Structured Bags with Clean Lines: M.R.K.T.
Questions by SNC, Answers by Tom Pen (M.R.K.T. Founder & Head Designer) All images courtesy of M.R.K.T.

It is fair to say that Style.No.Chaser has a very unhealthy fascination with M.R.K.T. (Mad Rabbit Kicking Tiger) – their items appeal to us viscerally and there is nothing in their collections (past and present) that we don’t want to own. These guys are mavens with their color combinations and their structural detail is impeccable. Mundaneness is the enemy of this cutting edge brand because everything they create is engineered to break the monotony of the dreariness that we have been brainwashed to think should be the norm. M.R.K.T. is here to break the spell of the self-imposed normalcy in bags and reverse the belief that dullness and masculinity go hand in hand. We are extremely grateful to Tom Pen (M.R.K.T. Founder and Head Designer) for an illuminating interview. See it below.

“At heart, I’m a colorist, that is to say, I like using very bold color juxtapositions.  My favorite architect is …”

For people living under a rock and don’t know anything about M.R.K.T. (Mad Rabbit Kicking Tiger), please give a brief company/product description and why you have chosen architecture as a core pillar in your philosophy?

The reality is that we really are just getting started.  As a concept, we focus on creating structured bags with clean lines, while using high quality unconventional materials.  I find that when someone uses a structured bag, as opposed to the common soft bags, they possess this sense of formality, dignity, and coolness that’s lacking in much of today’s casual wear look.  We believe our early adopters are true trendsetters.  My architecture background taught me that an architect’s purpose is to give buildings not only function, but also a sense of being.  I want to translate this idea to urban wear through our bags.

Who are the people behind M.R.K.T.?

I started M.R.K.T. as a creative outlet, and it quickly gained popularity. I soon realized that I needed a partner to help guide the brand’s vision beyond the product itself. I met Shaun Nath, our CEO, through mutual friends and we hit it off right away. Since those early days, we have developed a tight-knit and dedicated team that strongly believes in what we’re doing. Each person is a sort of master in their craft, specializing in their respective areas of expertise. We are also quite international and bring many perspectives to unite under one shared goal. I think that’s what encourages our ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking.

There is no getting around the fact that M.R.K.T.’s product designs are stunning and bold – the colors used are quite unique – how are these color schemes chosen and how does the firm stay ahead (and actually dictates) trends?

At heart, I’m a colorist, that is to say, I like using very bold color juxtapositions.  My favorite architect is Barragan; my favorite artists are Matisse and Derain.  Our team sometimes has to rein me in, haha.  We look at some fashion trend forecasts, but mostly we just come up with what we feel looks uniquely fresh and vibrant each season.

Where are M.R.K.T.’s products made and what is the firm’s view around sustainability and impact?

We have a workshop in Shanghai through which we can control our high demand for both product quality and design process.  Our main materials are sourced from a German supplier with certificates for the highest level of environmental sustainability.  I believe that with a brand like M.R.K.T., which is making fashion and design-centric products that we hope our customers love and identify with, they must be made with ethical conscience.  Many of our unconventional materials are chosen on the basis of environmental considerations.

Who is M.R.K.T.’s quintessential audience?  Does the firm plan to remain exclusive to this audience or continue expand its appeal?

For a design-centric brand like ours, our early customers tend to be young creative professionals.  We need to continue designing compelling and functional products for them, but at the same time, we want to reach other audiences.  I think design-led urban and street wear is potentially a great segment for us as well, so we will be collaborating with influential designers in that space in upcoming seasons. After all, we are immensely inspired by the urban city lifestyle of our customers. Additionally, we are looking to design more styles for the discerning fashion-conscious women’s market. This demographic tends to have a bit of an edgier sense of style and are drawn to unique designs and innovations.

What is M.R.K.T.’s opinion when it comes to hipsters?

Haha, is this a trick question?  You mean the bearded variety?  I think naturally, we all want to belong to a community whether that’s based on ethnicity, hobby, or state of mind.  The latter is what I think the genesis of hipsters comes from.  Of course, there’s something every decade: hippies, punks, goth, grunge, etc…  The clothes they wear and grooming method may be different, but they are all socially liberal conscientious people, which makes them alright with me.

Since M.R.K.T. is very specific about its philosophy and image, how does the brand choose which outlets will carry its products and how are these outlets generally vetted?

Typically, the stores that are drawn to our brand and products understand the concept very clearly, and that is reflected in the store’s design, location, and product curation. It’s a particular point of view. That said, we do take time to ensure the retailer understands the brand’s story, unique attributes of our products, and that they are merchandised in a dignified way.  This is a must for us, so we take an active approach in the presentation of our brand.

Has M.R.K.T. tapped (or plans to eventually tap) the venture capital industry for growth capital?

Like many young and fast growing brands, access to capital is a necessity. We have been fortunate to experience healthy growth and have shareholders who not only share, but actually further the vision for the brand. Looking forward, we have big plans.

What other brands out there does M.R.K.T. look up to or aspires to be like, and why?

I have always brands liked APC. Almost everything they make is very contemporary and wearable.  Maybe they are a bit too subtle- our bags will go well with any look and give it that needed edge.  Another brand I like very much is Common Projects; very clean and modern shoes made with high quality.  

Is M.R.K.T. open to collaborations with other brands?   

Within the creative community, collaboration is essential to learning, sharing, and growing as a designer and as a brand. So we’re very much open to it. In fact, we have several collaborations coming up which we are excited about. 

Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. does M.R.K.T. think defines a man?

What defines a man ultimately comes from inside — his view of the world as shaped by his influences and experiences. Fashion, as a form of expression, really serves to present that point of view to the world. That’s what makes fashion fun. As a matter of expression, there does seem to be a minimal look in apparel lately, with statements made in accessories; bags, shoes, hats, etc. 

What is the best way for people to get updates on or purchase M.R.K.T. products?

Check out our website, and subscribe to our newsletter. Or follow us @mrktbags on instagram.

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