Q&A: Sean Sutherland of MBS
There’s something about the pairing of the classic baseball hat form with new unique fabrics, that makes an MBS hat really really handsome. The result of this combination is a hat that feels dressed up and dressed down at the same. A hat that could be worn almost anywhere.
MBS is New Jersey-based company that makes all their hats in the U.S. They’re relatively new, but I’ve been following their work for a while and have always been impressed with what seems like a near constant release of new products, all subtly adapted to the season. For example, see their new Italian tweed hats.
Recently I got to catch up with Sean Sutherland, founder of MBS, to find out a little more about the brand, how he started it and his advice for would-be entrepreneurs. Below is a Q&A we had over email. Check out mbsmfg.co and @mbsmfg for more info.
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself and the start of MBS. How and when you started and why you decided to build the brand.
So one question I get all the time is what does MBS stand for? I've been an Art Director/Graphic Designer working professionally for about 10 years now and my online portfolio site is www.madebysean.com - MBS is an acronym for Made By Sean. MBS started off as a small side project and launched June 28, 2013. I've always been a hat guy. I own about 30 different style hats from all sorts of brands both big and small, but as you grow older, your styles change. It got to the point where I couldn't find hats that I liked so started doing some research for hat manufacturers in the states and here were are now...
Your hats are made in New Jersey right? Tell us about the process of finding manufacturers and the process of actually getting something made in the U.S.A today. Was it hard?
It sure was hard. I spent many days and nights surfing the web for someone stateside that was willing to educate and work with me. When I first started out, I had no idea what I was doing, what I was getting into or the terminology that I should be using. I got lucky I guess, ha. There are some great resources out now to help with finding local manufacturers. One that everyone should know is Maker's Row. Not all of the hats are made in New Jersey, only the new 6-panels are. The 5-panels are made in Los Angeles, but next year I'll be moving all of my manufacturing to New Jersey, it's nice to keep things as local as possible.
You use a lot of interesting textiles that make your hats unique. I’m thinking about some of the Italian wools and also some of the older rip-stop ones. How and where do you find those fabrics and how do you decide on them?
The Italian Wools are some of my favorite fabrics to date. With working in the fashion industry, I'm open to so many different textiles that cross my way on a daily and weekly basis. Half of the fun is being able to get fabric swatches from all over the world and really get to feel the textures of them all. I pick fabrics that are season appropriate, but try and put a spin on it. A spin could be something as small as a different color under visor, cotton twill taping or trying to find a fabric that someone wouldn't think would look good as a hat.
Recently you expanded beyond hats with bags, etc. Any plans to expand to more products? Is there something you want to make that you’re not making now?
So the tote bags started because I couldn't find a bag that I liked. So I went to the computer, pieced together a rendering, picked out fabrics/hardware and was able to find a local manufacturer that was willing to work with me and guide me through the process. I did a really small run of them because I wasn't sure what the response would be, but luckily it was positive and now I'm planning different fabrics/colors for Spring/Summer 15. I'd love to do more products, but I think you need to start slow and add things at an organic progression. I'd love to do duffle bags and various apparel pieces, but I'll know when the time is right to introduce them.
Finally, any advice for would-be entrepreneurs or people thinking about launching a brand?
With working in the fashion and graphic design industry, I felt that I had a slight edge over some competitors and kind of said, hell, why not. I knew if a couple years down the road, I never took a chance and started MBS, I'd regret it. Advice that I would give to entrepreneurs, if you're confident in your abilities or product and are able to see the brand vision with a 360 point of view, take a chance. You don't want to regret things later in life. On my site I quote Eugene F. Ware, "All Glory Comes From Daring To Begin..." that really is how MBS started.