Married to the Mob is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and there are plans in the work for collaborations with Shanghai streetwear brand Clot and New York-based Ebbets Field, along with some other special events. We interviewed MOB founder Leah McSweeney about the collaborations and also spoke a bit about the company’s history, which is in many ways a fascinating cultural snap shot of an era. So before the q&a, we’ll get into a little bit of the label’s background and how it got to where it is today.
For starters, celebrating a ten year anniversary is an amazing feat for any independent apparel company. It’s even more remarkable given it was founded more or less on a lark byMcSweeney, who at the time had little manufacturing or retail experience on which to draw.
Very much she was part of a do-it-yourself movement of streetwear brand start ups in the early-to-mid-’00s, fueled by a generation of entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s who were inspired to make their own personal statements whether artful, cultural or rebellious through the platform of fashion design. Even among her peers, however, MOB stood out as the first women’s streetwear line in an industry that to this day remains largely female unfriendly.
MOB, unlike many other streetwear labels, managed to survive the 2008 recession that rocked the U.S. economy, and though many of its retail accounts went under that year and the brand lost its investor backing not long after, McSweeney chose to stick it out. She started from scratch and went back to basics, an independent once again. The next few years were lean but she kept showing up and kept putting out collections and by the time 2012 was in the books, the brand was once again building momentum.
Always a force of personality, McSweeney was undaunted when her label was sued for $10 million last year by the considerably more powerful streetwear brand Supreme for using a red box logo containing the phrase “Supreme Bitch.” MOB counter-sued and famed civil rights attorney Norman Siegal was so impressed by MOB’s case, he offered to rep the company pro-bono, helping to make the controversy the talk of the streetwear scene for a big chunk of the year. The case was settled out of court and MOB and McSweeney lived to fight another day (and retained the right to use the phrase “Supreme Bitch.”)
And while much was made of MOB’s use of “Supreme Bitch,” its reputation for turning a phrase by no means ends there. Some of McSweeney’s more famous taglines include “Men Are The New Women,” “Good Dick Will Imprison You,” “My Girls Rock Balenciaga And Smoke Mad Marijuana,” and “Sleep With Whomever You Want.” The label has also been involved with a number of impressive collaborations including KAWS, MCM, Fafi, Nike, Collette and Reebok and most recently 40oz. The label’s lookbooks are also well regarded, featuring as they often do women who are often on the verge of big things including Teyana Taylor, Kid Sister and earlier this year, Lil Debbie.
Ten years in and MOB remains confrontational, femmy, feminist, a laugh riot, enigmatic, on point and just basically a lot. Or more importantly a critical beacon of light for a large clique of women worldwide whose gut keeps telling them they deserve to live their lives as richly and freely as their male counterparts.
Now for the q&a:
Q: What is the official date of MOB’s 10th anniversary?
A: I started Mob summer 2004 [editor’s note: as the story goes, the idea came to McSweeney while drinking frozen margaritas in a take out cup on a Manhattan stoop] so the official date is now and for the rest of 2014. We’ll be dropping special collaborations like the one with Clot, one of the first stores that carried MOB overseas. Edison Chang is a long time MOB supporter. The Clot drop will also be a collaboration with Peanuts. That will launch in early September and be sold at Yo’Hood and Clot and our website. In the fall we’re also dropping a satin Ebetts Field jacket that will only be available on our website. And then we have another Palladium boot coming out in the fall, it’s pony hair, leopard print.
Q: How is MOB doing these days business-wise?
McSweeney: The best it’s ever done, it’s amazing.
Q: Why is MOB clicking now do you think?
McSweeney: Why? I don’t know. ‘Cause I hung in there for ten years?
Q: How big is MOB?
McSweeney: There are around 10 employee, plus interns. We don’t have a lot of [interns], the rule is quality over quantity.
Q: When you look back ten years, how do you see that person sitting on the stoop that decided to start MOB?
McSweeney: I was naive, fearless, had no responsibilities and my life consisted of fun. I’m sometimes still fearless, which is part of being an entrepreneur, taking risks, you can’t be a pussy.
Q: What’s changed the most about the business?
A: Corporate America in the fashion industry now takes streetwear seriously. Though it’s still niche and still maintains a hint of underground. It’s also been a big influence on contemporary wear.
Q: How has the way you do business changed as far as distribution strategy?
McSweeney: Not a lot, I’m not the biggest strategy person. I think as things come. Situations come flying at me multiple times daily and I have to make those decisions right away. Long term strategies work for some people but MOB is not really that kind of company.
Q: You’ve seen a lot of companies come and go. What enabled you to succeed?
A: It’s really about who is willing to stay on and keep going. Who is willing to go through very tough times. For me, I went through having funding to not and had to carry the brand on my own back. It’s hard. It’s tough, it’s about who can mentally and emotionally deal with the ups and downs. Some people can’t handle it or think it’s not worth it and choose to go work for someone else.
Q: You have force of personality, I’ve always thought that was a difference maker for you.
McSweeney: Yea, but a lot of people don’t have personality and sometimes they end up really successful
Q: Do you think in streetwear it’s become easier for women?
McSweeney: No, definitely not. Other brands have always been respectful, but I know that I’m treated differently with day to day dealings with business men like vendors and manufacturers. It’s primal and it’s biology and that’s not going to change, and there are times I can use that to my advantage.
Congratulations to MOB and Leah McSweeney on ten years strong; cheers, here’s to many, many more!