sometimes fickle business world. “At WAX, I’m often used as a dispassionate business mind to assess campaign directions to provide insight and comments,” he says. “It helps make the work stronger, and delivers better results.”
Now seven years later and more than 30 employees strong, Wright is certain he has laid the groundwork at WAX to take on the world.
“I imagine the next 10 years will be the best years as the company hits its stride,” he says. “After all, imagination is more powerful than logic.”
Suit by Canali and shirt by Eton both from Henry Singer. Pocket square by Etro. Belt by Dolce & Gabbana from Holt Renfrew. Shoes by Bettanin & Venturi from Barneys. Socks by Paul Smith from Holt Renfrew.
Has what you’re doing with WAX always been part of your plan?
Well, I’ve always had a strong interest in marketing. If it wasn’t WAX it would have been some other related business. To be honest, I’m happy here [in Calgary], and I’d like to see this company perform at international levels, creatively and strategically.
How has the advertising and marketing landscape shifted in the last 10 years, and what do you think the “wave of the future” is?
With social media tools, branding is no longer a monologue — it’s become a dialogue. You no longer “tell” people about your product, now you talk to them about it.
So what’s the best part of your job?
Working in the advertising and design industry is pretty fun to start with —so many business problems to solve and so many ways to a solution. However, I have to say that the best part of the job is seeing the results companies achieve using our creative solutions. While we’ve earned a lot of awards, speaking to a client who’s pleased about their results is the best part for me.
Can you see yourself doing anything else?
I can. I can see extending the company’s capabilities into new areas. Emerging media will drive this change. My personal interest and experience in fashion and design are used in the current company, but this could be a much larger area for us to grow into.
Jacket by Dolce & Gabbana from Neiman Marcus. Shirt by Eton fromHenry Singer. Pocket square by Tom Ford. Jeans by Lee. Socks byPaul Smith from Holt Renfrew. Glasses by Dita from Brass Monocle. The artwork in background by Ron Moppett from TrépanierBaer Gallery.
Your office reflects a love of art. Are you a collector?
I have a great art collection now.
How do you buy art?
It talks to me right away. I like bold colours, and I like paintings. I go to galleries and auctions. I shop at art auctions because I don’t necessarily want to see a whole series by an artist. I want to see one work by an artist. Sometimes if you see an entire series, it diminishes all of them. If they stand alone, sometimes they look more interesting.
How would you describe your own sense of style?
Classic with a twist. And I definitely like to wear suits.
Do you shop with consciousness and intent?
I shop a couple times a season in Calgary and also when I’m travelling. I usually pick up my core pieces then. It’s definitely seasonal. At [Henry] Singer I try and add my own look to the season’s trend. And I trust Jordan [Singer]. He’s always a season ahead and makes it easy to choose.
What do you take your style inspiration from?
I don’t read magazines for fashion, because I find it’s too late by the time I see it in a magazine to incorporate the look. I find I’m inspired more from art and what’s on the street. I look at a piece of art somewhere and see the colours they’re mixing, and I think “that’s pretty cool. How can I use that?”
What’s the number one thing that you look for when shopping for clothes?
The way it fits. I like very tailored clothes.
Do you ever get anything custom-made?
I don’t have the patience. [Laughs]
Has there ever been a piece that’s been worth the investment?
I think everything I buy is worth the investment, or I wouldn’t buy it. I’m a pretty sound shopper.
So does that mean you like to hold to on things?
I try, but I also do a closet purge seasonally.
Are there looks you are particularly partial to right now?
Well, I really like checked shirts, that’s all I’ve been wearing lately. But how many checkered shirts does one guy really need?
Is there a look you can’t see ever working for you?
I think people can wear most looks as long as they’re comfortable with it. I see the young kids in high tops and tight jeans … I mean it’s not for me, but I can appreciate that look. You should wear what you’re comfortable in. That’s what is most important because that’s the way it’s going to read, right? For example, don’t get dressed up if you’re not comfortable getting dressed up. Being comfortable in what you’re wearing is going to make a better impression because it translates easier.
Is there an era you’re nostalgic for?
I like it when people make a statement and I think there is a group of people returning to that. But really, just take pride in how you look.
Do you ever dress casually, or are suits as casual as you get?
When I do dress casually, it’s more like jeans and shiny shoes and a blazer or sweater.
Do you like a lot of colour in your wardrobe?
As accents, but not as a base.
What’s been your most interesting find abroad?
I was in Italy six or seven years ago and saw this brown suede jacket with fringe on it. When I went back last year and saw it again, I bought it, but I haven’t worn it yet. I’m not sure when I am going to wear this suede jacket with big long fringes. I don’t want to wear it during Stampede because that’s too obvious. But I was just in Rio and all the women had handbags with really long fringes on them. So I thought, ah, fringes are coming back. That’s an example of me buying something that I know I like. Maybe it’s not quite right yet, but could be down the line.
Do you like to accessorize?
I’m really into pocket squares. Everyone makes fun of me, or buys me pocket squares. But I usually take them back and have to get them in a different colour. I bought a pocket square in Florence of the Statue of David. It is kind of crazy because you don’t really know what it is until you unfold it.
Would you call yourself picky?
I would call myself particular. I know what I’m comfortable in, and what I like.
What advice would you give to a guy who’s trying to be more fashion-forward?
Just buy things that you like. Or start out with a small flourish like a pocket square.
Published Aug 1st, 2011
Michaelle LeManne, photography by Gerard Yunker