MJZ, the brand jumpstarted in 2017 by former finance executive Michael Chang with a focus on exotic skin tropes priced as high as 120,000 euros, is gearing up to venture into ready-to-wear.
After gaining fans among the likes of Scott Disick, who described a perfecto he borrowed from the brand as a “Tom Ford and Hermès elevated piece,” Chang sensed there was also space to pivot.
Two-plus pandemic years since the brand expanded its luxurious men’s offering to include women’s pieces and took part in Paris Fashion Week in September 2019, the entrepreneur and his business partner Irina Shabayeva, who was brought on board to launch American alligator perfecto jackets and neo crocodile bombers for women, masterminded the new line.
“We were on the brink of COVID-19, but prior to that Irina and I were planning our next year’s major couture collection which again would have been purely exotics… but obviously it didn’t work out because factories were shut down. So we talked and decided to pivot a little bit, to maybe start a new direction,” Chang said.
Although leather remains the core of the new line — “anything but exotics,” in Chang’s words — the collection, which is manufactured in France and Italy, where he said he found the best suppliers, spans a full fashion offering from T-shirts and skirts to dresses, coats and bags. “It’s a complete lifestyle collection,” Shabayeva said, highlighting her dedication to conjure flattering silhouettes and fits.
It features precious fabrics and materials, from cashmere, suede and lambskin to Japanese cotton and cotton twill. “We really try to play with materials, with leather, to offer a little bit of a younger, edgier vibe, more comfortable, it’s not as ‘in your face’ as exotics are… it takes someone who really loves that type of materials to pull it off, let alone that the price point is very pricey,” Chang said.
The MJZ ready-to-wear collection is priced between 450 euros and 10,000 euros, for full leather jumpsuits, so still speaking to luxury consumers yet far away from the 50,000-euro entry price of couture pieces.
Described as a seasonless wardrobe of elevated basics that will grow with time, the first drop is expected in late summer or early fall on the brand’s e-commerce, as “a soft launch,” Chang said. He is currently in talks with several retailers as he envisioned ready-to-wear to be mainly wholesaled and aims to have on board the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue, The Webster and Ssense.
Asked if they pivoted in light of the recent lukewarm reception of exotics, which for instance Chanel halted the use of in 2018, as fashion embraces a sustainably minded approach, Chang offered a different rationale.
“It was a business move, because Irina and I were always discussing about launching some T-shirts, some simple leather pants with no exotics whatsoever even before COVID-19 hit, but obviously because of the pandemic and people wanting to wear more comfortable clothing, we thought now was the best opportunity to launch this more chill, young, easy-to-wear, comfortable but still very luxurious collection,” he said.
The couture, exotic skin component will be continued on a bespoke basis and Chang noted he doesn’t want to give up on the experiential component of having alligator hoodies tailor-made. “The brand could not exist without the exotic portion,” he said.