If you’re not overly familiar with the name ‘Miansai’, you’ve probably seen one of their most famous designs without knowing it. A coloured nautical cord bracelet with a metallic fish hook or anchor detailing was, a few years ago, as ubiquitous as Stan Smiths and skinny jeans.
It was one of the few jewellery designs and brands that managed to cut through to the mainstream while still being desirable for guys to wear on their wrists. It was a sweet spot of pricing and branding that made it something that wasn’t throwaway, yet was affordable enough to be worn carefree.
Left - Michael Saiger Founder & Creative Director of Miansai, TheChicGeek wears Harrington Jacket - Grenfell, Cardigan - Pretty Green X John Smedley, T-Shirt - Vintage Helmut Lang, Tracksuit Trousers - adidas from ASOS, Trainers - Diadora Made in Italy
I caught up with the founder, Michael Saiger, in London, to find out how he achieved something that is so difficult, today, and see what’s next for Miansai:
Originally from New York, Michael Andrew Saiger - it’s the MI-AN-SAI of his name that gives the brand its name, “All the domains were taken until I circled these parts of my name. Everybody thought it was asian, but it’s not”, he says, is dressed in a simple sweater and chinos and surrounded by the salon style hanging of the Berners Tavern restaurant.
Michael’s attention to detail can be seen by his perfectly manicured beard and not a hair out of place on his head. “I put my handprint on everything I do. I’m OCD, I’m obsessive”, he says.
How did he get started and where did his eye come from? “My mum has an antique store, she’s an interior decorator and I grew up around estate sales my whole life. So, then when I went to the University of Miami and I started making some bracelets. This was 2007,” says Michael.
“I was looking for a bracelet and there was nothing out there. So, I started making bracelets for myself and then I would take these World War II pendants and medallions that I would find at estate sales and make them into necklaces. All my friends really loved it and wanted them.
“I took them to the concept store, Base, in Miami. They were like, ‘oh yeah, we love this stuff’. This was right before I went on holiday for the summer, and when I went back after, they said they’d sold out in like a week or two,”
Right - This bracelet design has done the difficult thing of being common while still looking fresh and has become something of a men's classic - Miansai - Anchor Cord Silver-Plated Wrap Bracelet - £55 from MRPORTER
The company started officially in 2008 and, then, the product that catapulted Miansai onto the wrists of men worldwide was born. “I took all that money and bought various machines, equipment, everything, so, then me and one of my best friends had a 300 sq ft work studio and we started making everything and selling to some of the best boutiques around the US.
“After that and I graduated - the degree was in marketing - we were bursting out, so we found a 10,000 sq ft warehouse, and built it out and set up our whole manufacturing operation. Then, I started taking our nautical rope and, at the time, nobody used nautical rope for anything unless you went to a summer camp and had a little tie-on bracelet.
“We launched in 2009, in Barney’s & Bergdorf’s ,and then GQ featured one of our rope bracelets. I started using the rope in 2008, but the hook and anchor came in 2009. I didn't want to launch it until I knew I had manufacturing, as I knew it would be very popular. I didn't want to come out with a product and not be able to deliver it.
“We were the first to do anything like this with price points between $55 to $500. It had to be for a 15 year old, it had to be for a 70 year old, it had to be for a 20 year old: anyone and everyone.
Asked how many he thinks he’s sold of his signature product, we quickly discredit the hundreds of thousands and move into the millions. Next came his own retail outlets. “In 2012, we started a mobile retail unit, an old vintage airstream. In 2013, we opened a store in New York, Soho, and we've just opened another store in Venice Beach in LA".
Michael understands the future of retail and that traditional bricks and mortar US retail is suffering. “Retailers are hurting, especially in the US, with everybody shopping online. We have our food delivered, we, literally, don't got to the store, at all. The industry is changing”.
How do you see your stores then? “It’s more about experiential retail. I built our two stores to be galleries. I didn’t want jewellery fixtures, I designed furniture to house jewellery. It feels like a furniture store inside. That’s the future of retail,”.
Left - Miansai - Harbour Rucksack Tobacco Leather - £506.35 This was the bag Michael was carrying in London. He says the bags are made in the same factories as Prada, using the same leather as Louis Vuitton
He cites Aesop as a brand he admires. He’s coy about naming anybody that touches on his accessorises world, but he’s clearly an admire of good design.
He knows that he needs to go to where the consumers are, so he’s launching 5 more mobile units of classically restored Airstreams, Piaggio's and a Fiat at various locations such as JFK, LAX, Soho House Malibu and Newport, Rhode Island. He says it’s all about, “High traffic in an authentic way without selling out,”.
