Meet The Brand That's Dominating Both High Fashion & Streetwear
The Incorporated is a brand out of Los Angeles that's bridging the gap between high fashion and streetwear with some of the craziest cut and sew-print garments we've seen. We spoke with the founder Mark about his experience starting the brand in Seattle and moving down to Los Angeles two years ago where he's grown the brand and now taken multiple collections to Paris for fashion week. In addition, Mark also spoke with us about his most recent capsule titled, "What Would You Do," along with the appeal of high fashion and his mission build The Incorporated into something that can inspire others and compete in the same realm as his idols.
Where are you from?
Mark: I’m from Seattle, Washington.
When did you start The Incorporated?
Mark: Technically The Incorporated started many years ago when I was in college. Back then it was essentially just a fun T-shirt thing I did. Then about three years ago I quit my job and started taking it seriously going in the direction of a high fashion-streetwear combination.
Where does the name come from?
Mark: We were looking for a name for the brand and in my opinion most of the best brands and names have “The” at the beginning. Think “The Beatles” and at the time The Hundreds was really cool too so I just made the name basically around the idea of the word “the”.
What made you want to start a clothing brand?
Mark: I’ve always made art, whether it be doing drawings and paintings or just making stuff in general. In middle school and high school I realized how clothing can be used to change your appearance, get in with crowds, protect yourself, and other practical uses for clothing and style in general. That combined with the fact that I didn't really know what I wanted to get into when I went to school made me just pick a major I was interested in and start a brand to satisfy my art side.
What does “Seattle Born, Los Angeles Based” mean?
Mark: I moved to LA first about two years ago when we started doing cut and sew since everything was being manufactured in LA. At first I was making a lot of calls to LA while flying and driving back and forth so eventually it made sense to live down here full time. I made the move first and spent some time on some couches and subletting before we got our studio, and then the rest of the team moved down with me.
How big is the rest of the team?
Mark: There are four of us. There’s myself, the creative director, my sister Camille, the press director, TJ, the sales director, and Evan, the brand director. We have a bunch of sewing contractors as well. It’s a big family so we have a lot of friends we work with and a lot of collaborations but that’s the main team.
Talk about your first collection, “Body Ritual of The Nacirema”. What was the experience like working on and releasing your first collection?
Mark: It was really cool. I had never done that before. I had taken some night classes at this weird sewing school to learn how to sew and I had a basic understanding of how to make a collection. But essentially I was still up in Seattle and sourced random fabric I could find and used some vintage pieces to re-work and did some bootleg screen printing to get this little miniature collection put together. The concept was based on this short essay I had read in college. I got my degree in sociology so it’s a sociology paper on this imaginary group of people called the Nacirema. It’s basically a recontextualizing of America and our lifestyles so I tried to put that conceptually into a bunch of clothes. It was really fun to make that happen and piece it together not really knowing what I was doing. Basically, my parents told me that I had to figure out how to make something out of it and get orders for the brand from retailers so I went down to LA and did this photoshoot with this cool photographer and models and got that on Highsnobiety. Through that we got hit up by some German retail sales agents that got us our first sales orders and got us into the retail world. Collection 1 kind of put us on the map.
Is retail a big part of your sales focus for The Incorporated?
Mark: Since we initially started like that and got into those stores we went really hard into the retail world. We got invited to Milan fashion week and started going to Paris fashion week and took like five collections out there. We’re selling at stores all around the world. But as of about a year ago we started seeing this shift in the market towards online sales and away from retailers so we started to pull everything out of retailers and reinvested in our online store. In a month we’re just about to launch our first collection to retailers that we’ve done in about a year or so. We’ve kinda done both online and retail up to this point and now we’re gonna do both at the same time.
I know you’ve collaborated with Stacy and Toe from Stacy.House in the past. How did you guys initially meet each other and make that happen?
Mark: I don’t remember exactly how we connected. Maybe Stacy reached out with some questions or I was interviewing him for a magazine but we ended up in a cafe in Portland to talk. I was immediately drawn to his work, it’s really rad and his art is crazy. We did a collaboration sometime after that and he brought it to Paris and got that into a few stores. We’ve been trying to work as much as possible ever since.
Do you guys have anything in the works for the future?
Mark: Yeah we do. We’ve been working on a new inner collab that’s definitely a step up. We’re just waiting for the right moment for that but you can definitely expect to see more from the two of us.
What was the inspiration behind the big varsity “THE” logo that has become iconic to The Incorporated?
Mark: Varsity letters have always been really sick and since I didn’t get a varsity leather jacket in high school I wanted one. Now that I was making my own jackets I sourced some chenille letters and started mixing and matching them and I've kinda fallen in love with it. I’ve tried to find as many varsity letters as I can around LA and do a mix of the vintage ones I find and usually for each collection we get some new ones made as well. In general our goal is to take America and look at it with a new context or perspective. I think varsity letters are a pretty American thing so I take that and put my own twist on it which gives it a new life.
I know you’ve used a similar varsity lettering in other pieces as well. What about that Varsity lettering appeals to you?
Mark: Mainly the combination of the colors. The Incorporated stuff is pretty much based on classic Americana color combinations and you often find that in high school colors and school colors in general. Many people connect with the colorway of the letter, if not the letter itself as people can relate it to their own high school experiences. I try to use a lot of references from my life and things that I’ve seen that I connect with that remind me of the past. I try to take these little moments and put them together in clothes and usually someone connects with something from it. I try not to hit people straight over the head with it but do something that even if they don’t realize it they know they've seen before.
