Wednesday, 20 September 2017

TALKING FASHION: Designer Mark Anthony riffs on his meteoric rise, his business and the icon he most admires

MR. CLEAN: "There were days when I felt like giving up, but I just remind myself that what's life without challenge," the 37-year-old admits.

THE story of how Mark Anthony Scott became one of Jamaica’s most sought-after menswear designers is as fascinating as the designer himself. “I’ve been in the industry all my life but I wasn’t always practising,” he tells us on a cool Tuesday evening inside his cozy Argyle Road shop in St. Andrew. As he explains, Mark’s uncle owned a tailoring establishment and after school he went to work with him. But in those days it was just a means to an end; he had no major couture ambitions.

That perhaps explains why, in 2007, he traded the fabric and the sewing machine for the camera and the tripod stand to venture into video production and set up his own company with the money he had saved up. 

Within record time, he wooed a number of clients, including corporate power players to film their commercials to complement his other writing and directorial projects. Mark was on a roll until things hit a lull. What started out as a fresh and exciting prospect eventually lost its appeal. “I think what happened is that the industry got really slow, and all these different video production companies were popping up. The industry got saturated.”

Mark Anthony took that as his exit cue. “I had a decision to make, but working for people wasn’t an option,” he remembers. That’s when the idea of pulling on the tailoring experience he’d gleaned from working in the family business to start a shirt line was born. Why fork out thousands of bucks for something he could make for himself?

By 2014, he was working from home with a few clients on his roster, subsequently using his car to visit those clients for measurements and to make drop-offs, thereby making the service more personal. “People liked that,” he recalls.

Within a year, he was ready to open Mark Anthony Designs (here on Argyle Road, off Lady Musgrave) and with adequate marketing and promotion the business took off. Today, standing inside the cozy space, the 37-year-old, who says his customers are like family, declares himself a full-fledged menswear designer, specializing in everything from done-to-order suits, shirts and vests to trousers and an array of accessories to complete the look. His niche market, after all, is the business professional.

“In order to be relevant, you have to keep up with fashion; be different; be creative. Your pieces have to be fresh, functional and clean,” the designer remarks. “People can go anywhere and buy a shirt, but it’s not the same with a Mark Anthony shirt. Wearing a Mark Anthony design, you will always stand out from the crowd.”
Creative challenges, he insists, come with the territory. “There’s not a day that I have to look for challenges; they come with the desire and the need to create and perfect the art of what you do. I’m always thinking of new designs and new concepts,” he says. But he does admit that the going can get really rough. “To be honest, the love and passion I have for fashion keeps me going. There were some days when I felt like giving up, but I just remind myself that what’s life without challenge,” he says. “You just have to find that drive.”

He salutes his fellow designing brothers like Carlton Brown and Uzuri’s Karl & Mark (“It’s just a handful of us”) and singles out Ralph Lauren from among his international favourites (“He has always been an icon in my eyes. If I were to emulate anyone it would be him.”) 

Mark Anthony is the first to admit that he makes no fuss about the future, but he does want to find worthy partners to introduce his brand to new markets and introduce new products to his catalogue. “I’m definitely looking to expand the product line and go into the Caribbean and international markets. Starting a women’s line is also part of the vision,” he notes. “I wish I could predict what life has to offer, but my thing is to just take it one day at a time. This is my second year at this level of business, but I’ve learned that if you can make it five years in business, you can go 50 years.”

> MY STYLE, MY WAY: Take a peek inside the designer's personal 'closet'

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