If you’re not overly familiar with the name ‘Miansai’, you’ve probably seen one of their most famous designs without knowing it. A coloured nautical cord bracelet with a metallic fish hook or anchor detailing was, a few years ago, as ubiquitous as Stan Smiths and skinny jeans.
It was one of the few jewellery designs and brands that managed to cut through to the mainstream while still being desirable for guys to wear on their wrists. It was a sweet spot of pricing and branding that made it something that wasn’t throwaway, yet was affordable enough to be worn carefree.
Left - Michael Saiger Founder & Creative Director of Miansai, TheChicGeek wears Harrington Jacket - Grenfell, Cardigan - Pretty Green X John Smedley, T-Shirt - Vintage Helmut Lang, Tracksuit Trousers - adidas from ASOS, Trainers - Diadora Made in Italy
I caught up with the founder, Michael Saiger, in London, to find out how he achieved something that is so difficult, today, and see what’s next for Miansai:
Originally from New York, Michael Andrew Saiger - it’s the MI-AN-SAI of his name that gives the brand its name, “All the domains were taken until I circled these parts of my name. Everybody thought it was asian, but it’s not”, he says, is dressed in a simple sweater and chinos and surrounded by the salon style hanging of the Berners Tavern restaurant.
Michael’s attention to detail can be seen by his perfectly manicured beard and not a hair out of place on his head. “I put my handprint on everything I do. I’m OCD, I’m obsessive”, he says.
How did he get started and where did his eye come from? “My mum has an antique store, she’s an interior decorator and I grew up around estate sales my whole life. So, then when I went to the University of Miami and I started making some bracelets. This was 2007,” says Michael.
“I was looking for a bracelet and there was nothing out there. So, I started making bracelets for myself and then I would take these World War II pendants and medallions that I would find at estate sales and make them into necklaces. All my friends really loved it and wanted them.
“I took them to the concept store, Base, in Miami. They were like, ‘oh yeah, we love this stuff’. This was right before I went on holiday for the summer, and when I went back after, they said they’d sold out in like a week or two,”
Right - This bracelet design has done the difficult thing of being common while still looking fresh and has become something of a men's classic - Miansai - Anchor Cord Silver-Plated Wrap Bracelet - £55 from MRPORTER
The company started officially in 2008 and, then, the product that catapulted Miansai onto the wrists of men worldwide was born. “I took all that money and bought various machines, equipment, everything, so, then me and one of my best friends had a 300 sq ft work studio and we started making everything and selling to some of the best boutiques around the US.
“After that and I graduated - the degree was in marketing - we were bursting out, so we found a 10,000 sq ft warehouse, and built it out and set up our whole manufacturing operation. Then, I started taking our nautical rope and, at the time, nobody used nautical rope for anything unless you went to a summer camp and had a little tie-on bracelet.
“We launched in 2009, in Barney’s & Bergdorf’s ,and then GQ featured one of our rope bracelets. I started using the rope in 2008, but the hook and anchor came in 2009. I didn't want to launch it until I knew I had manufacturing, as I knew it would be very popular. I didn't want to come out with a product and not be able to deliver it.
“We were the first to do anything like this with price points between $55 to $500. It had to be for a 15 year old, it had to be for a 70 year old, it had to be for a 20 year old: anyone and everyone.
Asked how many he thinks he’s sold of his signature product, we quickly discredit the hundreds of thousands and move into the millions. Next came his own retail outlets. “In 2012, we started a mobile retail unit, an old vintage airstream. In 2013, we opened a store in New York, Soho, and we've just opened another store in Venice Beach in LA".
Michael understands the future of retail and that traditional bricks and mortar US retail is suffering. “Retailers are hurting, especially in the US, with everybody shopping online. We have our food delivered, we, literally, don't got to the store, at all. The industry is changing”.
How do you see your stores then? “It’s more about experiential retail. I built our two stores to be galleries. I didn’t want jewellery fixtures, I designed furniture to house jewellery. It feels like a furniture store inside. That’s the future of retail,”.
Left - Miansai - Harbour Rucksack Tobacco Leather - £506.35 This was the bag Michael was carrying in London. He says the bags are made in the same factories as Prada, using the same leather as Louis Vuitton
He cites Aesop as a brand he admires. He’s coy about naming anybody that touches on his accessorises world, but he’s clearly an admire of good design.
He knows that he needs to go to where the consumers are, so he’s launching 5 more mobile units of classically restored Airstreams, Piaggio's and a Fiat at various locations such as JFK, LAX, Soho House Malibu and Newport, Rhode Island. He says it’s all about, “High traffic in an authentic way without selling out,”.
