Longevity in the streetwear realm is no easy feat. Brands seem to emerge daily, plastering generic logos onto t-shirts one day and vying for their favorite musician's endorsement the next.
In 2003, Mishka set out to build its own empire in Brooklyn, NY - grabbing influences from the skate community, indie rock music, punk, comics and pop culture. The eccentric apparel company is now celebrating its 10th year of existence and has become a bonafide staple in the industry along the way. By intertwining music, culture and art into their designs, Mishka has seemed to have found the formula for long-term success. VIBE caught up with the brand's creative director Mikhail Bortnik and President Greg Rivera to find out exactly how Mishka has persevered and risen to the top.
VIBE: How difficult is it to remain original when streetwear brands seem to emerge daily nowadays?
G: It's not very difficult for us to be honest. I feel like we have always stood out in streetwear, from the first day we started in 2003. Fashion in general, is hard because everything comes in cycles. Sometimes, we are right on the mark with what is trending, or we are struggling to push a trend that is not going to catch on for a couple of years.
M: I think streetwear brands have always been emerging on the daily and that's going back to when we started in the boom of 2003 all the way through to now. We're just maybe taking notice of it more because of how tied in to social media we all are. How do we stay original? I think you'll probably get some differing opinions from people regarding how original we really are Ha! But our motto has always been to pursue what interests us, sometimes the stars align and it hits as a trend, sometimes we're a year too soon and other times it's a huge whiff. But originality in streetwear is a such a strange concept to even discuss when basically, streetwear's industry has always been re-apropriation and cycling old trends back as current ones fade. And there's really nothing wrong with that. We do it. Upstart brands do it. Huge fashion houses do it. Hell, upstart brands will even try to call us out on twitter for ripping off their graphic of say a "Knicks flip," without realizing that the Knicks logo has been flipped thousands of times before they or we ever did it and will be flipped a thousands more times in the decade to come. So originality and ownership of ideas and concepts gets kinda loose when "Flips" have historically been how streetwear brands first get noticed. One thing that we've actively tried is to steer more away from direct flips (which albeit is hard when you just get a good idea for one) and focus more on cultivating our own identifiable properties like the Keep Watch, The Death Adder, The Bear Mop, Cyco Simon. And we'll continue doing that and creating more icons and characters.
Is it important to Mishka to integrate music culture into the brands outlook? For example collaborating with Skrillex and DJ Sliink.
G: Music is so important! Have you checked out our blog (mishkanyc.com/bloglin) Music (and art) is the backbone of our lifestyle that we are constantly pushing and promoting.
M: Music's always been one of the creative backbones of this brand. Driving a lot of inspiration from day one. Music is the main form of marketing and promotion… from our Blog to the albums/mixtapes and mixes we release.
Has the brand ever considered producing a line for women?
G: Yes, and we have in the past but it cost us a lot more and was not as easy as we thought it would be. Fortunately for us, streetwear has become very unisex. So the clothes we design primarily for men are being adopted by women. We would like to do a women's only line. It's something that we have thought about for sure, we just are not sure when we are going to make it a full fledged line.
M: I think we're still trying to get a grasp on how to be a men's line and as Greg stated, our previous forays into women's were a lot more difficult than we initially imagined they'd be. Maybe some point in the future but right now it's heartening to just see girls taking mens clothes and re-appropriating them for their own style.
A lot of streetwear brands are borrowing styles from high end lines as of late, what do you think about this new trend?
G: You mean ripping off or flipping logos of high end brands? Yea, that is super trendy right now.
M: this has all happened before and will all happen again.
Does Mishka currently have any brand ambassadors? If no, how come?
G: Yes and No. We def. have a family of musicians and artists that we support and they support us. People like Damien of Fucked Up, Nathan and crew from Wavves, J. Masicis from Dinosuar Jr. We also have L'amour Supreme who is our in house illustration power hourse!
M: We don't seek out out people to wear our clothes and be faces of the brand. It's great when you see artists you love and respect gravitating to the stuff and becoming we wouldn't really say "Ambassadors" but friends of the brand.
Is it important for the brand to have the clothing worn by celebrities?
G: I think it is when it's done organically. I love seeing celebrities rocking our gear knowing that we didn't send it to them for free. They know that they have a choice of what to wear and that thousands, maybe even millions of people have their eyes on them, so it's cool when they choose to wear Mishka. Obvously, from a sales and marketing standpoint it's a great thing as well.
What goes into the decision to collaborate with another brand, for example Brooklyn Brewery?
G: They approached us actually! But it was awesome, cause we are all fans of Brooklyn beer and at the time we're right around the corner of our office. We love to collab and work with people when there is a mutual respect or admiration for both brands. It makes the collab fun and easy!
What benefits does including a blog on the site allow?
G: It allows us to talk to our fans directly. It also gives a platform to talk about what drives us as individuals and more importantly the creative forces and influences of the brand.
Does Brooklyn provide any inspiration when it comes to your styles?
What can fans of the brand expect from Mishka in the future?
G: Well its our 10 year anniversary so expect a birthday bash at the end of the year. We also have a lot of fun collaborations happening in the near future. Keep Watch!