On Wednesday, the first batch of designers who completed the 12-month-long Mr Porter Futures global mentorship program in collaboration with Klarna, a Swedish online financial services provider, revealed their collections.
Saif Uddeen and Kat Tua, both of Miles Leon, were chosen from over 1,000 applicants in September 2021 by an industry panel.
Klarna donated 10,000 pounds each to each brand to support their establishment and growth. The brands will receive 50% of the net profits from the sales of their collections through Mr Porter for a one-year period.
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 explained that the collection is tied to Maori heritage. The New Zealand native has a decade’s worth of experience working as a product developer and designer for various fashion retailers. At the end of 2020, she quit her job to pursue a career in solo design.
She used print design to reference the art, storytelling, practices and traditions of her culture. For example, the printed camp collar shirts feature artwork depicting stories from Maori myths. The knitwear features 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.”
He also loves soccer, so the collection is also reflective of that love. “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 said that the mentorship program has allowed him to further develop his skills in product development as well as 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 stated that the next step after the launch is for them to go back to working on internal development.
“As both of our time is currently shared with our other jobs, we are cultivating plans to do the brand full-time. We will continue to maintain our relationships with factories and mills, while trying to develop new ones. We are interested in slowly developing and organically expanding our community. 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. Our third collection is in the process of being planted. 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.