The brand has just expanded into leather bags and fine jewellery. “We launched leather bags: Italian leather, all cut and sewn in Turkey. We use some of the same factories as Prada and the some of the same leather as Louis Vuitton. I always collected bags from my estate sale days and knew what I wanted in a bag”.
As for the fine jewellery. It’s not currently available in the UK, but how does that fit in? “It’s marketed to women, but anyone can wear it,” he says, “For first 5 year’s of the brand, I never said whether it was men’s or women’s,". Is it made by your? "We do make some of the solid gold jewellery ourselves and some of the fine jewellery with the Pavé diamonds, we also work with a very high end factory in Thailand”.
Right - Arduin Cuff Bracelet, 14K Gold/Pave - £2978.54
What advice can he give to men with regards to wearing jewellery? “Keep it simple. Keep it to two pieces, unless you have a thin bracelet. For me, personally, I never wear more that two bracelets and a watch”.
So, what’s next for Miansai? “I definitely want to stay in the accessories realm, I don't want to go into ready-to-wear. We have a very good niche and I’d like to stay there”.
Michael currently has 55 employees, he doesn’t disclose his turnover, but if he’s shifting £60 bracelets by the million, then it’s going to be pretty high. He obviously knows his market and exactly how to expose his brand without it feeling like it is everywear, devaluing it and worst of all, millennials I'm looking at you here, boredom kicks in.
To sell millions of the same bracelet yet retain its desirability is a skill many retailers or brands would love to know. I don’t think it’ll be long before we see a converted vintage van - how about a Morris Traveller? That’s very British - at Wilderness or one of those more monied festivals emblazoned with ‘Miansai’ on the side.
This bag is the bomb. Actually, Troubadour should call this the ‘Bomb’, as it hasn't got a name.
British accessories brand, Troubadour, produce some great luggage and accessories and has, over the last few years, been growing their range and developing and enhancing their products.
I’ve been watching their progress and they know exactly what their stylish customers want: capacity, functionality, quality and understated branding.
If this was a ‘designer’ bag it would easily have a 1 in front of the number. It’s a giant holdall slash rucksack that could easily hold a week's holiday or trip. Stitch-free straps are injected with technical rubber for comfort and an external side pocket, top flap and internal mesh side pockets complete the design. The fabric body is strengthened by the crossing over leather straps while keeping the weight down.
You’ll look like a chic Action Man and carrying it will be the most stylish workout you’ve ever had. Now, squat!
Left & Below - Troubadour - Fabric + Leather Duffle - £895
Just as everybody seems to be turning veggie or vegan, so too are our accessorises. M.R.K.T. - Mad Rabbit Kicking Tiger - is a Los Angeles-based accessories label established in 2010 by Harvard-trained architect, Tom Pen.
The designs are inspired by modern architecture and produced in materials which are carefully selected with structure, texture, and durability in mind. All of the materials are socially conscious and vegan friendly and feature vegan leather, felt and micro suede.
TheChicGeek featured one in this OOTD - here
Left - Are you a Mad Rabbit or a Kicking Tiger? Carter Backpack
One of the most successful British luxury labels of the last few years, Anya Hindmarch, has just introduced a men’s collection.
"Men started wearing our product so the menswear line really launched itself,” says Anya Hindmarch.
This bag, in the ‘Walton’ shape, is a men’s style from the Anya Hindmarch Bespoke collection and is, now, available, in this bold red, with her humorous Men at Work symbol.
A symbol usually associated with hold-ups, Men at Work seems apt on a formal briefcase, making it light-hearted and showing you have a sense of humour, even in the most serious of meetings.
Now, where do I get a Geek at Work version from?!
Left & Below - Anya Hindmarch - Men’s Men at Work Walton Briefcase - £1495
The Chic Geek talks about his week in men's style including his lack of love for Vetements & Yeezy, Anya Hindmarch's new men's range, the Fossil Q Founder Smartwatch, UTC00 accessories & That So layered sun protection.
You’ve probably noticed Gucci getting a lot of Chic Geek love recently. This is new, improved, just keeps on getting better Gucci: a Gucci that hasn't excited us since Tom Ford left the building over a decade ago.
One of the most distinctive items of their new look is the famous GG monogrammed canvas printed over with painted geraniums. Seen on bombers - as in the new Cruise SS16 advertising - here and various accessories.
A real man shouldn't be afraid to carry flowers, especially when they're on his duffle bag. Be the first to get this.
