Mason Hainey is a twenty -year old entrepreneur and designer based in Maine who over the past couple of years has been using his talent and ambition to make a name for himself in the Fashion World. Recently approached by British GQ, Mason was given the opportunity to have his brand, MIZU, introduced in an upcoming issue where he would be in the company of big names such as Hugo Boss, Giorgio Armani and Prada. Recently, I got the chance to speak with him over Skype about how all of this success came to be.
So Mason, when did you first become interested in the fashion?
I have always been aware of fashion, even as a child. In fact my first ‘dream job’ was to be a fashion designer. I remember stapling sheets together to create makeshift dresses, and asking for a sewing machine for Christmas when I was 10. But, it wasn’t really until my college years that I seriously started to ‘follow’ the fashion trends, know the designers and language.
How did you go about taking that hobby from your childhood and start to make it into something real?
I remember feverishly searching for a bowtie that wasn’t just some byas-cut striped silk or solid and would continuously come up empty. It was then that a friend from art school said “Why don’t you just make one?”. And I thought, ‘why don’t I? I’m crafty!’ And so it started. I went to The Salvation Army, found an old floral dress and made my first bow-tie. Not the best quality, but it was what I wanted. Every time I would wear my bow-tie, I would get loads of compliments from strangers and people passing by. It was then that I knew that I could make something out of this. I hunkered down, made some patterns, cut up some old dresses and stitched on my grandmother’s old sewing machine, churning out tie after tie. I set out to sell at a local event, the First Friday Art Walk, where local vendors and artists can sell their wares on a main street downtown. My table was a huge success, bringing in much more than I had ever imagined. I was even selling the bow-ties off my neck. These events, held on the first Friday of every month are what helped get me started. It provided fantastic exposure and I was able to meet many interesting people. Still carrying a day-job to pay rent, every dime I made went right back into my business.
You took a big risk by choosing to leave your art school and pursue your dream in starting a fashion line. Was it a scary process?
It may seem like a risk to leave school in order to pursue the dream of starting a fashion line, but I honestly was not intimidated by it. I knew that this is what I want to do and I have the capabilities of making it happen. I knew that my passion would lead to success.
Were your parents and those around you supportive of your decision?
I couldn’t ask for a more supporting and loving family. Never once have they questioned my motives of leaving school to pursue this. They’ve already seen my success and they knew I could make it happen.
Once you had the support of your family and a stable foundation, how did you come up with the name MIZU for your line?
MIZU means water in Japanese. After spending a bit of time living outside Tokyo, mizu became one of the first words I picked up ( partly because of ease to remember and partly because it was an essential in most outings). I chose to call my brand MIZU not only due it the beauty of the word but because mizu, or water, is global and that is wanted my brand to be. I take influences from masculine, feminine, east and west then mesh them together to create a clean look that is uniquely MIZU.
Your brand seems to be getting talked about more and more. Do you have a staff to help you as you expand?
At the current moment, I do everything in my studio located in Portland, Maine USA. I handle all aspects of the business personally, thus giving me complete control the quality of pieces I send out. Everything is stitched by hand in an often slow process. Some things that may take a machine 20 minutes could take me an hour or more. However, the beauty of handmade pieces such as mine, is the quality control. Each and every piece is hand inspected, loved and cared for during the production process.
Being on your own with this growing success must be hard at times. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced thus far?
Time is without a doubt my biggest challenge. I am always up against a clock. With so many plans and directions that I want to take MIZU, it is incredibly difficult to find enough time to do it all. This is where careful and precise scheduling comes in.
Fortunately, all this hard work seems to be paying off. Do you remember the first time you felt that your line was really “going somewhere”?
It was my first large event. The school I was attending at the time, Maine College of Art was hosting their annual Holiday Sale. I had applied to be a vendor, not fully knowing if I would even be accepted. This was a large show, spanning 2 days and covering 3 floors of the school’s historic Porteous Building. Not only was I accepted, but I was placed right in front of the door. I couldn’t ask for a better location. Nearly selling out after the first night, I remember going home to my matchbox sized apartment and staying up all night to create more pieces for the next morning. That is when I first really thought that MIZU could be something big.
I think that you have a really bright future ahead of you. Right now, in this moment, what would you say your ultimate goals for your brand are?
There are grand plans for MIZU in the future. Right now an amazing opportunity has come my way that will help me reach this goal. British GQ contacted me regarding their spring / summer advertorials. With their affluent readers, there is no telling what international doors this could open for MIZU. I have no desire to stop at ties and neckwear. I want to do it all: suiting, shirting, outerwear, handbags, shoes, sunglasses, fragrances. Everything! I dream of having a globally recognized brand that is known for it’s high quality, clean, envelope pushing aesthetic.
By Lydia Snapper