Action Sports Industry Design Veteran Revives Original Apparel Brand Mammal
San Diego native and action sports industry veteran Jordan Mitchell created a small lifestyle apparel brand ten years ago dubbed Mammal, after creating a logo of a man fighting a bear for a design editorial. Getting his start drawing logos and creating branding in high school, interning for Shepard Fairey, and moving on to land his first job at Planet Earth, Mitchell has worked for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Nixon, Clive, and Sole Technology.
In 1999, the designer decided to go off on his own and the idea for his first clothing brand, Eugene, got off the ground. Several years later, in 2003, Mitchell was struck with the idea for Mammal, which was an update to his original branding for Eugene, with a more lively logo. The brand spent a short time in the market before it ultimately dissolved after Mitchell and his business partner at the time went their separate ways
Now, more than a decade later, Mitchell has resurrected the original design and concept for Mammal —which was created partly as a joke and a play on man’s most basic relationship with nature; a constant competition against a force much stronger than us. Drawing on experience he has built along the way, including design roles with Adio, Holden Outerwear, Girl and Chocolate Skateboards, Royal Trucks, Fourstar Clothing, Lakai Footwear, DC Shoes, Roxy, Vans, Popwar Skateboards, Thalia Surf, and Spy Optic, Mitchell launched a website and online store for Mammal in late November, and is in the process of finalizing several pop-up shops with local retailers.
We caught up with Mammal’s founder to hear more on bringing his original designs back to life, and what the future holds for Mammal.
Why did you decide to bring Mammal back? What is new and/or different about it this time around?
I think it’s just time. Getting older, working for other people and brands, seeing their mistakes, getting tired of making someone else money and not having personal or creative freedom.
This time around I have a lot more experience, talent and connections. The whole world and market is a lot different, as well.
When was Mammal first launched? Tell me a little about why you launched it?
I’ve always wanted to start my own brand ever since I can remember, saving clothes I really liked in hopes of reproducing them someday under my own label, always paying close attention to what was going on with pop culture and trends in and out of the industry.
The idea for the Mammal logo came about while working on an editorial illustration for the first issue of a San Diego based arts and culture magazine RE:UP, with a reference from Gary Benzel (Green Lady, HunterGatherer, and Igloo Shop) in the summer of 2003. At the same time I already had a line I was working on called Eugene; the logo was a 3 dimensional box man.
While it seemed that friends and other people really liked the Eugene line, it wasn’t selling very well. So after creating the man and bear illustration—which didn’t end up getting picked for the editorial after all— I realized I needed to create a new name, logo, and more attention grabbing graphics. Mammal was then born. Partly as a joke and experiment, the name was inspired by the idea of people wearing shirts that called them exactly what they are: mammals. With the implication that while humans are more evolved and civilized than animals we tend to be worse in many ways and do more damage to other humans, creatures, and the earth. The idea behind the logo of the bear and man boxing supports the idea behind the name, emphasizing the uphill battle man has by fighting nature, by again thinking he is somehow more powerful or smarter than he actually is.
What do you see as the biggest challenges within the space at the moment with launching your own brand?
I think the biggest challenge is competition and for me, limited resources. Everyone and their mom want to start a clothing line. The difference is going into it with experience, a story, a clear vision of what it is and where you want it to go and being realistic about what you’re trying to do.
There are also a lot of things that make it easier to do than 10 years ago with the internet, local manufacturers and manufacturers willing to produce lower minimums.
Take a spin through Mammal’s latest collection:
What retailers are on board with the brand so far and what has the process been like in re-introducing Mammal to the masses?
There has been a really good reception so far with re-introducing Mammal. It is still very early on for the brand and no retailers are carrying it yet. I am being very careful about how the product is released and to whom, with a slow growth plan. I do have pop-up stores planned at Blends SD and Sole Lab in Oceanside.
What are some of the opportunities that you see within the market? What void does Mammal fill that is lacking in the market place today?
Everyone I have talked to is saying that retailers are looking for new smaller brands are tired of the big guys. There is also a lot of opportunity with focusing on direct sales and a vertical business plan.
Our industry and market has changed so much. I see people creating brands that they want and would wear, not letting the market dictate what they should do or cater to a youth market, making products for a wider age range. So while kids are stoked on stuff, guys in the 25-45 range can wear stuff too and not feel like a teenager. That’s were I see Mammal. A clean, timeless, lifestyle brand with roots in action sports culture.
What has gone into this process as far as funding, design, and production?
Ha, oh man… It has been a long, difficult process with a lot of ups and downs. A long time developing the branding and concept line as well as designing all printable graphics for the next year or more. Potential partners coming in, then dropping out, and now I have partnered with my longtime friend Berkley Hardison who runs Prographics Screen Printing in San Marcos. He has been funding all printables and some misc goods as of late. Production is interesting, too. Finding the right people to work with, quality, pricing, turnaround times. It’s a learning process. It can be torturous and very rewarding at the same time.