The fashion industry is very competitive and it's only getting tougher. It's very common today to see one person put on multiple hats, market themselves under many titles, and manage several business obligations. Designers are developing a new work formula which consists of collaborating with different brands in order to further their reach and communicate their aesthetic and mission through signature detailing and designs. Michael Bastian is at the helm of his eponymous fashion label which lead to several collaborations with GANT, Randolph Engineering, Havianas, and even Uniqlo. With a CFDA Award and several nods under his belt, why would he focus on only his line? Thom Browne has more years in the design game than Bastian and has long since established his branding and aesthetic, one that shows in his collaboration lines with Brooks Brothers and Moncler. Riccardo Tisci worked with several lines before landing at Givenchy. His work caught the attention of Kanye West who asked Tisci to direct West and Jay Z's Watch the Throne tour. Since then, he began working on designing wardrobes for ballet shows (a dream of his). The most notable designer with several hats is Hedi Slimane. Slimane has been hard at work for over two decades and is as famous for his photography and editorial work with Vogue Japan, Dazed & Confused and VMAN as he is for his work with Saint Laurent and Dior. Johan Lindeberg is not too far behind him doubling as creative director and editorial director for his brand, BLK DNM.
With each project, designers shape their world, a world created by their interests and views of the world. With every collection, editorial, collaboration, and art direction we begin to understand what makes them tick. At this moment in the fashion industry, designers must do more to convey their message amidst the clutter and stay competitive against emerging brands.
Industry vet, John Moore of POP Studio (POP stands for Pencil on Paper) has to wear multiple hats for several clients. As creative director of the company, Moore oversees the strategies of many brands and retailers, a few clients being Quiksilver, Hudson Bay Company, Nordstrom and a few of the company's in-house fashion lines - Penny Stock, M. Nii, and Coast Wide.
POP Studio was co-founded by Moore alongside his girlfriend, Hannah Henderson, in 2008 at the start of the recession. "It was like four weeks before Lehman Brothers crashed," Moore explained. "I had a very ambitious retail project I was looking for a home for and with the economy going where it was, no one was going to give me ten million bucks, but they all had a line they wanted to launch or something they wanted to fix. They all asked me if I would come work with them so I put enough together and I figured we could create a studio, and with revenue coming in from the projects we could pay for our own brands, and that's what we're doing. M.Nii and Coast Wide were born out of that."
POP studio works with 10 clients and two brands that greatly capture Moore's essence. Moore is an avid surfer with a zen-like aura. He touts himself as a total workaholic, always thinking and always designing. You would never guess that with Moore calm demeanor and fun attitude. A father of two living in Venice, Moore likes to catch a good wave when he's at home and occasionally on business trips. Moore joked, "I think in high school is when I really started going crazy trying to surf everyday and getting in trouble for missing school, but I've been surfing my whole life." Moore has been around the world surfing with his favorites being in San Sebastián in Spain, Chiba in Japan, Hawaii, and Australia. As a lover of surfing and vintage apparel, Moore finds his work with his brand M. Nii very easy.
Moore shared, "What's interesting about M. Nii and Coast Wide is that no one approached us. Those are things we created. So we own those, those are in house, out of our own intentions. We love the client work, we work with some amazing brands, but when you have something that's your own no one else is going to tell you how to do it that's the best part about it."
M. Nii goes back to a time before surf culture. Menuro Nii opened up a tailor shop in Hawaii in 1948 where he made band uniforms for local schools. Before Nii made trunks, surf pioneers were cutting the chinos and surfing in them. The bulletproof twill cotton fabric of the chinos and details like trims and tapes weighed down the surfer, but it never stopped them for grabbing their boards and hitting the water. Moore's genuine interest in the history of surf culture proves that this relationship is meant to be.
"Randy Hild is a partner with us in M. Nii, and he's a crazy collector of all things surf, so he and I had been talking about doing a collection that referenced an era before there was a surf industry," Moore explained. "We were looking at all sorts of vintage inspiration, and one day he came in with a pair of the vintage, original M.Nii Makaha shorts that he had come across. They were from the M. Nii tailor shop that was founded in 1948. We believe the shop was shut down in 1968, so the shorts had to come from that era at some point, and they had the original label in it. The art just blew me away! So when we were doing our research and found out the whole story started in this little tailor shop it just seemed like a really romantic idea to build a collection around."
Moore doesn't see M. Nii as a surf brand however. He understands that Nii began his business focusing on uniforms and wants to stay true to that. "The cool thing though is that we have an invoice book from the shop, and JFK bought a pair of M.Nii's, as well as John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Peter Lawford, Jim Arness, who was the star of Gunsmoke one of the most popular shows at the time. We know Elvis went in there, it was all about these maxing men, these luminaries of that era just wanting to have this badge of honor. If you had a pair of M. Nii's even if you weren't a surfer, you felt like you just conquered those waves. So were trying to bring that spirit forward today. We all need swim trunks. We're all going to go into the water at some point. The guy who has a great sense of style might wear a suit during the day, but M.nii is his trunk. He's not going to wear a big, baggy, print with a big logo on it."
M. Nii keeps things simple by design while its sister brand, Coast Wide, trends in a different direction. We asked Moore how he would describe the Coast Wide man, and he said simply, "Me." The Coast Wide name has been in existence since 1934, but its revival hit Capsule this season. "I'm a big vintage collector so over the years I've seen a few of these shirts. I've owned one and it actually at one point inspired something else I was working on. I think the Coast Wide man is someone who really appreciates great quality, great design and enjoys buying these clothes the way they would buy or collect their favorite watch. Coast Wide in my opinion is quite futuristic, so I think in terms of wearability and style there's a nice tension between the two [brands] and everything we do always has a great hand, beautiful wash, and a nice patina."
For M. Nii, Moore focuses on the brand's inception, it's core and essence. With Coast Wide, Moore takes a single focus and expands on it, making art instead fashion. "I would say there's no pressure at all on Coast Wide. M. Nii is a brand we certainly want to grow and grow it correctly. We don't want to dilute the concept or the focus of the collection to grow it, but we certainly want to grow it. Coast Wide is an art project, a beautiful little art project and I just want to keep it that way. The concept for Coast Wide was really born out of our love for all of our friends who are artists, so we thought that these chambray shirts would be a canvas to collaborate with them. So these two collections have been a collaboration with all of the artists internally, within POP Studio, but as we move forward we want to collaborate with friends on the outside. That's where we're headed, that's the future of the brand."
Both brands are one with John Moore. M. Nii exhibits Moore's love for surfing while Coast Wide is a showing of Moore's artistic expression. Both lines had trademarks that were abandoned waiting for the right person to revive it and take it to the next level. If there is any pressure on Moore, we wouldn't know where it would from. He is giving the world a piece of himself with M. Nii and Coast Wide. The trademarks found the perfect home with Moore who will keep the brand's essence and core message alive, because they fit his own view of the world. Every designer sets out to create a new world and need several outlets in order to achieve that, and Moore has found the perfect outlets in M. Nii and Coast Wide. He's sharing himself with the world, so we believed him when he said with his cool demeanor, "No pressure man, no pressure."
M. Nii and Coast Wide will be at Capsule Vegas next week.