It seems like the one word on everyone’s lips these days is recession. People are worried about losing their jobs, their house, their car, but through it all – of course – we’ve still gotta look good. Hip hop has always been known for its tendencies toward conspicuous consumption, but because of the economy a lot of people need to be a lot less conspicuous about what they consume. In response to this reality, a new cost conscious urban clothing line called Mylai (pronounced Mee- Lye), has stepped on the scene in an effort to merge high quality fashion with affordable prices. We caught up with Founder and Creative Director, Mylai Tenner to discuss the brand and what motivated him to develop that niche target.
Sojones.com: So tell me a bit about your brand and the vision.
Mylai Tenner: Affordable Urban Clothing is really an initial name to describe the line. The (actual) name of the clothing line is Mylai. Mylai was a name that we thought would bring sexy and masculine, and urban all together with high quality but a lower price. So what we have done is we have given back some financial power to consumers who are in the lower to middle economic class. With our brand we can say hey, here is a product that rivals all of the other urban brands that are charging you $130 for a pair of jeans but with us you can get a pair of jeans for $35 or $40. Or if you want a T-shirt or a hoodie you can get it for $19.99 to $25 with similar quality. It’s gonna be something that is hip, sexy, builds their self esteem, and makes them feel comfortable about wearing it and being proud to wear it.
Sojones.com: So do you design your clothes for a specific age demographic in mind?
Mylai Tenner: Basically it is for anyone that wears urban wear. For us it is the ages are between 12 up to about 30. We are going after the consumer that wears urban wear on a daily basis and who looks to wear something with quality but not spend every dime they get for one or two pieces. With us they can get a plethora of different pieces to go together.
Sojones.com: So are you doing men and women’s clothing?
Mylai Tenner: Yes, men and women.
Sojones.com: So what kind of clothes do you do – is it mostly denim, T-shirts?
Mylai Tenner: What we do is hats, T-shirts, hoodies, and we are rolling out a sexy denim wear line for men and women. We are going to be doing some things that no one in fashion has ever done. The marketing for that will start in December and it will roll into Black History month, but it is something that no one has ever though of. We’re gonna take fashion to a whole other level. The people that work around me and with me are true fashion people and they think outside the box. I give them that freedom to think outside the box and figure out what is good for our consumer base and what do they want and what do they need. I feel like now that we have Obama in office, anything is possible and if you don’t reach for the impossible, you’re a fool, because him being in office is basically the impossible for African Americans in this day and age in the years 2008/2009.
The Mark Ecko‘s and the Phat Farm‘s and these different lines that have been out there for some years – I believe Mark Ecko last year did $1.5 billion with all his lines together. Urban Clothing is a $750 billion business – even in a recession people have got to dress. So, not even looking at it from that perspective – if we can just change some lives to help people buy some quality clothing, make people feel good, and rival the Phat Farm’s, the FUBU’s, the Sean John’s and the Akademik’s – they are great in their right, but I feel that every brand needs to bring something unique.
Sojones.com: So is the company run by you and a few other partners?
Mylai Tenner: The company is run by me and a few other partners who would like to remain nameless. But we are based out of Minnesota and we want to use Minnesota talent. You know we are the land of Prince and Purple Rain. There are plenty that associate Minnesota with Purple Rain or K.G. (NBA player Kevin Garnett) whose now with the Boston Celtics. The group Mint Condition is also from Minnesota. So later this year – August 21st, we are having a fashion show to give people a sneek peak at our fashion line. It’s gonna be at a major Sports Bar out in Bloomington, Minnesota. We’re gonna have potentially Mint Condition, but for now we are gonna have The New Congress, they’ve won numerous awards and they are a pop/ R&B group out of the Twin Cities. We are also in conversation to be a sponsor for that group as well, so when they do their next photo shoot they may just have on our clothes. So things are just moving along. I am so humbled and blessed to put the creative design on some fabric and have people feel good about it and want to wear it.
Sojones.com: So are you also the designer for the brand?
Mylai Tenner: I’m the Founder and Creative Director – I wear a couple of different hats. I’m just one of those guys – I’m a hip hop head so I just take things that I like and I tweak them, take things outside the box that people haven’t done and just bring it to the forefront and be like – Bam! How do you like this? For the most part people have really responded to what we bring to the table.
Sojones.com: So how did you get started in the clothing industry?
Mylai Tenner: I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. (laughing) Obama spurred me on by his nomination and election to the presidency. The economy downturn. You know I am a big dude I’m 6’3″, 260lbs and I can never go and find a pair of jeans that fit the booty and the thigh. Then somehow, someway, the cut’s not right so there’s just been a lot of frustration not only in that, but in suits and all other kind of clothing. So I thought why don’t I do like Frank Lucas and cut the middle man out. So I’m trying to, being honest with you with in two years from now – or before, I’ll have our own warehouse and our own embroidery shop and I’m gonna find a way to make my own fabric right here in Minnesota. Cut all of the middle people out and have a bigger profit point, but even a lower margin sale so that I can empower and inspire my people – because my people is po’ folks.
Sojones.com: Are there any urban wear brands that inspire you?
Mylai Tenner: Russell Simmons inspired me majorly. FUBU. A lot of people don’t know the FUBU story, FUBU went out on faith. They went to the MAGIC show and all they had were samples. When they went and got $1 million worth of orders. But what is so interesting about that story is even with those orders, they didn’t have the money to make the clothing. So they put an ad in the paper, and after putting an ad in the paper Samsung came along and invested like $3-4 million into the company and FUBU made $25 million the first year and they were unknown. So you do the math. If it is a $750 billion dollar business and if you are trying to command 10% of the 10% of the 10% which is basically $75 million. There are people out here who have creative minds and just stepped out on faith and made it happen. But they went out with the right motives. They went out trying to empower people and uplift the community.
Sojones.com: Well it definitely sounds like your motives are right with what you are putting together. So, when is your clothing line going to be available and where can people get more information on your brand?
Sojones.com: Well thanks for taking the time to speak with us, we wish you much success on the release of your brand.
Mylai Tenner: Thanks.