The brand has just expanded into leather bags and fine jewellery. “We launched leather bags: Italian leather, all cut and sewn in Turkey. We use some of the same factories as Prada and the some of the same leather as Louis Vuitton. I always collected bags from my estate sale days and knew what I wanted in a bag”.
As for the fine jewellery. It’s not currently available in the UK, but how does that fit in? “It’s marketed to women, but anyone can wear it,” he says, “For first 5 year’s of the brand, I never said whether it was men’s or women’s,". Is it made by your? "We do make some of the solid gold jewellery ourselves and some of the fine jewellery with the Pavé diamonds, we also work with a very high end factory in Thailand”.
Right - Arduin Cuff Bracelet, 14K Gold/Pave - £2978.54
What advice can he give to men with regards to wearing jewellery? “Keep it simple. Keep it to two pieces, unless you have a thin bracelet. For me, personally, I never wear more that two bracelets and a watch”.
So, what’s next for Miansai? “I definitely want to stay in the accessories realm, I don't want to go into ready-to-wear. We have a very good niche and I’d like to stay there”.
Michael currently has 55 employees, he doesn’t disclose his turnover, but if he’s shifting £60 bracelets by the million, then it’s going to be pretty high. He obviously knows his market and exactly how to expose his brand without it feeling like it is everywear, devaluing it and worst of all, millennials I'm looking at you here, boredom kicks in.
To sell millions of the same bracelet yet retain its desirability is a skill many retailers or brands would love to know. I don’t think it’ll be long before we see a converted vintage van - how about a Morris Traveller? That’s very British - at Wilderness or one of those more monied festivals emblazoned with ‘Miansai’ on the side.
The results are in and the great British high-street has polarised. On the one side is the tired and cumbersome old guard with its offering still stuck in the past, trying to shift their stock through promotions and discounts and then the younger, faster, cheaper and ultimately, more fun retailers who are reporting record sales and profits, both on and offline.
From Left - ASOS, Boohoo
Boohoo just reported a doubling in annual profit, driven by growth in new customers, and said revenue should rise by about 50 percent in 2017-18 as it benefits from recent acquisitions. Revenue rose 51 percent to £294.6 million as Boohoo increased its active customer base to 5.2 million, up 29 percent, while international growth, particularly in the United States, exceeded management expectations.
ASOS The online fashion retailer said pre-tax profits rose 14 percent to £27.3m in the six months to 28 February, while revenue increased 37 percent to £911.5 million. ASOS has again upgraded its sales guidance for the full year, pencilling in growth in the 30-35 per cent range, up from 25-30 per cent.
This is growth, most brands, at this particularly point in time, can only dream about.
The pioneer of ridiculously cheap clothes, Primark, said total sales jumped 11 percent in the six months to 4 March. Sales at Primark, which has 329 stores globally, jumped by 21pc to £3.2bn on the back of new shops.
The UK also delivered an improved performance with a 2 percent lift in like-for-like sales, which meant the discount chain stole market share from suffering high street rivals.
Even sales of clothing at Sainsbury’s and Argos outperformed the market with growth of more than 4 percent in the year to 11 March, the supermarket reported.
What’s going on? This isn’t purely price driven. While it’s a factor, they’re making product that people want and the bigger they get and more product they make, the more people they can please. Lots and often seems to be the mantra to keep the novelty of fashion ticking over.
Too many old brands do these big annual ‘collections’, but people just want lots of individual items and fast. These fast brands do look to designers and trends, but they seem to play and experiment themselves. They acknowledge what is going on, but come up with their own things too. It's a buy it or it's gone attitude.
While Next and Marks & Spencer’s languish, I think a lot of men are trading down, happy with the product and choice. I’ve never seen so many fun things for guys. ASOS and Boohoo are producing the kind of menswear once reserved for girls and the boys seem to be loving it. Ombre fringed sweaters, lace shirts and sequinned leggings are just a few of the crazy things that are coming out of these retailers, and while they wont sell in the thousands, it keeps the cool guys coming back for more.
The young guy, today, has the confidence to have fun with how he looks and he doesn’t want to invest big money in fun or one-off items that are part of a look, or something he feels he’s taking a risk on. The fact is it’s the cheapness that makes it more fun and less pressure to look like anything in particular. It also is a way of showing off, this only cost me…
I’m going to call it the ‘Harry Styles Effect’ - trying something different yet being cool enough to carry it off. Okay, he’s wearing Gucci dragons, but you get the idea.
