The Interview: Jessie Willner, Founder of The Mighty Company
Los Angeles-based designer outerwear brand The Mighty Company was founded in 2016 by visual artist Jessie Willner, who was inspired to create collectible pieces that could last a lifetime.
Inspired by the vibrancy of the ‘90s West Coast, each piece is infused with a psychedelic colour palette. The Mighty Company is also proudly dedicated to ethical production and transparency.
TheIndustry.fashion speaks to Jessie Wilner about founding the company, the brands aesthetic, donations to charities and the impact of COVID-19 on the business.
How was The Mighty Company founded? Had launching a luxury outerwear brand always been on your mind?
My mother, aunt and grandmother were all artists — so even though that path may seem impractical to some, it seemed very practical to me.
Being born in the decade of the World Wide Web, I became obsessed with creating websites and taught myself coding and graphic design as a pre-teen. In my early 20’s, after years of dabbling in different freelance projects, I had the thought that what if I could take some of my ideas and make them walk around the real world? That was the first inkling of The Mighty Company.
I wanted to make clothing that would last a lifetime and this led to the leather jacket: an irreplaceable item that is a permanent piece in your wardrobe, cherished for decades and passed down through the generations.
After four years of operation, how has the business been received? You’ve seen massive praise globally including Vogue and Forbes!
It’s been an amazing four years! Since I initially had no experience or background in business, I always placed the highest importance on the collection itself rather than profit or margins. However, you won't have a business for long if you don’t find a marriage of the two, so my solution was to build direct-to-consumer at the start. Doing that allowed us to not compromise the high quality of materials, as we didn’t have the markups of wholesale. Then we grew the brand until production was much larger in volume, which allowed us to expand to global retailers.
If we look at the fashion - it’s vibrant, bold and full of incredible fabrics and colours. It’s so 90’s, but with a modern cut – how did you come to having pieces like this represent the brand?
I wanted to create collectible pieces that combined the classic with the out-of-the-ordinary. And mood plays a huge part in everything we make — we want every piece to make you happier when you wear it! Colour is what always does that for me.
Every silhouette is based on our favourite timeless outerwear shapes reimagined, like how your Dad’s worn-in ’80s jacket would look now, or the sexiest men’s motorcycle jacket that was never made well enough for a woman.
In the UK, The Mighty Company is stocked in luxury retailers such as Harvey Nichols and NET-A-PORTER, how does the UK retailers’ impact/help the business and brand awareness?
Being a primarily direct-to-consumer brand, we are very involved in the analytics of where all of our customers are coming from. We already had a substantial customer base in the UK before launch which inspired us to want physical locations there. After launching with those retailers, we experienced a huge uptick in sales back to our own site from the UK.
In terms of physical retail in the UK, are there any famous department stores you’d love to get into that you haven’t already?
Tagging onto my previous answer, we have always launched in new retailers where we felt there was the most demand. We have let our customers lead us to each of our new locations we have opened. There are definitely more retailers we would love to launch with but we are managing our growth and following the customer demand, store by store.
I’ve seen you’re donating 20% of collection profits to the NAACP LDF, indefinitely, tell me more about this - that’s incredible!
Thank you! While it feels right for us as a small business to figure out ways to sustain ourselves through this time and continue to provide employment to our staff, it feels wrong to do so without simultaneously giving to something that’s had such an impact on the world.
We were initially donating 100% of profits to the NAACP LDF back in June and we are super passionate about their mission and so are donating 20% of all profits indefinitely.
COVID-19 has impacted every business at some stage – be it a reduction in sales, problems with supply chain, production cost rise – how has it impacted your business?
In response to the pandemic we started making face masks just as lockdown started. We’re based in LA and at the beginning of April, Mayor Garcetti issued an order that mandated all residents to wear face coverings in public. Some of our friends and family had already been asking if we were making masks to buy, but that mandate made us move into action.
It also put something else into our minds: Los Angeles’ large homeless population. We called The Midnight Mission in Downtown LA and they said they were in desperate need of both reusable and disposable masks. We decided to use our resources to make twice as many masks, making one for them for everyone we sold.
Four years ago, we made a series of metallic fabrics at renowned French mill Malhia Kent and saved them in our fabric archives. We made our first round of masks out of these fabrics. They sold out faster than we could’ve imagined, so we have partnered with them to bring you more in new limited-edition fabrics woven in their mill in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Finished with antimicrobial lining and pink glitter stretch nylon at the border and ear loops.
More positively, the future! What’s next for The Mighty Company?
We actually just launched a whole new category – The Casual Collection! In a year where we’ve all had to find comfort in our own solitude, we wanted to create a collection that would imbue some joie de vivre into the everyday.
We felt that casualwear deserved to be as exciting as anything else you wear. We always aspire to capture bits of happiness within our collections and this year has meant figuring out the things that make you most happy in your own company. We created 12-pieces meant to be lived in. The collection includes soft cottons, pastel french terry, rainbow embroidery, glittering nylons and neon stitching.