Designer Marc Jacques Burton wearing his own custom made MJB Leather Jackets during London Fashion Week [Photo: Instagram/marcjacquesburton]
During his career Marc Jacques Burton has worked in the London luxury nightlife industry and founded lifestyle brands Mahiki, Whisky Mist and Tonteria as well as his own shoe brand extending to leather jackets.
His designs have attracted the interest of numerous international Celebrities and featured Will IAM, Zayn Malik and recently David Guetta.
I first met Marc back then when I was working in a fashion press office in Mayfair and ever since we’ve chatted over drinks press launches, attended some amazing events together. Despite all these shared experiences, I realised there was more to Marc Jacques Burton’s life as a renowned nightlife entrepreneur
Tell me about yourself, where did you study and do you feel this has prepared you for a creative career in business?
MJB: Having studied Economics at Bath University, I immersed myself into entrepreneurial literature from a young age and this is what inevitably drew me to wanting to run my own businesses. I started off in the nightlife sector promoting for different nightclubs. Eventually I founded and opened venues in London such as Mahiki, Whisky Mist and Tonteria. I still have Tonteria which is the most fun Mexican tequila spot.
I have always had a creative entrepreneurial mindset and have always had that desire if if there isn’t something that you want; you can go out and create it. At the root of being an entrepreneur is the belief that you can create your own reality and so naturally I was drawn in by the fashion industry because of this. I started my fashion business eight years ago.
Would you say a traditional fashion background is essential as you produced successful footwear accessories beforehand? Did you acquire a certain skill set e.g. design/pattern cutting to learn your trade before producing MJB leather jackets?
A traditional fashion background is not essential; rather, it is a case of knowing what you want and going out to get it. I always loved art at school even though I was never the greatest at drawing, I practised a lot. I loved going to galleries and observing artists at work. I do not have a specific skill set for fashion. I am able to visualise what I want and then draw it in my own way.
Have you always been interested in fashion growing up or did being a profound nightlife entrepreneur help encourage you to diversify your business interest into other projects.
I’ve always had a real passion and interest for fashion. Nightlife is an incredible place to see so many different forms of style and fashion. I was always observing and developing my personal style.
What was your first job in fashion and how did you get a first foot in the door?
I never had a job in fashion. Initially, I created my own label. I started off designing monogram slippers which caught the attention of several global music stars. I then decided to focus on leather jackets as I had always wanted to create my dream leather jacket. As the jackets gained momentum, I had more belief within myself and experience. Since the beginning, I have had to push through some tough setbacks. It takes a lot of persistence and grit to gain your place in the fashion industry.
You have managed to meet the most inspirational people during your career and who would you most like to see wearing your MJB designs.
I have been very fortunate in the sense that some incredibly inspirational people have been wearing my designs already. At the heart of my label is the fact that we are designing for the man living his dream. These men are pushing the frontiers in their lives and work.
It has been amazing to have people such as Zayn, David Guetta, Usain Bolt, Wale and Will.I.Am wear my pieces but at the core of all we do is to make rare handmade pieces for the man living his dream.
Most brands target a certain type of client. I’m not trying to dress anyone specifically but rather I dress for the man living his dream, and I visualise that man in all my clients. He isn’t just one type of person, he could be a rockstar, an artist, an actor or an entrepreneur. As long as he is living his dream, we cater for him.
Tell us the biggest challenge you face as an Entrepreneur in your career at present. With regards to the recent Political Referendum will Brexit have an impact on your business and the fashion industry.
I didn’t ever have any formal training in fashion but knew I had the self belief to try it. I had no contacts in the fashion business and found that one of the greatest difficulties I had when starting up was actually getting the stuff produced. It took me 3 years to find a suitable manufacturer. I tried China, but they wanted huge quantities and the quality was poor. I also tried Spain and Portugal. It was Italy that was able to produce for me. There were numerous times that I wanted to give up as it seemed like it just wasn’t happening however I learned that you have to really be persistent and dig down deep to that self belief, especially in the first few steps of a new venture.
Brexit, right now has increased the cost of production for me.
