Chain Reaction: Austin McMahon Of MAPLE
Based out of Vancouver, Canada is an independent accessories brand on the rise. MAPLE founded by Austin McMahon back in 2014, focuses on creating premium quality jewellery with great attention to detail and thought out design. Their niche can be pointed to implementing their surroundings into the brand such as the great Canadian outdoors and the lifestyle that surrounds this while also adapting to a fashion-forward and discerning customer.
Over the years MAPLE has grown into a top of mind brand within their field, today they are stocked around the world at renowned stores such as END Clothing, Goodhood, Haven and have collaborated with other companies such as Japanese retailer, BEAMS.
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We were lucky enough to sit down with founder Austin McMahon in their Vancouver office to talk about the brand and its origins, how he crafts the product they create as well as sharing some valuable tips on business that meets design.
Zayyar: Austin, tell our audience what do you do and where are you based?
Austin: I’m currently based in Vancouver Canada, I’m the owner/designer of MAPLE. We’re a jewellery brand mainly focussing on the men’s contemporary/streetwear market.
Zayyar: So how did you first become interested in jewellery?
Austin: Man good question, I don’t know really. I kind of stumbled upon doing it a few years back. I always thought it was cool when I saw old guys with really dope style wearing rings and chains. I realised there weren’t any styles that I was into available at the stores so I started to make them.
Zayyar: While growing up were you interested in business or even starting a brand at all?
Austin: Yes for sure. I have a hard time working for people because I want to be the boss. I loved finding ways to make money when I was a kid, mostly to buy beers and weed with my friends back then. I was a bit of a bad kid, we used to steal DVD’s from the HMV or flea market and bike to the other one across the city to sell them. When I reached high school I started to sell a bit of weed which is pretty entrepreneurial. I started to like the idea of a brand when I got a bit older into my early 20’s.
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Zayyar: So how exactly did the idea of MAPLE come about? And how did you decide on the name?
Austin: MAPLE has been an evolution over the years. Originally I wanted to open a shop. I was interested in all the Japanese stuff but wanted to mix it with an elevated skate shop platform. Something like what Dave’s Quality Meats (NYC) was back in the day. I worked for Haven on the weekends helping out in the shop or modelling when they needed. I had decided by then that I wasn’t interested in being at a shop all day/every day and made the decision to start an accessories brand instead.
I had moved into a new apartment and was hanging with my friend Rob while talking names. I wanted a uniquely Canadian name because essentially I wanted to represent for Canada. MAPLE was one of the first names I had mentioned, it was really simple and direct and I ended up going with it.
Zayyar: That’s cool, the name is definitely unique and like you mentioned being simple and direct. From the idea then putting it into execution what were some of the first steps you took into action to create the brand?
Austin: I wasn’t the most prepared going into this business. I had to create a corporation with the government, get a tax number, a bunch of operational things I had no idea about.
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Then it was creating logos, sampling products, creating a website etc. I’ve only recently really got a handle on what I’m doing, it’s been a process.
Zayyar: Haha there are always things that seem to be overlooked at the time of launching. From the time of taking the brand to market what were some of the biggest obstacles and challenges you faced along the way?
Austin: MONEY. It takes deep pockets to be in fashion. Everyone is starting a brand these days and thinks it’s going to be easy. Unless you have endless cash, money is hands down the biggest challenge.
Then you have to deal with partnerships falling through, Stores/showrooms not having money to pay their orders, production issues etc.
Man, I could go on and on about obstacles and challenges, it’s endless in this industry.
Zayyar: Let’s talk about the design of these pieces, what is your personal creative approach? Do you think it come naturally to you or do you force it sometimes?
Austin: I think both actually. It’s along the same line as making music or art. You kind of start off forcing it because maybe there’s a deadline or something that needs to be met. I then create a bunch of vague ideas and start to work on them. After that, I continue revisiting them and altering until what I need starts to take shape. At a certain point, I’ll break through whatever is blocking me and I’ll start getting flooded with ideas. Every season there’s usually a Eureka moment that’s late in the game and I’ll come through with some clutch designs.
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Zayyar: So fast forward to 2019, you’ve collaborated with amazing brands and now you’re stocked across the world at some of the most prominent retailers. How did you go about building relationships and getting your product in front of these companies?
Austin: Every small opportunity was/is explored. I’ve been told “no” a million times so I’m fearless in reaching out in cold emails etc. There have been other serendipitous moments that have led to things like the BEAMS collaboration and other opportunities. Authenticity is key so at the end of the day, I want MAPLE to be one of a kind. I think now more than ever people and retailers are starting to see the true uniqueness in the brand.
Zayyar: The jewellery industry could be seen as being quite saturated at the moment, what do you think sets you apart from other brands and how do you view the current landscape of the industry?
Austin: I view it the opposite really. To me, there are no other competitors. What other jewellery brands market themselves the way we do? Nobody makes product like ours, we’re currently filling the void that’s in the men’s jewellery category. There are biker/rocker brands like Chrome Hearts and Goodart Hollywood. There’s plenty of Navajo stuff out there and then there are minimal brands like Tom Wood.
There has been nothing like MAPLE before, we’re a brand that is driven by a mix of subcultures and ultimately changing the way a traditional jewellery brand would operate. I’m more interested in what’s happening underground and that’s why I choose to work with artists and musicians who reflect that. Guys like Byron the Aquarius, Lou Phelps and G H O S T are examples of artists we have worked with who are quality over quantity in my eyes. The fact we collaborated and shot an editorial with the UK’s best meme account @poundlandbandit is something people in the know have to respect. It puts us in a completely different realm for how a brand can market in today's world.
Ultimately I see MAPLE becoming a major player in this category, our price range is very affordable and I think soon our alure will get stronger and stronger because we are growing into a total package brand.
Zayyar: And finally what are some of your goals for the brand moving into 2019?
Austin: The goals for 2019 are to continue outdoing ourselves. More collaborations, more work with friends, and more sales.
Zayyar: We really appreciate your time Austin and we look forward to watching the brand progress!
Interview: Zayyar Win Thein
Photography: Norihisa Hayashi