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Exclusive – Keiser Clark is the men’s streetwear label promoting connection and creativity

We spoke with one-half of the cult-fashion brand about their work, the industry-wide push for more sustainability, and the value of using social media to start important conversations.

Headed by Marc Keiser and Andrew Clark, Keiser Clark has made quite the name for itself since officially launching three years ago. Thanks to a range of one-of-a-kind leather jackets that stirred up quite the frenzy on social media, the label blew up so fast it was able to debut an entire collection at Paris Fashion Week just months after being founded.

Powered by a ‘gritty nocturnal aesthetic’ that touches on vintage rock from a by-gone Hollywood age, it holds a unique approach to fabrication and clothing design. With a deep underlying personal sentiment beneath Keiser Clark’s visual edge, human instinct flourishes, promoting connection, creativity, and unity above all else. ‘I’m a lawyer by trade,’ starts Marc, ‘although I’ve always been interested in fashion I don’t think I ever imagined I’d be working in the industry, especially at the level I am now.’

Attributing Instagram to the overwhelming popularity of Keiser Clark, Marc explains how the platform played a huge role in the brand’s growth and development. ‘Not only is it a major driving force in bringing customers to discover our brand and buy from our website, but it’s an ever-evolving lookbook that anyone can access. It really is an incredible technological resource for any fashion brand, if utilised correctly – I don’t think we’d be where we are without it.’

However, amidst the continued push for more transparency from brands (37% of Gen Z now insist upon knowing exactly what goes into products and how they’re made before they buy) Marc stresses the importance of being honest with consumers. ‘My experiences with law and knowledge of copyright and trademarking sometimes hinders my design process because I’m worried about similarities,’ he says. ‘Trust between brand and consumer is essential, there are no shortcuts, so you have to be genuinely authentic – especially on social media.’

This applies equally to a brand’s sustainability efforts, particularly for a burgeoning label striving to design and produce for today’s environmentally conscious consumer. ‘We’re very open about the fact that we don’t want to generate more waste, particularly given the current state of the world,’ says Marc. ‘We do, however, need to bear in mind that we’re a small label and sustainability expenses are therefore higher which is something we don’t shy away from.’

But Marc isn’t quite so forgiving towards the industry as a whole, expressing concerns that not nearly enough is being done to address the inherently wasteful practices that don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. ‘There’s a lot of greenwashing going on and the solutions we’re seeing tend to be relatively short-term,’ he says. ‘During the pandemic we’ve made a real effort to slow down and assess how Keiser Clark can make a difference, but bigger corporations don’t really seem to have the same mindset.’

The ‘effort’ Marc mentions refers to Keiser Clark’s decision to do one big collection a year, rather than follow the industry’s traditional seasonal structure. With fashion’s trend-driven, fast-paced nature coming to a head in the wake of the ‘reset period’ brought about by Covid-19, luxury and fast fashion alike has been hard-pressed to implement significant change.

‘To navigate this we’ve ensured that all our packaging is 100% recyclable, we hang onto every single item until it sells out to avoid wasting valuable materials, and whatever ships from our website comes with a free, re-usable bag,’ he says. ‘Then there are our re-purposed vintage tees of course.’

Given the massive boom in second-hand shopping, upcycling, and trends like ‘swishing’ as of late, Keiser Clark is certainly on the right track to connecting with eco-savvy consumers. But even in light of this, Marc disagrees that there’s no place for fast fashion going forward because he believes it to be majorly beneficial in bringing fashion to the masses.

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‘When you have no money and you’re on a budget it’s great because you can get stylish items for a pretty inexpensive cost,’ he explains. ‘There’s always going to be people that can’t afford a thousand dollar shirt and fashion doesn’t need to be exclusive to the wealthy so in that sense, no, I don’t think it’s seen its demise.’

He does, however, oppose the act of ‘pumping out goods for the sake of it,’ urging an increase in direct-to-consumer business which he deems the answer to cutting back on production. By showing retail partners collections in advance, designers have a better understanding of what has the potential to sell, a foresight Marc imagines leading members of the industry would do well to take on board.

Unfortunately, he isn’t convinced that this’ll come about in the near future, due to what he suggests is an inability from the industry to select one issue and deal with it correctly before moving onto the next. ‘I look at a lot of it very critically,’ he says. ‘In the US specifically we’ve been focusing on sustainability but when the BLM protests happened there was a rapid shift in focus. This was extremely important of course, but I see fault in the lack of action that’s taken place and you do find yourself asking whether or not it’s just another means of gaining credibility. We keep discussing change, calling for it, but given how quickly the media cycles through these issues there’s not really a serious commitment or watchdog ensuring things aren’t forgotten.’

But Marc – and Keiser Clark with him – refuses to let this impede his desire to help people. When faced with the crossroads of law or fashion, he chose the path that would enable him to leave the greatest impact on the world and others. ‘I always say that we as humans just want to be considered. We want to be seen, heard. Too often we don’t realise that the simple act of responding to someone can go a long way and that’s what I care most about.’

It’s this notion that inspired Marc to add an interactive map of America to the Keiser Clark website, encouraging young people to vote: the most powerful tool for expressing ourselves and having our views heard. ‘It’s actually super complicated to figure out how to register in your state,’ he laments. ‘It’s obvious they don’t want you to because trying to find the page that tells you how is an impossible task.’ For this reason, Marc created the map, which is easily accessible to his customer base and offers a discount on Keiser Clark products to incentivise more involvement in November’s election. ‘As an attorney, a lot of what I do is putting in the time to find an answer, to understand what the rules are – having people ask the same questions is great. We have this resource and they trust what we’re telling them is accurate.’

Living in the central vortex of change as the BLM movement unfolded and expanded across the globe, Marc also felt it was his responsibility to use his platform to spread awareness about social justice issues. ‘It’s been an incredibly difficult year for so many people,’ he says. ‘The pandemic, the police brutality, President Trump leading the way he has. One of the only good things to come out of it were the conversations that really needed to happen.’

With a moment to reflect, he explains that citizens have been presented with a rare opportunity to really look into how the US government is choosing to lead, to ask what their officials are actually doing.

‘Having Tump as President has shown how willing our government is to lie to us, to manipulate the truth,’ he says. ‘It’s been eye-opening because you turn on one news station and get one story, then turn on another and get something completely different. It’s exhausting seeing first-hand the blatant spinning of information, but I recognise that I have the privilege to shut it off, to take a step back. What’s more upsetting is those who can’t escape because of their race, gender, and sexual orientation. That’s why this year as a brand and as individuals we’ve diverted our attention from making money – instead, we’re sticking up for the people that support us. Our identity isn’t only to profit off people, it’s to give back what we take, to make sure we’re leading by example. People over things I always say. That’s what I keep reminding myself.’

A constant champion of community and kindness, the streetwear star finishes with some sage advice for aspiring designers looking to draw eyes. ‘Lead with love,’ he says. ‘As great as the clothes can be, the design, the development of a story, the putting together of a collection, the bigger picture is to ensure you’re fighting for something greater and leaving your customers, the people who support you, and the world a better place long after you’re gone.’