Only a few guys can get away with it, but it receives admiration from the rest of their peer group. It’s basically about looking like a ‘cool dick’ and when you turn up in a white, see-through lace shirt and your friends ask you what you’re wearing, you secretly know they think you’re cool and it’s the buzz you get from trying something different or new. They then look to see where you've bought your items and, while maybe not getting the same things, it creates a halo for the brand.
It’s about having a sense of humour and this is why the British are so good at style: we can laugh at ourselves, while still looking cool. We can be experimental while not worrying too much about convention or others. It’s what makes us leaders and, also, why some of our retailers are so good at this too and internationally.
Another reason is young men aren’t so hung up on logos and branding anymore. They also don't have the money to spend and want something fresh and often, if only for their Instagram account. They want to go out and wear new clothes and with limited disposable incomes they have to buy cheaper. It’s FUN with a capital F and in a world that seems to be harder and harder to get by in, it’s an outlet of escapism for the young guy.
My only message is enough ‘super skinny’.
I’m not over it yet. It’s going to take time to accept that George Michael is gone. He was a very relatable superstar, the kind you could have grown up next door to. He seemed the type of man you could have stopped in the street and had a bit of banter with.
His style, over the years, has ranged from bouncy blonde to leather jacket and ripped jeans to close and cropped in minimal 90s black. From teenage boyband pin-up to respected songwriter and sampler, George Michael had the talent, ear and voice to aways create something fresh and contemporary.
One of his most famous looks was in this Katherine Hamnett slogan T-shirt proclaiming to ‘Choose Life’. From the video of his Wham hit ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’, he shimmied around the stage camping it up to the max while clicking his fingers.
Now, you can pay homage, this summer, with this T-shirt from Boohoo. Team with a pair of short shorts or swim shorts and a colourful cocktail.
You need this in your life!
Boohoo Man - Oversized Choose Life T-Shirt - £8
The Met Gala - you may have seen the film, The First Monday in May - is the opening night of the annual fashion exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This year’s exhibition is a retrospective of Japanese designer Res Kawakubo, the brains behind Comme des Garcons. As per, the opening party is the most fashion night of the year with celebrities and designers making a statement, both good and bad.
Here are the 12 menswear things TheChicGeek learnt from last night:
Left - Bow ties - the floppier the better. Future in custom H&M & Matt Smith in Burberry
If the Met Gala can make Mr Safe, Roger Federer, try something different then that’s inspiration enough. A Gucci cobra on your back, anyone? Asp-leisure?!
Go conceptual. If your hair looks like wheat-sheafs then take them with you. Jaden Smith in Louis Vuitton
The Met Gala red carpet is not an audition for Star Wars. Puff Daddy in Rick Owens
When your parents don’t want to buy you a suit you’ll grow out of. Frank Ocean in Balmain
Below - Dress for the city, not the designer. Nick Jonas in Ralph Lauren
Bad taste Claire’s Accessories. Let the whole jewellery shop fall out. Migos
Below - Red was the colour of the night. When a suit fits this well it works. Rami Malek in Dior Homme.
Leave the Thom Browne to Thom Browne. Wiz Khalifa & Diplo in Thom Browne.
When you’re tall and thin, a la Alexander Skarsgard, in Ermenegildo Zegna, you can wear anything.
When you try and do that cute-couple-colour thing and it doesn’t work. Ryan Reynolds
At Comme, anything goes, so dress down is the new dress-up. Teletubbie optional! Pharrell Williams in Comme des Garcons
So, today is Football Shirt Friday, raising money for bowel cancer research, but if you’re a follower of fashion, then everyday, this summer, can be football shirt friday. The football shirt is the new holiday hawaiian shirt. So, bin the hibiscus and hula-hula dancers and take to the terrace.
You can pick these up from vintage stores, charity shops and on the high-street and it doesn’t really matter which team you support as long as it’s ‘Team Style’. They need to feel as synthetic, shiny and as ‘drip dry’ as possible. These are a loose fit, so not fitted, clingy or ‘muscle fit’.
Team with a tracksuit and sandals or dad jeans and the best thing about these tops are they are usually fairly cheap and low maintenance. You can even wear these tops with a suit, (I recently rocked one with my Tom Ford suit and it worked on Instagram - see picture below), or on a lads holiday.
If anybody starts to talk to you about about football, just nod and back away!