Left & Below - Gucci - GG Blooms Duffle Bag - £1100
TheChicGeek casts his discerning editor’s eye over the new collection from Fossil. From timepieces to bags, jewellery to small leather goods, Fossil has something for everyman this season. Here are TheChicGeek’s top picks and how you should wear them:
1. For something dressier and more grown-up, for the new season, try this Buchanan Chronograph with a smart black leather strap. Team with a suit for work or a fine knit for an evening out.
Left - Buchanan Chronograph Black Leather Watch - £165
2. Apart from adding a quality finish to this backpack, the leather details add a practicality and durability which will only get better with wear. Looks great with a hoodie and jeans.
Right - Estate Backpack - £169
3. Simple, yet effective, this braided leather bracelet is fastened with a generous hook in a copper coloured metal.
Left - Hook Detail Bracelet - £49
4. It is the subtle touches that separate the plain fashionable from the super stylish. This simple Concorde-like pin will look great on the lapel of a dark suit without drawing too much attention.
Right - Paper Airplane Pin - £19
5. Perfect for the huge AW15 shearling/flight jacket trend, this watch blends the best retro qualities with Fossil's famous leather for the most stylish of contemporary aviators. Wear with an oversized knit and leather/sheepskin flight jacket.
Left - Breaker Chronograph Vaccheta Leather Watch - £185
What are you favourite pieces?
Get involved @fossil #CallingAllCurious
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They're watching you! Looking as inconspicuous as TheChicGeek can, TheChicGeek is feeling a little bit surrounded by Fendi's bug eyes.
From bags to phone covers to watches, Fendi's, now signature, bug eyes are the style talisman protecting him from any fashion mistakes!
As for the look, this ultra warm corduroy trench coat, lined in shearling, is the ultimate in 1970s style menswear. Teamed with jumbo wale corduroy trousers and handsome loafers, TheChicGeek is certainly safe from the elements too.
Credits - All AW15 Fendi
Shot by Robin Forster on #OlympusPEN
More images below
While a lucrative market, it is very difficult to enter the luxury leather goods sector fully formed. Gladstone London has done just that with its premium men’s accessories using the finest Italian leather.
Left - The signature Gladstone London hardware is handcrafted in Florence to jewellery standards. Each piece is crafted on a lathe in solid brass and finished in pewter. (I think it looks a bit like a Kalashnikov!)
Founded, just this year, by John O’Sullivan, who has over 30 years experience in luxury fashion, working for brands such as Harrods, MCM and Tanner Krolle, Gladstone London is said to reflect ‘a sense of relaxed and timeless elegance for the urban male, focusing on the reinterpretation of iconic shapes, long forgotten, but re-launched with a conscious expression of contemporary urban life’.
Right - G1 - Icon - £950
Sleek totes feature pewter plated brass zips and elegant travel bags are lined with Alcantara.
"After a lifetime working at luxury accessories brands and watching the priceless heritage of artisans working leather into timeless pieces, I saw many a design and craftsmen retire and with them, techniques lost.
"Often, pieces came back for repair, some over 100 years old, but the designs were still inspiring and still fit for purpose. It was the passion of these craftsmen and the vintage pieces that came through my hand which incorporated simplicity and an understatement of design which felt so right for now, that I set on a path to reinterpret these timeless luxury pieces with the help of a contemporary urban designer”, says John.
TheChicGeek says, “What I like about Gladstone London is the designs are classics yet still feel fresh. The styles have been given a light update and the minimal branding let them speak for themselves in terms of design and practicality. While expensive, when you consider they are handmade in Italy, they offer better value than many other brands in this market and it feels like you are paying for the design and craftsmanship rather than just the name".
Left - G48 - Hours - £1095
The entry level price point for Gladstone London is the G5 wash bag which starts from £285 up to the G48 Travel Tote priced at £1095.
The first AW15 collection is exclusively stocked at Harrods
Never one to stop himself bagging a bargain, TheChicGeek ventures into the ladies department at New Look for this one.
It's not just Edinburgh that is crazy about the fringe, fringing is a big trend for the forthcoming #AW15 season, particularly in suede (another trend!).
TheChicGeek says "Fringing is a bit too feminine, unless accessorised with a Stetson, on clothes and shoes, but it works well on men's bags, particularly totes. Burberry showed this tiered fringed shopper on their catwalk while New Look has a slightly longer fringed version in rich-looking brown suede at a fraction of the price".
Left - Burberry - Dark Chocolate 'Carryall' - £1895
Below - New Look - £24.99