SpearTalks: Leah McSweeney
It's good to be Leah McSweeney, the twenty-five year-old head of women's label Married to the M.O.B. (that's Most Official Bitches).
For starters, her small company — born from a porch stoop, a plan to make a few tee shirts, and a wholesome dose of Irish irreverence — has taken the streetwear scene by
storm natural disaster. Add that to M.O.B,'s well curated collaborations with artists like Fafi and KAWS, the blog headed up by Futura's daughter, the window display at Colette in Paris, and the, ahem, vibrant personality of Ms. McSweeney herself, and there you have it: The perfect recipe for a street label that bitches (and boys) go crazy over.
Read on as we chat with Leah about the state of women's streetwear, her new Cobrasnake/Uffie fronted spring line, and the next best place for Karl Lagerfeld to dip his well-moisturized fingers.
Joshspear.com: A lot has changed since you started MOB in 2004 — today, you're a mother, MOB is huge, and the women's streetwear scene is… well, some say it's blossoming, some say it's just getting fat. What has the path been like?
Leah McSweeney: It's been real that's for sure. It started pretty humbly on the stoop of my old crib on Spring St. and it grew into something very substantial. I think after a few months once coming out with the line I realized I had something special. But when I started it, it was really for fun and to give some stuff to my friends to wear because there were no cute tee shirts for girls.
Meanwhile the guys had lots of cool brands. I wanted to be the voice for the female side of things. Now I'm deep into it. The last 4 years have been totally spontaneous and amazing. Including of course becoming a mom and MOB growing the way it has, getting to work with people like Sarah from Colette, Kaws, Fafi, Cobrasnake and numerous others. It's great to have a good support system. The path has been a pretty clear one — I'm not in any debt and the business is growing healthily and steadily. I haven't made too many mistakes to be honest but at the same time this has been the best learning experience.
JS: A few years ago, women's streetwear was hardly a category, let alone the industry it is now. What's your opinion on the majority of new labels that have swarmed the scene since MOB's founding?
LM: I think shit is really popping right now. Some people say streetwear is dead but it's really quite the opposite. It starting to trickle into mainstream. This is how it goes. In terms of girl brands there still isn't much out there which is great for the few there are. But the men… oh man the men. Such over saturation of garbage. I can't even tell 90% of it apart. Most brands will fall off and a few will blow up. Some will blow up, make some money and some will blow up and really cake off. I already know who will make it and who won't. It's pretty obvious.
JS: Before your name became pretty synonymous with streetwear, was it tough, as a girl, to be taken seriously?
LM: I'm not sure because I have nothing to compare it to. I always use being a girl to my advantage. You have to! People loved MOB right away… well either you loved it or hated it. But all the people that mattered loved it. So fuck the rest.
JS: It seems like a good chunk of the world's obsession with MOB has been fueled by the world's obsession with you. Does it feel like your rowdy past has played a significant role in the growth of MOB as a brand?
LM: Well, MOB is a reflection of me and my lifestyle so I would say that yes my past and present has a lot to do with the company. When I started MOB I was pretty wild so that was the basis of MOB"¦ and I still am wild, but not like how I used to be. I mean I still blurt crazy shit out and am very opinionated and am not ever scared to say what's on my mind. I've always been like that — ask my mom. Anyway, prior to MOB taking up every minute of every hour I used to be able to go out and party every night… shopping all day… go to brunch and just chill. The life right? Now I have all these crazy responsibilities. It's pretty nuts. Having a kid is like whoa. Plus I have to be on top of MOB. I hope I don't sound like im complaining or saying this in a negative manner because I wouldn't trade it for anything. Im just saying how it is. But yeah people are interested in me as well as interested in the crew. I like to talk and I have a lot to say so I'm cool with that. What is a brand if the person behind it isn't interesting or likeable? Plus the way the clothing game is now with the internet and everything — people are more interested in the cast of characters then the clothing. But who fucking cares about clothing right? It's just a bunch of fabric. Not that interesting. You can't sit on a blog and talk shit about fabric.
JS: In an interview you recently did for Slam X Hype, your answer about your own personal style, "Park Ave meets the projects," cracked me up. I think that response sums up a good portion of today's streetwear market — people love a little bit of that high fashion attitude blended with street style mentality. Which side of that spectrum best describes one of your MOB girls — is she more Park Ave, more projects, or something else entirely?
LM: My MOB girls are a little bit of both; rocking the gladiator Chanel sandals with the Goyard tote but had to push something to get them. Or in my personal case — had to sell a bunch of tee shirts. Plus you can mix all that up with a pair of Jordans and a nameplate. Its kinda like, even though I live in Tribeca and push around a bugaboo with a Gucci diaper bag, I will always be an Irish hoodlum. Nothing can change that. I am what I am.
JS: You're known to be pretty selective when it comes to collabs — but when you do throw one out (like Fafi, for instance) it's epic. What's your general opinion of the currently rampant collab scene — overzealous or healthy?
LM: I really get lost in it all. Not much stands out. Tee shirt brands collabing with other tee shirts brands. Don't get it. Whats the point? Collaborations are very important to me. They say a lot about both companies participating so you have to be careful. If done right it can make all the difference. Goes both ways though.
JS: Historically, couture fashion has been pulling its inspiration from urban culture for hundreds of years — and considering today's current obsession with collaborations, it makes me wonder if boys like Karl Lagerfeld will soon want in on the action. Would you ever consider collab-ing with a really high fashion label, or would that contradict the nature of streetwear?
LM: Karl fucking holler at me my dude. Collabing with a high fashion label would be a perfect fit with MOB. That was why I decided to do a bag with MCM — it's refreshing, not what people are expecting. Even though now I think a lot of people are expecting something like that from MOB because we aren't the usual streetwear brand.
JS: Your blog had a recent post of a guy wearing one of your hoodies at a show during fashion week. I love that, because girls used to have to steal from boys to get the look they wanted, and now you've turned the tables. Did that picture make you feel like you'd really arrived?
LM: I found that flik on Cobrasnakes site. I was like fuck yeah! A dude front row at Alexander Wangs show during fash week is rocking MOB. That's whats up. Just like we were talking before"¦ high fash mixing with street shit.
JS: In your most recent interviews, it seems like pregnancy, labor and motherhood have really changed you, both mentally and spiritually. Will you be expressing any of these changes in your upcoming designs?
LM: Believe me — you don't want me to express my labor through design or anything for that matter!
JS: Uffie and Cobrasnake — what else can you tell us about your new spring line?
LM: It is young and fresh just like Uffie and Mark. Can we fucking say most powerful people under 25"¦
JS: What do you love most about this collection?
LM: I love the bootcamp jacket — its such a cute fit and style. Plus the chenille patches and quality of the garment is tight.
JS: Some of your spring collection pictures featured denim — is an extended line something we can look forward to seeing from MOB soon?
LM: You are going to be seeing many new things from MOB soon"¦
JS: Did you send any of those mugshot tees to the NYPD? A little FU for slamming your face in a grate?
LM: I stay as far away from NYPD as possible!