4 Insider Tips on Starting Your Own Fashion Label with MKI

MKI Store|MKI Miyuki-Zoku – Blue & Gold Mac|MKI Store Leeds|Vik Tailor, MKI Store

We're chatting to Vik Tailor, of Leeds based fashion brand and retail space MKI Miyuki-Zoku, to hear his thoughts on MKI and what it takes to make it in the world of fashion.

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Since 2010 MKI has been establishing itself as a reputable source for some of the best independently designed menswear available, and all whilst remaining at a modest price point. This is the MKI ethos - high quality, expertly designed apparel, using only the best materials and served up at an affordable price.

When owner and creative director Vik Tailor first opened the stores doors six years ago, it was with the intention of creating a multi-brand retail space and bringing lesser-known brands to the city. However, making a decision to design a quilted leather bomber jacket with the MKI name attached to it changed things, as the response was phenomenal and it became clear that there was a huge demand for own brand product. As it stands today, MKI produces hundreds of their own designs for their store, website and more recently stockists, such as Voo & END, as well as stocking the occasional carefully selected guest brand, notably Comme Des Garçons.

Naturally we were keen to hear from Vik about how the brand has gotten to where it is today and what his plans are moving forwards.

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Image credit: @mr_tuft

Can you tell us a little about MKI Miyuki-Zoku and how it came about?

MKI Miyuki Zoku is the name of the store and in house brand. We are a multibrand retail space focusing mainly on our home grown label. The idea behind the brand is to offer great quality, honest product, with no compromise on quality and styling, but still maintain a high level of affordability and wearability. The name and concept came from the 60’s Japanese social movement called the Miyuki-Zoku. They were a fashion tribe in their era that took US Ivy League styles over to Japan for the first time.

We loved their styling and whole image, so we used this as our springboard and inspiration for the brand. I was an interior designer by trade, but when coming out of University in London I found that sector increasingly hard to navigate a career through. I continued in menswear working for the likes of Reiss and Paul Smith, and then decided to move back to my home town to start my own creation.

What has been the biggest highlight for you so far?

The biggest highlights for us is when each one of our stockists takes delivery and gets the brand in store and online. It’s always great to see how they individually represent MKI in their own way. From the guys at VOO with their clean cut models, to the END team and their studio/location lookbooks. The hard work we put into making sure each of our partners are catered to specifically all pays off when we see the product go live.

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What are your aspirations for the brand in the future? Both near and far.

Our more recent goal is to find our ideal property. We’re in a position right now where we are on the look out for a building to buy that's big enough to house the complete company. From retail space on the ground, to offices, studio space, photography units etc above. Sites like this are quite hard to come by in our city, but we are on the constant look out. In terms of the brand, we are 100% looking for our key stockist and partners around the globe. We currently are holding 10 prime accounts. We are by no means wanting to expand rapidly, we’re taking our time and making sure that each account is a perfect match.

How did you first get into the fashion industry? When did you first know that that's what you wanted as a career?

I first stepped into menswear when I was 16. I had been working in retail during term time at school and Uni since. I found it an easy job to maintain through my education whilst still keeping my interest in clothing alive. I come from a very design orientated background, so it is safe to say that I was always going to be in the design realm. It was just a matter of which sector would be right for me.

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What is your favourite book on business or fashion for inspiration?

I don’t particularly read books on business as I have a few mentors for that side of things. In regards to inspiration for fashion, we have a host of go-to blogs that keep our eyes peeled, and on top of this we have just taken on the account for a plethora of Japanese zines focusing on street style, lifestyle and fashion. These publications are brimming with inspo.

What are the three most important things about a good clothing collection to you?

Uncompromised quality. Modest price points. Consistency.

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Any advice for someone hoping to get into fashion as a career?

We get asked this a lot and I would say the best thing to do is get as much advice from as many sources as possible. From shop floor assistants to managers, from businessmen to consumers, from parents and friends. We armed ourselves with as much info as possible before we stepped into the game. Menswear isn’t tricky. As long as you have a passion for it and can carve yourself your own niche, you’ll be able to make a good go of it.

How has your career in design and fashion affected the way you dress?

My style evolves on a weekly basis…as mentioned before, the amount of inspiration around helps mould my aesthetic and changes my perspective on trends and movements. I’ve never been pigeon holed into one specific look, I like to experiment with clothing, and I guess as I’m getting older my style is getting more and more refined.

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Where do you get your style inspiration from?

My personal style inspiration comes from industry folk. When we attend all the tradeshows, we often tend to stop and take in what people are wearing. It’s normally the Japanese buyers that pull off the more stellar fits! Nobody knows menswear better than the people that work in it.

What advice would you give to someone having difficulty developing their own style?

I would say if you can’t find your own style, then just stay dressing in whatever makes you comfortable when you walk out of the door. If you are comfy in what you are wearing, then that is your style. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on trying to dress a certain way. If you try too hard, people can often tell.

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