Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Interview | Paige Cowan, Muttonhead

© Matthew Crisp | www.crispphoto.com

Muttonhead is a unisex sports inspired and lifestyle clothing brand, in Toronto, Canada. It's ran by Paige Cowan and Meg and Mel Sinclair. 

Paige is the brand manager and takes care of their wholesale business, marketing/digital strategy and coordinate's all of the different events they do. Meg and Mel handle all of the sourcing, production and manufacturing. Mel is their in house graphic designer, she does all of the branding, builds their websites and manages their online store. They do almost everything else themselves, style and shoot the lifestyle photos, do their own PR, etc. 

I managed to get Paige away from a very busy schedule, to have a chat and get more of an insight into the brand.

An Interview With Paige Cowan

When and how did the clothing label Muttonhead begin?

Muttonhead was conceptualized in 2009 when my two business partners Meg and Mel were finishing up university at Ryerson in Toronto. I came on board a couple of months later and we decided to go for it! Right off the bat we started exhibiting at international trade shows and started learning the ins and outs of the business. 

What was the reason for naming the label Muttonhead, and where does the name come from?

The name doesn’t really mean anything; it is totally up for interpretation, at least not in Canada. It is kind of a quirky name that sticks in people’s heads.

You manufacture locally to guarantee sweatshop free, fair trade and ethnical practices. You also use recycled and organic fabrics, which is great. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

Manufacturing locally in Toronto is a really important element of our brand. It means that our production-head gets to work closely with our contractors and that we can ensure high quality products. It is so sad to see Canadian brands turning to oversees production, but I also understand the pressures to do so. I think a big part of it is trying to make your product accessible to the average price-conscious customer. 

We constantly see friends and other local brands throwing in the towel after a couple of years because it is just so hard to remain competitive when the cost of local production means your margins are quite small. The number one complaint we have is that our prices are too high, but I think change is happening. Customers are more educated than ever, and they are willing to invest in a couple of quality garments instead of a full wardrobe of pieces that will only last one season.

We also like to use recycled and organic fabrics because they feel amazing on your body! Have you ever rubbed up on some bamboo or Tencel?! It not only looks great but feels real good too.

Is there anyone or anything in particular that inspires you to do what it is you do?

We are constantly impressed and inspired with all of the amazing people who surround us. Not to get too patriotic on you or anything but Canada is exploding with inspiring and creative people, just waiting to be discovered. I think one of the huge disadvantages we have as a country is that we don’t always support our own. You see this in every industry where designers, artists, musicians have to get exposure down in the US, Europe or Asia before they are recognized at home. We have been really lucky to work with fantastic people right in our own backyard.  

The rag trade is a pretty brutal industry, especially when you are first starting out and learning the ropes. I have met so many great people in the industry who inspire me to work hard and keep at it. There is a huge network of support among brands and designers, all you have to do is ask.

I've noticed you sell and have sold some sports inspired garments e.g. gym shorts and the cycling sweatshirt, etc. Is sports inspired clothing the main focus of Muttonhead?

A lot of people might not know but our line started out as an outerwear brand, with its roots in snow and skate culture. We made the transition into everyday apparel but still held onto the sportswear look and tried to incorporate multi-functional details into our line. All three of us grew up playing sports and we all live an active lifestyle, so producing wearable sportswear just made sense for us.

You’re a unisex label, which is great. There's not many or any labels in fact, that I know of that do this now. What was the reason for making all your garments unisex and not having two separate collections, one for men and one for women?

Our apparel designer Meg likes the challenge of designing products that cater to both men and women. In the past season or two we have also seen a huge rise in women “in their boyfriends clothing” so I guess other girls were feeling like us and wanting to explore menswear. We technically make menswear but our branding is what makes it unisex, and the fact that all three of us girls wear Muttonhead.

You have stockists in thirteen different countries. Impressive. Was this the aim from the beginning to branch out across the globe or was it something that just took off unexpectedly and happened over a period of time? And do you hope to expand this even further?

I am pretty proud we have grown to this point, it has been years of hard work and hustling, but we still have a long way to go. I think our growth has been very organic and consistent. Our friends and families have been instrumental in encouraging our vision, and I personally wouldn’t be able to accomplish what I have without my exceptionally supportive fiancé. 

As we found it difficult to enter the Canadian market right off the bat, we started going to international tradeshows to gain exposure from buyers from around the world. We have been exhibiting at (Capsule) for two years and they have also been an incredibly supportive for us as a new brand. We also were really fortunate to work on some amazing collaborations that have opened us up to some new markets and new accounts.

Finally what does the future hold for Muttonhead, where do you see the brand going in the years to come?

I think the future will hold some pretty amazing things for everyone involved in our brand! In a couple of years from now I would love to experiment in some different categories and continue to collaborate with like-minded brands and people. 

Thanks for taking the time out to talk to us Paige, and we wish you the best of luck for the future.ACM

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