With MKI apparel launching online next week at OPUMO, we caught up with founder Vik Tailor to discuss the style and success of the brand alongside, interiors, youth tribes and the North of England…
Forging a reputation as one of the most contemporary menswear brands of the moment, MKI can only be described as an exclusive hybrid. By focussing on well designed products, through thorough detailing and dynamic use of fabric, check the MKI Black Nylon Series, the brand have created their own cult movement – maintaining affordability and accessibility to create a clean, monochrome-inspired menswear collection.
Which has almost turned the brand full circle. Despite only being five tender years in to their journey, MKI were conceived from another social group who similarly broke the mould to set new standards.
Miyuki Zoku (MKI) were a youth group, a burgeoning menswear movement, who took elements of the American Ivy League Look – a ground-breaking, preppy inspired style of the era – to form their own aesthetic during 1960’s Japan. Providing MKI with its name, as Vik explains.
“When I was looking back at old images of the Miyuki Zoku tribe it was clear that their movements still have influence on menswear today, so we fully took that as inspiration to start the brand and the store over 5 years ago now.”
Forty-six-years later, and across the other side of the world, the Miyuki charm lives on via the Corn Exchange in Leeds, England. On the precipice that may appear a completely contrived notion, but MKI stands alone as a brand with real substance, one that draws implicit inspiration from its background and founders.
“We started MKI due to a passion for menswear that had been ingrained since I was 16. And although my background and qualification was in interior design, I always managed to steer towards the fashion realm more often than not.”
“So when it came to creating the brand, we had a pretty clear vision of what we wanted to do and we stuck to it. Our ethos and work ethic has remained the same throughout, and still remains to this day.”
Focussing on well-designed products, Vik works hard to maintain affordability and accessibility across all collections, a mantra that propels MKI above the parapet of like-minded street-wear brands.
“The one thing that I think is wrong with the menswear industry right now is the increasing costs of things. I mean, we’ve seen the price of simple garments jump dramatically and then become the norm.”
“We try to stay well clear of this, and offer a reasonable pricing structure with no compromise on our garments quality and style”.
It is an ethos that seems to be working for Vik and MKI. By exploring all aspects of the menswear market, MKI boasts a unique aesthetic which combines the urban-edge of underground city movements with the refined details of high-end labels to create their own individual identity. Which is enhanced by the fact that MKI work by products rather than collections. As the regular release of clothing has enabled MKI to experiment with different looks and discrete details to ensure they remain ahead of trends.
“I think our growth has definitely been organic, I mean we haven’t tried to move too fast, we’ve not tried to compete with anyone. We design for us, so we’re constantly evolving, but as always our simplistic approach to design and keen eye for fabrics will always remain.”
Anchoring the entire brand is MKI’s flagship store in the heart of Leeds. Where it is clear Vik’s interior eye came to create the clean and contemporary space which showcases MKI’s own collection amongst selected brands such as Comme Des Garcons.
“When it comes to creating an interior, I think the easiest thing to do is to follow your theme and character. For us, we don’t try to shout out and be the loudest store in the area, in fact we try to be as discreet as possible.”
“We always wanted the store to be unique in appearance as well as possessing the ability to house our own collections. Although primarily clean and simple at first, we added focal boastful details, such as the ‘wave’ light and custom Perspex display units.”
Although their signage is modest, and they reside off the beaten track in Leeds city centre, the opulent interior of the store has managed to make an imposing impact on the city, as Vik denotes the effect that the Yorkshire capital has had on the brand.
“Leeds has always been a centre for good menswear, sometimes questionable, but generally, good!”
“Unlike places like Manchester and Liverpool where you may have one or two menswear stores taking over the city, Leeds tends to have a small community of stores that cater for most men, which makes it a more enjoyable place to live, work and shop. And thankfully we just happen to cater for another genre of the industry in the city.”
Although remaining grounded to the Northern roots of the brand, MKI has expanded to make waves on the global scale of menswear – from showcasing in the USA as part of the Modern Atlanta Exhibition to boasting a worldwide following from as far as Hong Kong to HYPEBEAST. But as talk turns to the future, Vik remains pragmatic with regard to the growth of the brand.
“For us we actually get great pleasure from seeing the people behind the scenes wearing our clothing, from writers and photographers at fashion weeks to owners and buyers from other stores. These are the people that keep menswear moving.
“So we want that to continue. We want the product to be in the right places, be seen by the right people and be bought by the right people.”
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