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Q&A: Leah McSweeney Married To The MOB


We caught up with designer Leah McSweeney recently to find out the latest developments with her Married to the MOB label. A pioneer on the streetwear scene when she started up MOB seven years ago, the label has had it twists and turns, including the recent conclusion of a partnership with an investor and is getting back to its roots, albeit with a second-act heaping does of wisdom. McSweeney = MOB so it’s no surprise that many of the bumps, bruises and joys experienced by the brand over the past few years found a parallel in the young designer’s own life. Compelling, frank, more than slightly intense, not to mention a bit of a lightening rod, this is one female whose next moves we will always look out for and cheer.

HS: A lot has happened in the past year. Can you catch everyone up on Married to the Mob and what happened to your brand? You had investors and now you are no longer partnered with them.

Leah: Legally I can’t get into details. In the long run, the only thing that matters is I got my company back. I have nothing but gratitude toward my ex-partners, they believed in me but we’re two different animals. They’re amazing at what they do with men’s brands and I will say the three years I had funding, it was the best education on the business. I worked side by side with super smart, successful people, but more importantly I learned how to make a garment, and I learned about fabric, production and design. I started out making tee shirts and I didn’t have any experience. When I went into the partnership I was 25 and on top of the world, thinking, this is the easiest thing getting this brand to blow up. I thought it was the be all end all and it was just the beginning.

In the Q&A continued on the next page, find out aobut MOB’s second act, McSweeney’s road to sobriety, favorite collabos, what she has to say about streetwear, the future of “bitch” in MOB designs, and the start of a new label.

HS: When did you bring in investors?

Leah: In 2008. I signed a deal, shipped triple in that year, the economy crashed, stores closed down and a lot of retailers stopped selling women’s. I felt hopeless for a while and was stressed out. I didn’t know what to do. I made the decision to get sober in November 2009. I feel like, MOB is so deeply connected to me. It’s some kind of weird connection. When I started losing myself and what I was doing, the company started slipping out of my hands. People could tell it was losing itself. Thank god for my staff because they held that shit up. My first year of my sobriety I was a fucking mess.


HS: You were lucky to get the MOB name back. A lot of designers never do.

Leah: [My investors] didn’t have to do that, like I said, nothing but gratitude.

HS: When did you become independent again?

Leah: It was this past February. We moved out of the Empire State Building, and started from scratch again. It was a humbling experience. There are some days when I’m in tears. But it was a good experience to get punched in the stomach like that. I went from 3,000 square feet with a salary and benefits to nothing, to moving into a small apartment and office. The problem was that after the investment I let people do things for me when in the past I knew everything, how much accounts owed me, everything. In between the stress and all the added staff I lost all that. Now it’s getting back to me being on top of all the details.

HS: Did you consider dropping MOB and moving onto something else?

Leah: Yes of course. I still wonder, why am I doing this? I could make a good salary and have benefits, but I’m built for this. I don’t want to work for anyone. I have my own vision.

HS: What was the first item you designed after the split?

Leah: It was tee shirts again. That’s what I know how to do. I went to the same factories I used before, exactly how we did it in the past. I’m shipping again. When I left them the first thing I did was buy my url. No one who is on the outside looking at MOB has any idea about everything that had to be changed from website to e-mail, I had to use my own money again to get my first batch of tee-shirts.

MOBDieYoungStayPretty 403x540 Q&A: Leah McSweeney Married To The MOB

HS: What’s different now from when you first started the company?

Leah: I’ve changed a lot. Me and my staff have this phenomenal sister bond, we’ve gone from starting in my grandmother’s apartment to the Empire State Building to a smaller nice office, we’ve been through everything together. Now with a clear mind and with knowledge I gained I have a better vision of how I want MOB on tee shirts to look. Now I can make it however I want to and do it on a smaller scale.

I’m doing everything in New York and I’m working with a seamstress. I used to say I’m not a designer but I can say I am one now. I’m making a bathing suit with House of Jackie B so it’s very organic again and that will be under a different name. I’m not making complete collections. I’m going to introduce things as I make them. Rob [Cristofaro, Alife founder] and I are working together again on designs and that’s the magic.

HS: You’ve worked with some great brands. What was your favorite collaboration that came together on all levels?

Leah: My favorite collaboration was the KAWS hand bikini, but honestly nothing ever comes together perfectly. There is always confusion and chaos. But I would have to say the MCM bag and the Reebok “Lips” Freestyle because Sarah Lerfel from Colette curated both. She has impeccable and creative planning skills.

MOBDaughterLeah 540x540 Q&A: Leah McSweeney Married To The MOB

HS: You were a leader on the streetwear scene, especially women’s streetwear. Does women’s streetwear exist anymore?

Leah: Streetwear itself, people thought it would be the next urban but then the economy crashed and then it turned out it didn’t have as many customers as thought and women has even fewer. I don’t want to put MOB in streetwear.  I know it originated there but now I don’t see it as streetwear.

HS: Some people have suggested that you’ve limited MOB’s acceptance by retailers because of some of the language you use on your tees. Have you thought about making any changes to make MOB more palatable to more mainstream retailers?

Leah: I will never take the bitch out of MOB, that’s what MOB is. If MOB can only get so big then so be it.

LeahWillFuckforChanel 540x540 Q&A: Leah McSweeney Married To The MOB

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» Drita & Leah: Mob Wife, Mob Label
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