Behind The Badge: MA.STRUM

Behind The Badge: MA.STRUM

What sets an outerwear brand above its competition? We go behind the badge of MA.STRUM, the latest tech-outerwear brand to hit Tessuti.

Over the years, MA.STRUM has quietly made a name for itself by doubling down on those all-important smaller details. And with that bigger picture now coming firmly into focus, MA.STRUM’s Johnny Ridley and Mohsin Ali catch us up on both the story so far and the road ahead for the brand.

Johnny Ridley – Head of Global Sales and Marketing

MA.STRUM has been around for a little while now. Give us a little rundown of where the brand is currently at?

MA.STRUM started back in 2010 as a partnership between team MA.STRUM and the Massimo Osti Archive. We worked alongside those guys until 2014, when we became fully independent – at which point the entire set up for the brand came across to the UK.

That was all headed by our CEO and owner, John Sharp. John was previously a 50% owner of the brand. In 2014, he acquired 100% and decided to take it to that next level. Since then, we’ve been consistently developing the brand.

We’re known as a technical sportswear brand. We very much had a military origin in the first instance; our garments had that military backbone. Now, we’re trying to progress beyond those underpinnings to offer a greater spread of products. That’s where we are today.


What does MA.STRUM stand for? What are the brand’s core values and philosophies? 

We’re driven by form, fabric and function; all three are absolutely critical to what MA.STRUM produces. We look at the ways in which a garment may protect you; how you use it; how you engage with it. It’s essential that we nail all of those different aspects to deliver a product that’s got a distinct, utilitarian value. It has to work. A garment can be beautiful, elegant and considerately designed, but it ultimately has to serve some core function if it’s going to sit in the MA.STRUM range.

We have a very product-first mindset, in that respect. We’re not just sitting here trying to define some archetypal consumer. Obviously, it’s important to be mindful of the kind of guys that are buying into the brand, but that’s consistently secondary to the product itself.


You guys are fiercely independent. What does that mean to you? 

For us, it’s a major push to show what we’re capable of. Internally, we now have the backing and the structure to do just that. It’s no longer a case of letting sales figures dictate that we re-run the same successful lines over and over again. It’s about re-engineering and asking ourselves how we can make a good garment better, not just what new colour we can make it in.

MA.STRUM isn’t fast fashion; MA.STRUM offers a series of ultimate investment pieces. Whether that’s a simple tee or a piece of outerwear, we want to make sure that these items feel special. In 10 years time, we want to still be able to pull out that MA.STRUM coat that you bought all those years ago, and for it to have some stories to go along with it.


Where is MA.STRUM headed? What’s in store for the brand moving forward? 

Ultimately, we want to produce something that challenges perceptions, disrupts the market, and turns heads. That’s underpinned by the fact that each and every piece in the MA.STRUM lineup has a distinct, fit-for-purpose function. Aside from any aesthetic top layer, it works; it has a utility, a value. MA.STRUM is not a one trick pony. We’re putting pressure on ourselves by even saying that, but ultimately we want to be ever evolving. We want to be as progressive as we possibly can.


Mohsin Ali – Creative Director

How important are the concepts of progress and evolution of a brand like MA.STRUM?

They’re fundamental. Change is a factor I constantly obsess over. Everything changes. Socially, we are changing. Environmentally, we are changing. Retail is changing. E-commerce is changing. So with that, you also have to be open to change. You can’t be stagnant. It’s not a case of saying ‘actually, we’ve had a pretty good season. We’ll just carry on doing what we’re doing.’ You have to constantly challenge yourself and be open to evolution. You have to push things forward.

The way I see it, as soon as you become comfortable, you become a lazy brand. We have to be on the forefront. We have to be progressive. We have to look at new shapes and constantly try to develop new fabrications or research and see what’s happening, market wise.


Talk us through the importance of fabric when dealing with technical garments?

We constantly strive for innovation. Along with form and function, fabric is the most important route to that innovation. They’re my three Fs. We want to source the best technical fabrics we can get our hands on. Fabric is at the forefront of what MA.STRUM is about. It always will be. That importance will only grow as time goes on and we move forward.

I’m hoping that within the next six to eight months, we’ll be in a position to develop new fabrics and explore new techniques. That’s what I find exciting. The design part is sometimes the easy part. It’s the fabric development that presents the biggest challenges. Because you want people to be wowed by it. You want people to touch the fabrics and be like ‘wow, I don’t even know what this is. I’ve never seen it before’.


How do you go about sourcing and developing new fabrics?

It all comes down to research and keeping up on what factories are producing. After that comes the experimentation. That’s the fun part. It can be pretty lo-fi too. It’s often a question of just getting some Dylon dye in a bucket in your back garden and dye testing technical fabrics to better understand what’s possible with a particular style of cloth. It’s about taking it outside and hand painting stripes to see how the fabric reacts.

People seem to think it’s a question of going to these massive dye labs and watching guys in white coats uncovering new and novel techniques. In reality, it could be as simple as a family in India, indigo dying fabric as they have for generations. That’s just as important. Innovation isn’t always a futuristic way of looking at things. Inspiration can come from anywhere.


What can we look forward to seeing from MA.STRUM in the coming season? 

This autumn-winter season will be more progressive. It will have pieces that will challenge expectations, and it will be a huge step forward from where we’re currently at. Winter’s always an exciting season because you have the chance to play with outerwear. Ask anyone about designing for winter: technical outerwear is an amazing realm to play about in.

When working on a new season, you always look forward to working on what you class as the top tier. That’s the top 20% of a collection, the space for real experimentation. It will only appeal to a certain customer base. But you need to be able to show you can do it, so show that you can be experimental and progressive. Otherwise, your whole offering becomes very stale. Expect to see a lot of interesting things coming out of that top tier.


Shop MA.STRUM at Tessuti now.

Credit to Will Halbert, Essential Journal 



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