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Q&A: Mikael Hanan on building his luxury sustainable fashion brand FIELDS

by | Apr 16, 2021

You’ll find a store at Cape Town’s The Old Biscuit Mill which is as comfortable here as it would be in Paris’ Le Marais district. This is a brand of understated luxury with a focus on being sustainable. After years of building an e-commerce site that sold other brands and products, Mikael Hanan founded FIELDS from “a desire to get closer to the source, to the farms, the mills, the factories as well as to design and create quality garments and content”.

We caught up with Mikael Hanan to find out more:

Tell us about your new collection, Finding Opportunity.

Planning for this season began while I was in Dubai before the pandemic, and was concluded during lockdown. Some of the original elements changed direction from what was originally planned, but it is generally inspired by the first light of day to hit Dubai’s many high rises. ‘Finding Opportunity’ is the theme that we carry, presenting a message of perseverance in a time of a pandemic. This season remains classic in cut, simplistic in shape and premium in quality. With that, we introduce a few new additions of colour, alongside our artist collaboration pieces.

With which artists did you collaborate this season?

Each season FIELDS collaborates with one or two African artists whose message and visual themes resonate with us. The result is select pieces that are remarkably unique. For this collection, which is our fourth one, we’ve collaborated with Lwando Dlamini and Renee Rossouw.

I was drawn to Dlamini’s work due to its storytelling nature, bold colours, thick use of texture and frequent feature of people. I sensed that it would translate into a garment with ease and make for a playful experience for those who wear it. Dlamini’s piece, entitled ‘Triumph’, presents an encouraging message of persevering through hardship and conquering challenges with the help of others, instead of doing it alone.

Renee’s geometric shapes have always appealed to me. Our project began with bright colours and busy spacing of shapes. As lockdown struck, we agreed to pause our developments and revisit the project once the height of the first wave had passed. This resulted in a change of direction to a more inspiring sunrise and simplistic moment on the beach – a moment depicted in her artwork for FIELDS. I thoroughly enjoyed this journey of creation with Renee.

What is the inspiration behind your brand?

FIELDS was created to showcase three things:

The belief that the modern man is proud to be multifaceted, knowing that an identity is the sum of its components. FIELDS explores these facets grouping them as: Soul, encompassing contemplation, purity, connection and integrity; Art, including impactful work, creativity and leadership and; Outdoor, the tactile, the environment, physicality and nature play.

To showcase high quality, South African yarn and manufacturing, and being a part of changing the in old narratives of ‘low quality’ South African CMT production.

To showcase African art and to allow our audience to engage with art in a different way.

What makes FIELDS an ethical and sustainable fashion brand?

We strive to be transparent, source from within the Southern Africa region, use natural fibres and work with South Africa-based factories. With our head of production and quality, Bronwyn Nel, we are mapping and tracing our value chain and each component of our garments, and we regularly visit CMT factories. We’re just starting, and want to add more elements like wastewater treatment to the list of requirements of our suppliers. I’d also like us to publish these results for our partners and customers to see. Sustainability also carries a component of business sustainability, so the decisions we make are for the long term as we plan to be around in a decade from now.

Tell us briefly about your in-store repair service?

This is driven by Bronwyn. We’ve invested in the pieces for longevity. It’s quite simple, if there’s an issue with a garment we’ve made, we will do what we can to repair it, whether in house or with one of our factory partners. As we grow we hope to offer more in-store features for a quicker turn-around by having an in-house seamstress.

What materials do you use?

We focus on natural materials and fibres like cotton, wool, mohair. It’s all sourced in Southern Africa, it’s one of our founding principles. By doing this we can focus on quality, breathability of garments, and ensure we’re supporting the local economy. As a new project we’re exploring recycled materials.

BCI cotton uses genetically modified cotton seeds and pesticides. What is your opinion?

We use BCI cotton in all of our woven products. We support the role of science in helping to improve quality and reduce waste as long as the process to grow and farm the genetically modified cotton does not have a negative impact on the environment and on the community where it grows. The goal should be for it to have a positive impact!

How do you achieved the high quality of your garments?

By having Bronwyn in our team and her close co-ordination of our factory partners. She spends 75% of her time working in the factories. We are proud of this, how we have focused on building relationships with our factory partners since 2018 and work with them to continuously improve, producing work we are proud of.

What was the first item of clothing that you designed?

The Field Trouser and then the Weekend Trouser.

T-shirts generally don’t last more than one season. What is different about your T-shirts?

The quality and weight. Our tees are between 160 and 185 grams per square metre and will last a number of seasons. We also keep a close eye on the manufacturing process for where the potential weak points in a garment are. When found, we assess the design to see how we can eliminate these.

Your pricing is high. Can you tell us how you arrive at it?

Our prices are in line with our market position. Scotch & Soda sells a pique tee for R1099, FIELDS pique tees are between R850. G-Star Raw v-neck knit at R1799, which is 50% cotton and 50% Polyacrylic, FIELDS’ v-neck is R2100 made from 100% BCI cotton. We would like customers to choose the brands they want to support.

What is your main concern with the fashion industry?

I have two concerns. I want to encourage local customers who do shop international brands to consider the local brands doing similar quality work. Perhaps they’ll find a South African brand that resonates with them and their values. My second concern is how do we ensure designers with small and medium runs in production with an 80% sell-through are economically sustainable. The answer here is very much linked to point 1.

What local brands do you most admire?

I love how Lukhanyo Mdingi’s clothes drape when worn and his emotive storytelling. And the layers, the colours, the flow of Ella Buter of SuperElla’s clothes.

 

  • To find out more about FIELDS visit the website 
  • Images supplied
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