Street signs: Leah McSweeney on what makes a meaningful collaboration
Married to the Mob, the women’s streetwear line founded by Leah McSweeney in 2004, has been in expansion mode.
It recently ventured into the home and jewelry categories with on-brand pillows, water bottles and necklaces featuring slogans and sayings McSweeney has created over the years. And now it’s reprising its partnership with Burton, which MTTM has worked with since 2010.
“In my opinion, what makes projects like this special and meaningful is when it’s not just a one-time thing, but a relationship built over many years that proves noteworthy,” said McSweeney. “Burton respects and values my creativity and my point of view. Collaborating with Burton is a great way for MTTM to offer something very special to our customers that is available through a very narrow distribution channel.”
For its third collaboration, McSweeney is doing things a little differently by producing a collection for spring and getting more playful with designs since she doesn’t have to worry about selling it to wholesale accounts outside of Burton.
“Sometimes, creatively, I feel somewhat handcuffed. So many amazing things are designed and sampled that never go to production due to stores playing it safe and not putting in orders for the more colorful, fashion-forward pieces from me,” said McSweeney. “It’s the ugly side of having a brand, meeting minimums and making money.”
McSweeney brought back MTTM’s signature lip print and utilized the classic banana leaf print on hoodies and matching joggers, leggings and crop tops. The collection retails from $59.95 to $119.95 and will be available April 9th on MTTMNYC.com and Burton’s e-commerce site. The campaign, which was shot by Heidi Hartwig, features Sarah McSweeney, Leah’s sister and a longtime MTTM model; and Emilia Ortiz, a Puerto Rican spiritual advisor from Brooklyn who offers quick, direct hits of life advice on her popular Instagram account @ethereal.1.
“I know diversity and female empowerment is really trending right now, but I’ve always used a diverse group of women to rep the brand,” said McSweeney. “The message of MTTM has always been on some girl power s— in a non-annoying and non-judgmental way. I don’t feel the need to caption or highlight any of that. The proof is in the work and action — not the words or a photo.”
This is McSweeney’s second brand tie-in this year. She previously launched a footwear line with Lugz and late last year she produced an extensive collection with K-Swiss that was sold at ComplexCon. Collaborations have been a cornerstone of MTTM, but she feels like the word has been used so much that its meaning has become a bit hazy.
“Collaborating is a very important aspect of my brand. As it should be for every brand,” said McSweeney. “There is a very big difference between licensing characters and actually working with a company like Burton or Reebok or Kangol or Fila in collaboration to create and execute a collection. Both are very good strategies to use to grow brands but there is a distinct difference. Neither is better than the other. Both are equal. But one is not a collaboration. The point that I am trying to make is let’s be careful. As creative directors and brand owners, we have a responsibility not to throw around words and make them lose their value.”