Who are your favourite Style Icons and why. You collaborated with Jack Guinness for your forthcoming Campaign. How has this helped inspire you and influence your work to create a signature collection style
I have always really loved the style of Gianni Agnelli, the founder of Ferrari. He was so bold for his time and created his own individual style that you would instantaneously recognise. He wore his wrist watches over his shirts. He was unapologetic and unafraid of expressing himself. He taught me a lot about not fearing or worrying about opinions. When you stand out you get a lot of love but also a lot of hate. You just have to have that self confidence and boldness to be yourself. I also really admire the style of my good friend, and stylist to the stars, Ugo Mozie. He has an amazing hat brand and is so effortlessly cool with his style.
Marc Jacques Burton is a British brand and we wanted to find someone who could really represent the Britishness of the label and more importantly, someone who could carry the values of the brand. Jack Guinness is true British man living his dream and loves his life. He presents, he models, he writes; he is a really modern man living his dream and working on things he is passionate about.
Would you encourage others hoping for a career in fashion to start up their own label, what advice would you give them?
Starting your own label is incredibly hard and you need to be extremely dedicated and disciplined as it takes a lot of grit to pursue with it. Everyone who is living their dream has found what their passion is. Not everyone is born to be an entrepreneur or a businessman. The key is to figure what you’re passionate about and good at and then find something that combines them both. I have both worked for and run a business, both of which taught me a lot. Start off working for someone else and learn from them for 4 or 5 years then start something very small yourself. Try and create a niche, don’t try and take on too much. Find one thing that you can be really good at. With me, I chose leather jackets just for men. I have had many requests for women but I have decided to just stay focused on men’s jackets.
Who are you favourite designer’s and why. Which designers do you see yourself collaborating with for a capsule collection if the opportunity came along?
I’ve been incredibly impressed with Alessandro Michele and how he has transformed Gucci. He has brought his unique identity to the brand and yet you still know that it is Gucci. I love and hugely respect how he is combining both the heritage and craftsmanship of Gucci with his own inimitable vision.
I’d love to collaborate and put the MJB pattern on some limited edition Vans.
Share with us the best advice a mentor has given you and what role has this played in improving your business acumen in a competitive fashion market.
It wasn’t advice that played a major role but it was more through mentors leading by example. The first one is my father Glenn. He was a self made advertising entrepreneur and he used to read a lot of books about entrepreneurs and successful people and I took on his example of reading a lot. In doing that it opened my eyes up to business and the mindset needed to overcome many of the obstacles and inner doubts you will face on your journey as an entrepreneur. The big lesson I learned was that often in the press you just hear about the successes of people whereas when you read a book about them you understand what they were like before they were successful and you understand and realise they have the same issues and problems as anyone else and they developed a certain mindset to overcome them and create their success. My other mentor was Nick House. He was the continual example of someone who would work incredibly hard and was obsessed about learning and improving.
The secret to finding great personal style is…
Personal style is all about being yourself and wearing clothes that make you feel good. The truly stylish people are not following the trends, they are creating the trends and they are creating them by being themselves and doing what feels right to them. They are unapologetic about being themselves.
Your little black book for recommending secret shopping destinations and favourite boutiques internationally.
I have always loved the creativity and uniqueness of Colette and L’Eclaireur In Paris. A couple times a year I am in Paris for the fashion weeks and I always make time to check them out. In London I like Layers, The Library and Dover Street Market as they all stock a lot of unique brands that are exclusive to them and limited edition pieces. When I’m in New York I can spend countless hours in Melet Mercantile, which is the most incredible vintage shop I’ve seen in my life.
What are your most desired aspirations and ambitions for MJB in the future
From when I started MJB, my underlying goal was always for me to live my dream, which was to create this label. It is important that I’m progressing and continually moving forward with the collection in order for me to keep this dream alive. The belief of the label is that everyone has a dream but not everyone lives their dream. The message that we are continually expressing through our label is the desire to make people aware that they too should go out and live their dream. This message is incredibly important to me as the world needs more people to live their dream.
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