Inside 10 Men: Amiri is California Dreamin’ For Issue 53
For the past 12-plus months, the City of Angels has been less La La Land and more Mad Max: Fury Road. This January, the Los Angeles Times reported that one in three Los Angeles County residents had been infected by coronavirus since the pandemic began, with more than 10 million people having contracted the virus and nearly 13,000 deaths.
“We were like a hotspot over here,” explains Mike Amiri as we chat over Zoom one afternoon later that month. But he’s in good spirits – even in LA’s darkest hour, the American-Iranian designer remains an architect for escapism. Amiri, the eponymous label he founded in 2014, is a healthy concoction of cool, Californian casualwear, with grungy staples that would look just as striking on an arena tour as they would in everyday life. He’s representing the West Coast on the global fashion stage, creating clothes that reek of rock’n’roll and buzz like neon motel signs that hum into the Hollywood night.
After the cancellation of last June’s Paris Fashion Week – where the brand usually shows – Amiri presented his latest collection in LA in October instead, with the architecturally dreamy Sheats-Goldstein Residence as its backdrop. “What I loved about showing in Paris was that people would say, ‘You took me to LA,’” says the designer. “Well, now we have everyone in their homes, it was about making the audience feel the same feeling. It was really about creating a mood that can transcend the visual without actually being there.”
Growing up in the city, Amiri began to fix on fashion through the heroic characters he saw on the big screen, which led to his fascination with the rock’n’roll leading man as he moved through his teenage years. “I started, little by little, to dissect what it is about these people, about this energy that really carried beyond the stage. A lot of that for me was the silhouette and was the fashion,” he says.
Amiri cut his teeth making stage costumes for the likes of Axl Rose and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, though he admits to always having had his sights set on launching his own label. “I think you start to realise that you can make more than just a stage piece, or you can make more than just one look – you can make a world,” Amiri says. Los Angeles is more than just a source of inspiration for the brand. Since founding the label, he has sourced the majority of his product locally – championing the city’s artisan factories and the level of craftsmanship that can be found there, something the Amiri brand has quickly become known for, too.
Being both the CEO and creative mind behind the label is both a blessing and a curse for the designer. “Sometimes you want to argue with yourself and really be extremely free, but it’s also good to have the understanding of where the market is and to work really efficiently,” he says. “I think that our growth within six years has been something really rare.”
As the world has seemingly adopted the laid-back LA look during lockdown, Amiri the label has thrived. “Going into the pandemic, you’re trying to prepare for what the effects of something like this will be on the industry and the business,” he says. To his surprise, the Amiri customers were resilient, and business actually expanded over the course of the year. “Even though we fall within the category of luxury, we are always conscious about creating very approachable clothing.”
Despite all the odds that 2020 stacked against him, last September, Amiri was able to open his first flagship store – on Rodeo Drive no less. He chose the location as he felt it was missing a voice, one that could speak directly to the modern American customer. It’s the next step in his big plan to expand Amiri’s global footprint, kicking things off on home turf before bringing a taste for the West Coast worldwide.
“I think what makes Amiri special is our authenticity and remembering who we are regardless of whether we started with a pair of jeans or whether we have 500 pieces in the collection,” he says. “That sense of identity is what makes the brand special, and my goal is to never lose sight of that.”
Photography by Magnus Unnar. Taken from Issue 53 of 10 Men – NO PLACE, LIKE, HOME – order your copy here.
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