The first batch of designers who went through the 12-month Mr Porter Futures global designer mentorship program in partnership with Swedish online financial services provider Klarna revealed their collections on Wednesday.
After being selected in September 2021 from more than 1,000 applicants by a panel of industry experts, Saif Ud Deen, Messrs Ryan Edmonds and Julian Canda of Miles Leon, and Kat Tua of Manaaki were given the opportunity to build their own brand and deliver a collection for Mr Porter for two seasons.
Klarna donated 10,000 pounds to each brand to help establish and grow their businesses and they will get 50 percent of the net profits generated from the sales of their collections on Mr Porter for a year.
Sam Kershaw, buying director at Mr Porter, said the program was borne from discussions in the business regarding “how we could support diversity and inclusivity at a grassroots level.”
“We are incredibly privileged to have selected three brands that are unique and should appeal to the modern man. The immense amount of hard work, dedication and effort to realize the collections is a true testament to the teams at Mr Porter and external industry mentors who devised an in-depth, practical course in fashion design and manufacture,” he said.
Manaaki’s Mr Porter debut features 27 pieces with prices stretching from $95 to $935.
Tua said the collection is tied to her Maori heritage. The New Zealand native has a decade’s worth of experience working as a product developer and designer for various fashion retailers. She quit her job at the end of 2020 to pursue a career as a solo designer.
She referenced the art, storytelling and practices from her culture through print design. The printed camp collar shirts, for example, feature art depicting stories from Maori myths and legends, while the knitwear depicts traditional weaving patterns.
“But my overarching theme for my spring 2023 collection ‘Past, Present, Future’ is inspired by social movements in New Zealand in the 1970s, and Bob Marley’s visit to New Zealand in 1979, a concert that unified many cultures through music,” she added.
The designer said she felt “much more confident about having my own brand” after the mentorship.
“I believe in my design ability a lot more and have a much clearer path on how to proceed forward in this industry. My plans going forward are to continue to make collections and create a base in New Zealand, try to get some manufacturing brought back home, and continue to grow Manaaki progressively as the years go on,” she said.
For Ud Deen, a recent fashion design graduate from the University of Salford, his 12-piece collection, retailing between $95 to $1,800, is “a culmination of my own experiences as a third-generation Pakistani Muslim, born and raised in Manchester. With that in mind, this collection explores how faith and fashion intertwine with the urban environment both as an expression of individuality and belonging at the same time.”
The collection also reflects his love for soccer. “Growing up, I loved playing it. I’d go straight from the mosque to play in the park. I’d still be wearing my long religious shirtdress and I’d have to tuck it into my trousers to play. To combat this, I’ve created a long shirt thobe with zips at the waist so the bottom half can be removed when no longer required and packed into a hidden pocket in the yoke,” he said.
Ud Deen added that the mentorship program has helped him further develop his abilities in product development and problem-solving.
“It’s helped me in my approach to design, making it more considered for an international market, something I wasn’t thinking about coming straight out of university. It’s also helped in my ability to make difficult decisions, such as having to change fabrics and trims in a garment at the last minute so that it can achieve a better margin, but in a way that doesn’t compromise on the original idea/design too much,” he said, adding that he will continue to explore contemporary fashion through the lenses of faith, culture and street style.
Chosen for their “attention to detail, skillful application of classic tailoring technique and the commercial potential of their designs,” Edmonds and Canda, based in Portland, Oregon, said their brand Miles Leon’s 15-piece collection for Mr Porter, with prices ranging from $275 to $1,000, features “functional menswear staples that are intended for walking, working and living in the garden.” It is made with natural materials from Italy and the U.K.
“The garden is a metaphor for our internal selves, what we cultivate and practice. We have a quote on the wall of our studio that says, ‘The wise gardener waters the roots.’ A reminder to ask the question ‘What is it that we are watering?’ and ‘What are we giving our time and intention to in the cultivation of ourselves?’ An invitation toward understanding the roots of who we are,” the duo said.
They mentioned that working with the design team at Mr. P, Mr Porter’s in-house label, and receiving workshops in brand, marketing, product range, cash flow, and intellectual property, as part of the mentorship, gave them valuable information to put toward building the foundations of the brand.
The duo said the immediate step after the launch is to get back to doing internal development.
“As both of our time is currently shared with our other jobs, we are cultivating plans to do the brand full-time. For now, we continue to nurture our relationships with mills and factories while looking to build new ones. Developing and expanding our community slowly and in an organic manner is our interest. As is keeping collections relatively small, making sure to not overproduce,” they said.
“Currently we are in the process of sampling and fitting our second collection for spring ’23, which is set to launch on Mr Porter next April. Seeds for our third collection are now being sown. We’ll look to take it to market next year and it will be our first season independent from the mentorship program,” the duo added.