ESQ&A: Mike Amiri
Esquire Singapore|June/July 2020
The founder and creative director behind his eponymous Los Angeles label talks building an authentic brand, fashioning a new masculinity and the growth of ‘luxury streetwear’.
Norman Tan

ESQ: Mike, congratulations on your autumn/winter 2020 collection. It’s such an elevated Amiri. But how did you go from designing custom pieces for Axl Rose and musicians in Los Angeles to starting your own brand?

MIKE AMIRI: I think the whole spirit behind designing for rock stars and icons is you want them to feel like the hero. You want them to look as people imagine and as people dream. After doing that for so long, I wanted to create my own language that can adapt to the street. Where people could wear these things offstage and it would have enough balance to be wearable, but still have enough significance to be special.

ESQ: So, when you design for Amiri, who is the man that you have in mind?

MIKE AMIRI: It’s always something I would wear. Or sometimes it’s even a bit more of an exaggerated version of what I would wear. There are elements of that men are more willing to take now. I like to give something to men who are just starting out to really play with fashion and find their own identity and individuality. Because that’s become a big part of current fashion—menswear finding its own voice.

ESQ: There are a lot of options in the market when it comes to fashion and streetwear. How do you demarcate your brand so it’s top of mind when someone wants to buy a great pair of jeans or a leather jacket?

MIKE AMIRI: When you start out making clothing for the stage, you want the pieces to stand out. You want them to have the best fabrication so they shine just right, you want the shoulders to look perfect so the silhouette looks heroic, you want every detail to pop. But you also want it to be different enough in certain ways, where it has little hints of flavour and risk that make it a bit more appealing.

All those things were elements, a lot of them done by hand in LA. Those were individual pieces but, as we did so many of them, I learnt all these kinds of innovation techniques that are not traditional. And maybe they’re not things that you’d expect from a luxury house to do because they were done by an independent designer with his own hands. So, I’ve been able to keep that same spirit within the brand as we’ve grown.

ESQ: There is a real emphasis on product detailing. Do you think that’s why your MX1 jeans and your boots with the double tour bandana detailing have done so well? Are they still your bestsellers today?

MIKE AMIRI: Originally, they were one of my bestsellers but as we’ve been growing, footwear has really started to expand into sneakers and other styles. Because maybe boots is for one event or one purpose, and then that same person may want to have a casual Sunday with the same kind of mentality. So, it really speaks to how we’re filling out the world of Amiri, starting very small, focused and doing things to the best of our ability and making those special before we expand our offering.

ESQ: Did you ever craft a mission or vision statement for your brand?

MIKE AMIRI: I did yeah. The first one was five years ago when I started the brand. It was New Year’s eve and I wrote a four-page kind of idea of what I wanted to do and what I planned to do. It was rather farfetched because I was saying things like “we are going to be a luxury house, we will be alongside the best in the world”. And, up to now, there’s been a handful of brands that have been able to achieve that over 10 or 15 years so it was very ambitious. But every year and every season, that idea of this being a farfetched notion seemed to dissipate to almost the point of reality.

ESQ: It’s always people who have those strong visions, those bold ideas, that people love to follow. People are drawn to courageous leaders. Renzo Rosso’s Italian fashion group OTB invested in your brand last year. How has that injection of capital helped?

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