Have you guys always primarily focused on cut and sew or do you do a fair amount of screen printing as well?
Stacy: Mark: We kind of exist in the middle. We make cut and sew pieces but we also do a lot of prints on them as well. We use streetwear silhouettes and classic menswear silhouettes but we also incorporate the printing techniques and other aesthetics of those worlds and bring those into the higher fashion realm as well. So for example we’ll do our cut and sew heavy jacket and hit it with a screen print like you would to the front of a hoodie.
You guys have done a number of runway shows, correct?
What about doing runway shows appeals to you most?
Mark: It’s the best way I can explain what I’m talking about. Basically I'll come up with what I want to say for the collection and that’ll somehow be tied to the concept and the name of it. But there’s only a few different ways that I can express that idea and express what I think about it to get people to understand it. More and more that’s becoming stuff you can only do online. So the touchpoints to reality and to the actual clothes that exist are fewer and fewer. I just love doing the fashion shows to build a world and invite people into it.
What has been your favorite one to date?
Mark: Probably the last one. It was called “Almost Cut My Hair.” It was in March I think. It was bigger than our last one and I think better.
Let’s talk about your most recent capsule collection, “What Would You Do?” What was the inspiration behind it?
Mark: The name of it is based off this song by this group called City High. It was stuck in my head at the time so I flipped the meaning. I think on the internet and social media you see a lot of people judging or commenting on a person's actions, good or bad, and they don’t realize that they're commenting on a real person in a real situation. I don’t think people are put in the shoes to think about what they would do in the situation because things get more complicated when it’s about you. So we took some ideas about different reactions that one can have to a problem and tried to visualize those as designs that people could connect with.
What was your favorite piece on that capsule?
Mark: Probably the white design that we call the “Winner Shirt.”
It has three red silhouettes on it. I think the layout and the aesthetic of it is killer.
What’s your favorite piece that you’ve designed to date?
Mark: Probably this hooded military jacket that’s made out of this baby blue upholstery fabric. It has this big hood on it and it’s the most technical piece we’ve made. I think it’s our coolest piece to date.
How did you guys end up getting Kendrick in one of your hoodies?
Mark: A stylist took it for him at some point and he wore it a long time ago. We saw one picture of him in it at the practice for the American Music Awards but it was a lowkey picture that his stylist took. Then about a year and a half later he was just wearing it at some show in Denver. We gifted it to him at the time but he just held onto it which is badass since he wore it a couple times too.
Was he wearing the “Trayvon Martin Rest in Peace” hoodie?
You guys have also had the likes of YG, Offset and recently Young Thug wearing The Incorporated. How have you gone about getting those artists to wear your clothes?
Mark: It just depends. Obviously that's a big part of marketing our clothing brand these days but we definitely don't do a lot of paid influencer stuff. It’s mostly just relationship based. We don’t necessarily have a direct relationship with a lot of these bigger artists but for Thug I have a relationship with one of the artists that works closely with him. He wanted to give Thug a gift so we worked together on that. Being in LA there’s a ton of stylists that are constantly needing clothes so we try to be as open to working with stylists as possible. We try to make great relationships with them because they have a really tough job and it does good stuff for us.
Are there any other music artists you want wearing The Incorporated in the future?
Mark: Usually my goal is for people wearing stuff to be people I liked growing up as a kid or people I'm actually a fan of. It would be really rad if Ken Griffey Jr wore it someday or Allen Iverson. Kanye is the main one that I would like to wear it. It would be cool if Frank Ocean wore it too. Coolio wore it one time in Australia and I thought that was super rad. I actually think he tried it on and took a picture and didn’t even buy it but it was still sick. Mac Miller wore it at Coachella one time.
Are there any other brands you want to collaborate with in the future?
Mark: Yeah but I’m not gonna put them out there yet. We have some plans. I wanna do a Nike collab, we’ve worked a bit with Nike and Jordan Brand since they give us shoes for our fashion shows. We’re definitely gonna be doing more collaborations and getting The Incorporated outside of just our stuff this year. Then we have ComplexCon in Chicago coming up in July where we’ll release our new Collection 7.
What should we expect to see from The Incorporated next?
Mark: Expect the new collection in ComplexCon in July. Other than that we have new collaborations on the way and a lot more clothes.
What do you want The Incorporated to be in the long run?
Mark: The main thing that I want The Incorporated to be is useful. Basically I’d like The Incorporated to be used by people to learn something, to look good, to feel good, or to inform themselves. Getting into Kanye West and high fashion and Virgil and Nigo a long time ago has greatly impacted my life for the better so I’d like to be one of those inspirations that also impacts peoples lives for the better.
Is focusing on high fashion something you plan on continuing to do and if so why?
Mark: For me I love to be able to create something as detailed and perfect as I can. The unfortunate thing about that is that it has to be so expensive. I think bigger brands with huge sales are mostly responsibility for this because there’s no reason why things have to be so expensive when the sales are so big. But for a small brand like us there’s no way we can compete with bigger brands without having higher prices. That’s why the whole high fashion thing gets so expensive because people are trying to make this amazing stuff but it just costs a lot to make it. We are always trying to figure out how to bring The Incorporated to as many people and democratize it as much as possible and hopefully we’ll get better at that. I want to compete in the same realm as the people I was inspired by so I wanna be in the NBA of my world.
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