Here’s 10 of the best:
Left - Gosha Rubchinskiy X Kappa - £50
Left - House of Holland X Umbro - Striped Jersey - £61
Left - Umbro - Witton SS Jersey - £14
Below - Devote - Navy Curved Hem Faded T-Shirt - £25 from Topman
Left - Diadora - Maseru Jersey Men’s - £24.99
Left - Puma - Speed S/S Short - £13.50
Below - Le Coq Sportif - Manufrance Jersey - £60
Left - Hummel - Core LS Poly Jersey - £14
Left - New Balance - Tech Training Elite SS Jersey - £28
Below - BoohooMan - Raglan Side Print T-Shirt - £10
Let’s make something clear, Marc Jacobs is a great designer, yet his business is struggling. Why is this? Business of Fashion said, on Tuesday, the label announced its decision to shutter its men’s business, ending a license agreement with Staff International, after the delivery of the Autumn/Winter 2017 season.
Okay, Marc Jacobs menswear had disappeared recently and, to be honest, it never really have any identity and this is ultimately Marc Jacobs’ problem.
Left - Marc Jacobs going out with a Bang, now discontinued
One of the biggest designers in the world and he has difficulty establishing his own brand. Karl Lagerfeld has always been the same, but that’s a whole other ChicGeek comment.
I knew something was wrong when I went to a Coty fragrance launch, last year, and asked how the Marc Jacobs Bang fragrance was doing. They said they’d discontinued it. I was surprised because, firstly, the bottle was great and the black peppery fragrance was very wearable and commerical. Maybe it was those naked ads, starring the man himself, that tipped it over the edge!
Marc Jacobs has done a lot of things: he put Grunge on the catwalk, but unfortunately you’ll never make money from grunge, he pioneered Louis Vuitton’s ready-to-wear and introduced many great collaborations, such as Stephen Sprouse, those leopard print-type scarves were everywhere, but he’s never really owned anything. You can’t point to something and say “that’s very Marc Jacobs” which is when a brand or designer because part of the visual language and, ultimately, means longevity and heritage.
In the early 00s it was all about the Stam handbags, which were expensive, then Marc by Marc Jacobs came along and everything was really cheap. He seemed to miss the middle, sweet spot that Michael Kors has come to dominate. He was either really expensive or pocket-money cheap and that confused the brand. You never felt like spending money on Marc Jacobs.
The fashion probably wasn't expensive looking enough for the clientele who buy designer clothes the world over and when the only shop left on the street in New York that you pioneered is a book shop - BookMarc - great name BTW - it seems as though this is a signifier of how tough things are to make money from ready-to-wear even when your name is established.
The bad news is it’s only going to get more difficult in the next few years in American fashion. Calvin Klein is hoping for a resurgence thanks to Raf Simons, Donna Karan has new owners, that will no doubt start investing heavily and Ralph Lauren is bound to hit bottom soon. They’re all chasing the same customers and competition is difficult in a saturated market. Marc Jacobs needs to decide where is wants to sit within the fashion market and aim for that. Or, hope check shirts make a major comeback!
One brand, two campaigns. The hot-of-the-moment label, or it wants to be, Calvin Klein, and two variations on the same thing.
Left - Clearly Raf Simons' idea of Calvin Klein advertising, but which will sell the most pants?
Both trying to sell pants: one campaign is sexy and classic Klein, the other less so, read baggy pants in a drafty art gallery.
What’s interesting is that it perfectly illustrates the sexual leveller of imagery and the different choice of art directors.
The fashion and style game is all about proving your sophistication and taste level, yadda, yadda, yadda. We all want to be different and express ourselves in the things we buy, wear and surround ourselves with, but ultimately a flash of a six-pack or a bulge in a pair of Y-fronts and the attraction is universal.
We judge ourselves and others by the decisions we make and the things we choose to wear and surround ourselves with. We can all pretend to be the most sophisticated and this is the endless game of modern style and social media. It's always been about proving yourself and staying ahead of the game.
The ‘Sex Leveller’ and its universal appeal is often cleverly disguised as sophisticated, but ultimately brands can be as clever as they like, but if you’re going to appeal to the mass and biggest market, especially if you’re selling underwear, the sexier the better.
This was pioneered in the 80s, perfected in the 90s and then seemingly forgotten about in the 00s. We can all pretend to like a Sterling Ruby as much as the next man, but it ain’t gonna shift many pairs of underpants. Sex is a leveller and it still sells.
Below Left - Classic Klein starring, Trevante Rhodes, one of the actors from Moonlight. Both campaigns are SS17