A brief conversation with Mark McNairy

Man of the moment, Mark McNairy have been in the game even before it was a game.
Let’s know a little bit more about the established bishop of Americana.

Italiano? Trovi la versione in italiano di questo articolo qui.

Contemporary Standard) From the very beginning to those days through J Press & Southwick, tell us a little bit about you.

Mark McNairy) From the very beginning I’ve moved to New York and starter my own women clothing company without any formal training. I just did it.
It took off really fast selling at Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Fred Segal and stores like that. I did it for ten years more or less but it was a small company with some financial problems and since I was on the verge of an heart attack I decided to quit.
Since I had a huge vintage collection I started selling everything to get rid of that stuff and at the same time it turned into a business because I was collecting and dealing vintage.

CS) So you’ve always been passionated by the vintage and americana aesthetic?

MMcN) Exactly. It started with the women collection just by chance. I guess the whole thing with clothing started when I was in junior high school working at an athlething sporting goods store. I had an huge collection of basketball sneakers, I was making athletic jerseys and then it turned into shopping in vintage stores looking for vintage Brooks Brothers botton down shirts, military khaki chinos. I’ve been basically became a designer through being a consumer.
After I quit the women business and dealing with the vintage business I met one japanese guy who’s living in New York and he was one of my customers. It was in a time that the vintage business was declining in Japan so he wanted to get into the new clothing business and we partnered up and for him the idea was to make clothes like replicas of vintage american clothing for Japan. I was really into the idea but I didn’t just want to do that, I wanted to do it and sell it to stores like Duffer and Fred Segal. We were, not intentionally, kind of pioneers in terms of what’s going on right now because at that time there was nobody doing it. It was good but it wasn’t going into the direction I wanted to. It was starting to move into a more streetwear direction so at the same time I starter McNairy Brothers. I didn’t had time to do both so I quit the previous business to focus on McNairy Brothers which was more strictly my taste and I had free control to do whatever I wanted to. It really took off but I had a really bad experience selling clothes to american and english stores and not getting paid or going out of business so I was selling to Japan and I even didn’t bothered trying to sell to someone else. I did that for ten years and then once again the factories in US started running out of business so it became more and more difficult for me to make clothing at an acceptable price in the US.

CS) …and you never thought about producing in low price countries to avoid those difficulties?

MMcN) No because that’s not what I do. I don’t know how to do it nor I don’t want to know how to do it.

CS) Yeah this would be definetely outside your spirit.

MMcN) Right!
So once again, it was after 9/11 things weren’t real good and I was kind of unhappy of New York so I moved to Atlanta with my girlfriend, we got married with the intention of working for her father which has nothing to do with the clothing business but very soon I found out that Atlanta is not the place for me plus there were nothing to do for me so I decided to move back to NYC, talked with people trying to work something out looking for some freelance projects.
I had known Andy Spade before because Jack Spade have bought some of my McNairy Brothers clothes and they were trying to do some men’s clothing line so they hired me. We worked on it for three months but they really didn’t know what they wanted to do and it just wasn’t happening for different reasons. In the middle of that Andy Spade called me and said that J Press was looking for someone to bring in new customers and he thought of me. I got the job and to me it was like a dream come true but I slowly found out that dealing with corporate companies, especially a big Japanese company, it wasn’t gonna happen the way I wanted.
At the same time I had the job at Southwick but after Brooks Brothers bought Southwick I thought It wasn’t really cool for me to work for two competitors. So Southwick was over and I continued doing J Press the best I could do but my enthusiasm was slowly declining.
Actually after the first four years I had the feeling that they were not gonna renew my contract so that’s when I started planning to launch McNairy New Amsterdam but it wasn’t gonna launch the way I had done my other businesses before and I wanted partners with proper financing and structures.
When everything started I had no intention in being a shoe designer and I wanted a whole collection (clothing, shoes…) but it just happened that I met Henry (who owns Sanders) who was in NYC looking for partners. We met on friday to talk about it and next Tuesday I was in England to put together the collection in a couple of days and in January we started showing it. It was really slow at the beginning but after two months it just took off.


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