Keeping it real with Manresa Clothing
Talking New England vibes, screen printing, why doing it for the Gram sucks, to hell with the Gorp tsunami, & more.
Sprezza is a new kind of newsletter exploring men’s style.
We talk about independent menswear, WTF style means, cover drops, review products, and the business of retail.
These days it feels like brands are a dime a dozen.
Everyone’s got shit to sell you, but it feels like very few have something worth saying. I discovered Manresa last year and they’re the exception to the rule form. They’re genuinely one of the dopest up-and-coming brands out there right now, and in the words of a Manresa stan…
“If Nike ACG and LL Bean had a baby, Manresa is the love child.”
You’ll see why that hits HARD in a sec.
Please Mike McLachlan, founder and designer of Manresa.
How'd you get into making clothes?
I wanted to be like my brother growing, but I had no money to buy any of the cool shit he had. I loved all the brands he wore, like Stussy, Triple 5 Soul, Wu Wear, Kultjah, Clarks, Jordan, streetwear brands (I didn't even know at the time).
I got into graphic design when I was 12, and one year my dad bought me a basic screen printing kit from the local art store for my birthday. I spent all my time learning how to screenprint my designs on blank tees in the basement.
Fast forward 20 years, I have a degree in graphic design and have worked as a professional screen printer for years. It almost feels like I had no choice but to do this.
Everyone's doing outdoor shit right now, but your stuff feels authentic and different...
Yeah. There are a lot of brands and designers (who have clearly never spent any time outdoors) opportunistically riding the gorp tsunami that Arc' created over the last few years, which is unfortunate.
That said, there are also a lot of brands who clearly love and respect the great outdoors and are creating outerwear from a genuine place.
It's nice to see those brands succeed.
I grew up spending time outdoors, so that's where my authenticity comes from. Also, now that I have experienced how hard it is to create technical outerwear, it makes me respect brands like Arc', ACG, and Patagonia even more.
That shit is incredibly difficult to make well!
I used to think that an Arc' jacket wasn't worth the money, but it most certainly is. Learning how to create products on that level is one of my obsessions right now.
I'll probably never get there, but it's fun to try.
Where does that New England vibe come from and how does it manifest into the brand?
I was born and raised in Connecticut, have family in New Hampshire, and spent a ton of time snowboarding in Vermont growing up.
I'm lucky I was born before the internet took over the world (1989), and I'm thankful I had a genuine New England childhood.
It was a lot of time in the woods turning over rocks, shooting shit with slingshots, and swimming + rowing around the Long Island Sound.
New England is a magical, unique region from an outdoor perspective. With Manresa, I do my best to rep it to the fullest.
Where do you draw your own inspiration from?
My current design process for developing garments and collections is just shooting from the hip right now. I usually start with a reference sample from an older garment that I love (but dislike one small feature on).
For example, my Wallace Pant is basically a blend of Grammici's climbing pant with hip pockets that are easier to access, a Patagonia standup pant, and run in a durable fabric you'd find at Carhartt. But I add a diagonal opening instead of having a vertical opening directly on the outseam.
Smashing together outerwear and workwear is pretty common in my work as I use them interchangeably myself. Lately, I've been trying to start with the fabric when designing.
Right now, I'm impressed with the work Adsum is doing. They're not trying to be too loud, they're subtle and understated, and their product quality comes first.
18East is another amazing brand, and Antonio (as I mentioned) is the best menswear designer of my generation; I don't even think it's close.
Early Stüssy stuff is also a big inspiration. I look back at Shawn's work often; he's my idol in this industry.
What pisses you off about the clothing industry, and what are your ambitions for the brand?
It feels like owning a brand has become "cool" over the last decade. There are a lot of deeply uncreative people trying to start brands so they can post about it on Instagram, not because they genuinely love the art form.
As someone devoted to good design since I was a kid, that's frustrating.
The deep disrespect people have for art in general, thinking they don't need any practice to be good at it is maddening. Fortunately, the market and natural selection usually take care of those types.
I used to care about the wrong ambitions for my brand when I was younger, but now I consume myself in menswear history, fashion at large, and creating quality products that I'm proud of. I trust the process and hope it allows me to provide for my family.
What principles drive your own brand and the way you make clothing?
Antonio Ciongoli over at 18East has taught me a lot as I have gotten to know him. Most importantly, he's taught me how to stand by your values and be authentically yourself when building a brand.
Don't ride waves and make stuff just because everybody else is doing it. Focus on creating classic products, not novelties.
I ask myself if this will be cool in 30 years, and that's helped me focus on timeless products.
Ultimately, I'm making clothing, not solving world hunger, so keeping the brand voice light and playful while creating quality products is what motivates me.