The bag-focused accessories brand founder on Black Friday, embarrassing fashion purchases and finding inspiration in airports.
Max Baines left his buying and private label developer role at streetwear retailer Route One to launch Mi-Pac, a brand that aims to create simple backpacks in fun designs at affordable prices. Leading everything from design direction to commercial aspects, Baines has quickly expanded the brand, which now offers a host of bag styles and accessories stocked in more than 1,500 stores worldwide.
How would you describe Mi-Pac?
Mi-Pac is a fashion-forward global accessories brand that aims to deliver on-trend, high-quality and affordable product to the high street market.
When did you launch the brand?
July 2012. After working as a buyer and private label developer for many years, I saw an opportunity within accessories. The market was full of expensive product that lacked flair and creativity.
You are involved in almost every aspect of the label. What’s your favourite part?
Although the design process still appeals to my creative mind, right now I am really enjoying the commercial side of things and developing the business in various territories as we concentrate on international expansion.
What’s the best thing about running your own fashion brand?
I get great satisfaction from seeing the product out on the streets being enjoyed and used as it should be by our consumer.
And the worst?
Probably the travelling. It is great to see the world but back to back trade shows and factory visits can be pretty tough.
You’ve released several collaborations. What would your dream tie-up be?
I hear Kanye West is running a little low on cash, but I am still waiting for him to return my call.
You’ve shown your brand at various trade shows over the years. Do you think trade shows are still relevant?
Trade shows are evolving more quickly than ever. I feel it’s still massively important to have a presence at the key shows but obviously the days of order writing and hand shake deals are over, mainly due to the fact that most retail orders are placed way before the shows start due to much earlier and tighter deadlines.
How do you stay inspired?
I think it’s important to keep travelling and experiencing new things. There’s creativity everywhere and I’m massively inspired by new places and different people.
What’s the oddest thing that’s inspired one of your designs?
Probably a sofa in an airport lounge in Manila in the Philippines. Sounds strange but it was one of our bestselling bags.
Mi Pac bag inspired by an airport lounge sofa
What’s been a career highlight so far?
Of course, it has to be winning the Growing Brand of the Year award at the Drapers Footwear and Accessories Awards in 2014.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Always owe your factories some money – that way they will always answer the phone.
Do you use a Mi-Pac bag?
Of course. I’m wear-testing our new oversized men’s tote. It’s perfect for everyday use as fits my laptop and gym kit.
Where are your favourite places to shop?
I love the range of brands that Mr Porter offers. In terms of cities, Tokyo is hard to beat for its eclectic mix of stores.
If you could only wear one brand for the rest of your life, what would you pick?
APC. It is great at creating luxury essentials.
What’s the most ridiculous fashion-related purchase you’ve ever made?
After one too many drinks in Paris, I purchased a pair of black suede Louboutin Rollerboy spiked loafers. Thanks to Ebay, I managed to get my money back.
If you could swap jobs with anyone else in the industry, who would it be?
Any tailor on Savile Row. Suit making is a dying art form and I’d love to be part of such a British institution.
If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be?
Probably Black Friday. The discounting is out of control and seems to last for weeks. It has to be brought under control before the busiest retail month of the year becomes a loss leader.
Who do you admire most in the industry?
Andy Street has managed to take John Lewis into the digital age with an incredible website while retaining high street, bricks-and-mortar presence.
If you had an industry dinner party, who would you invite?
It would have to be my favourite characters in the business: designer Henry Holland, the [streetwear brand] Criminal Damage boys, Juls Dawson [co-founder of] Just Consultancies and Adam Kelly [buying director] of Fenwick. It would be a very interesting evening.
What do you do to switch off?
I play tennis every weekend, which is probably a good thing as I also love eating out.
Tell us something not many people know about you.
Before joining the fashion industry, I was nightclub manager and promoter in the beautiful city of Bath.