Mike Key, has explored many different facets of the industry, from brand development to production, since showcasing at GFW in 2016. From working in mentoring and education to managing production for Liam Hodges, Mike is learning how to navigate the global industry in a post-Brexit world.
As menswear continues to rise, Mike is at the forefront of the exciting designers driving the interest and movement. Working internationally and for himself, in only a few years, Mike has built his network. Find out more about what Mike’s company gets up to, and see if it’s appealing to you, as he is currently looking to hire and build a team - get involved!
Which university did you attend, and what is the most valuable thing that you learnt there?
I attended the University of Brighton. I suppose the dedication to see a project through to final completion and to push the limits on what is expected at every turn. Also I feel as we were part fashion part business there was a constant need for me to figure out viability to every design and garment as if it couldn't be produced all efforts felt futile.
Graduate Fashion Week provides a platform for emerging fashion graduates to showcase their work regardless of the specific discipline. Which area of the industry have you chosen to pursue, and what informed this choice?
So I presented a menswear collection when I finished however quickly found that my skills lay in other areas so now I'm focusing on brand development, design development and production.
Tell us a bit more about your career journey since showing at Graduate Fashion Week. How have you found life in the industry?
Life in the industry was a bit of a shock as expected, as I left and couldn't see immediate job prospects. I decided to go and work with likeminded people who wanted to create change. I met with the guys at The Basement and together we set up a free educational program called Basementoring for all the guys who are part of the group to come and learn from someone who had designed, made clothes and completed a full vision to reality model.
I did this for just under a year and was then approached by Mastered, a talent development and incubation program that offers advice for creatives who are trying to tap in or scale their businesses in the fashion world. I was a Talent Manager and then a Brand Consultant here for over 18 months before finally leaving just a couple of months ago to launch my own consultancy and production firm.
Having a core network in Portugal and round the world means I can now manufacture for many brands keeping low minimums and of course high quality products. The next steps are scaling my team and client pool which we're taking steadily at the minute but the growth seems to be our inevitable next steps.
Do you explore any political, social or historical notions through your work? If so, what messages do you hope to convey?
Not really. I simply strive to make the best product for all my clients and to build a network where designers can come to someone they trust to invest in their production management.
Where are you hoping to be in five years time?
Still managing my own company but helping more of the London designers with their production and all forms of manufacture. Then of course scaling a team and building a worldwide network based around garment manufacture and all other aspects of the process.
Many say that the industry is undergoing a huge change, with sustainability, diversity and responsibility becoming huge themes. Do you have any opinions on these movements?
The industry is ever changing and each day things can impact the way we work, but that's the name of the game and you've got to be agile to keep up. I've found it much easy to go with the flux and adapt your own model to cater to the political and social changes. Brexit is a huge one for me especially as a trader however by moving manufacturing to Portugal, we have trading agreements in place before the EU was formed which give us a slight edge and security for the next few years at least.
Lastly, to any students that are reading this in admiration of your career-what advice would you give to the students hoping to showcase this year?
Stick to your guns about what you want to do, but be aware things will change and that your route isn't fixed. Allow the connections and jobs to help you really find what your calling is. The 3/4 years in university is just the tip of the iceberg, get out into the industry and make your mark.
Make sure you can find enjoyment in whatever you do then you basically never work a day in your life.
Also send me your CV I'm looking to build a team haha!
Interview and words by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins