When did you start your business and why?
Everything started with a bow tie. At 19, while attending art school in Maine, I was starving to find an interesting, well made bow tie ( these were very trendy, circa 2011 ). I remember searching everywhere- local stores, thrift stores department stores, malls, but all I would ever find was the standard, boring, stripe silk bow ties that were far too large for my already-rather-large head. It was on the bus ride home from searching at the mall that a friend from college says “why don’t you just make one?” And so I did. I went to the local Salvation Army on Adler St, picked up a few vintage floral dresses, cut and stitched some crudely made ties on the sewing machine my grandmother bought me for Christmas when I was 11. I wore them everywhere, and people began to notice me ( or the ties, at least ). I began to get stopped on the street and asked where I bought my ties and where they could get them. So I took a chance, cleared the racks at salvation army and cut up a lot of old dresses to make a run of limited edition bow ties. I sold my goods at the local monthly-market ( “ First Friday” ) alongside the other crafters and makers of Portland, Maine. And my designs sold really well. I continued to do these markets each month and would consistently sell out.
It’s at this point that I knew I could do something with this and that MIZU brand was born.
In short, I started my business out of a desire to fill a gap in the market, bringing affordable, contemporary, well crafted design to classic styles.
What/who are your major influences?
I am inspired by the unknown. At the end of the day, I feel my best when I’ve spent time out of my element and have grown in some way. Whether that’s walking a new way home, cooking something different or traveling someplace abroad. I so easily fall into a consistent routine that I crave new-ness to rock my world a little. And that’s what I work so hard to bring to my brand. I source my materials from all over the world, importing vintage fabrics from Asia, sourcing essential oils that have been distilled from plants grown in there indigenous locations, finding a mix of vintage and new fabrics from stores in the US. Everything that I create tells a story of heritage and is mindfully designed to be inviting but also unfamiliar. The goal with every product is to inspire the consumer in some way.
Do you have a favorite piece or product that you’ve done?
That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child.
Perhaps my line of candles because it’s, in a way, a return to my roots. When I was younger, around 9 or 10, I started my very first business… I think I called it Mason’s Gel Candles. With a team of loving investors ( my parents ) I made dozens of candles and sold them to every classmate, parent, teacher and relative that would look at me.
What’s the best part of owning your own business?
Creating something from nothing and watching it grow and evolve. Having that absolute freedom to do what you want, when you want. Being able to convey to others what you think is new, fresh and inspiring; and then being able to watch how they react to it. Sometimes it’s a hit, others not so much. But above all, what I think I like most about being a small business owner is how soulful and crazy the journey is. It’s a journey that I get to bring YOU on, and that beats being stuck in an office where passion is questionable.
What is a typical “work” day like for you?
Work days are every day. I’m up at 5, guzzle the blackest coffee you’ve ever seen and start with a list of manifestations and goals for the day; followed by a very thorough to-do list. Then I get to work! Usually emails / web-work, followed by packingorders and an AM post office drop-off in the morning. Lunch. More work, primarily production-based or more packing orders, followed by a PM Post Office-drop…or just a walk to clear my mind, which at this point is very full. Then it’s time to make dinner and Netflix & Chill for an hour, before ending my day with whatever’s left - quick emails, pressing, packing. etc.
What does the process of making a piece or product consist of?
Speaking broadly, it’s a 3-part process: Inspiration, Research + Development, production.
Everything starts with some source of inspiration; a big fresh idea, a interesting place, a flavor, a memory.. anything that really speaks to the moment and is big enough to create an entire collection around. I’ll sit and sketch and plan out things preliminary, but this process is very much fluid and tends to evolve ( or completely change ) as I enter into R+D.
When creating something completely new to my brand, I have a tendency to immediately jump into production, foregoing any research or plans. I like to get my hands dirty as soon as possible. 9 times of out 10, that first product is a flop, but a huge learning experience that better helps me understand the process before I step back an really do the research.
R+D is the most time consuming( and EXPENSIVE ) aspect of creating something new. This is where all the juicy design details are laid out and perfected. It’s my favorite part of the process where I get to explore, experiment and learn as much as possible…butif I could draw you a graph of my emotions during this stage, it would probably look like a a very tight zig-zag that ends with an upward arc. It’s a crazy ride of ‘aha’-moments followed by failures, followed up success, followed by set backs, and it keeps going until I can really step back and confidently say I am happy and ready to present my new product to the world.
I am currently in the R+D phase of my new home collection, due out later this summer. It’s been a grueling ride.. without going into too much, i’ve spent the entirety of last week developing this one new scent ( of 7 ). It’s completely taken over my mind, giving me so many moments of grief, doubt and pure joy. It’s really like a blank puzzle and you’re trying to get all the right pieces to fit together.. but once you find the right fit all the grief becomes so worth it.
Production is often very chill. Put on some classical or meditation music and just get to work. All of this leads to photography, photo edit, copy writing ( all done by me ! ) and finally, the launch. Last year, my 4 collections each had a development time of about 8 months, from concept to market. To me, the launch of every collection literally feels like giving birth, in the best way.
What are your favorite ways to unwind when you aren’t working?
Lately, I’ve found solace in cooking. Cooking and baking have always been a passion of mine, but it’s kind of been on the back burner as I’ve been developing my business. I’ve recently become allergic to everything, so I’ve been having a lot of fun baking dairy-free, gluten-free, peanut-free things. I also love trying new flavors and dishes inspired from around the world. In my opinion, eating traditional dishes from different cultures is one of the best ways to get inspired….Even if you cant make it over the actual country, you can usually find ingredients to make a traditional meal.
To learn more about MIZU Brand, visit their website here.