As Ste Wing explains, MNT CNDITION is not another Manchester clothing brand, a statement backed up by the fact you’re more likely to see it worn over the last three years by creatives in cities like Berlin, Los Angeles, and Tokyo than our hometown.
Shrewd would be one way to describe his attitude. Having spent decades working with some of the world’s most recognisable and iconic brands — immersing himself in the subcultures they want to reach, and reporting back on the ways attitudes and tastes evolve — he has a sharp understanding of how powerful subtlety, selectiveness and playing the long game can be in establishing genuine longevity.
“I’ve been in this game for a very long time, travelling across the world. Then all of a sudden the pandemic hit and that slowed down. I don’t want to use the phrase ‘reassess life’, but I was just like ‘Cool, travel is slowing down and is a big part of what I do, time to start focusing on a billion other things that have been put on the back burner’,” Wing recounts.
“I focused even more time on helping Manchester creatives, mentoring the city’s youth, and work a lot with men’s mental health charities. But I also thought this pause was a good time to focus on my brand,” he continues, explaining cohorts, comrades and contacts had asked for years whether he would ever launch his own brand. “That’s what I ended up doing. My network, my community of creatives, we brain-waved it and I put a solid collection together.”
Scan the MNT CNDITION website and it’s clear where things are coming from, conceptually. Understated confidence runs through the collection, which is the first to be commercially available: bold but sophisticated prints, black and monochrome colour schemes. Initially seeded out to select people in subcultural hotspots across the world, with the sole request they wear the brand and feedback responses, this summer the wears — and tech-outerwear inspired sister line, THE TRAXXY — officially launched, with impressive credentials.
A specially made all weather-proof material and its own heat-reactive panelling, all-organic cotton, recycled materials, manufacturers guaranteeing fair wages, good conditions for workers, and environmental accountability. Fast fashion is quickly ruining the world, but MNT CNDITION is pushing back against throwaway clothing culture in the truest sense.
“You buy one of our products, each comes with a QR code and a serial number. Upload that onto the website you get a contact form to fill in. After a four month period you send the item back to us and we give you a percentage off your next purchase from us. It keeps your gear fresh— always in mint condition — and the product that comes back we recycle into a capsule collection, something that will drop with only a small number available. So we’re keeping you looking fresh in our brand and it's obviously not ending up on a fucking landfill,” we’re told, before it’s also made clear packaging is decomposable.
All this is just one side of the story, though. The holistic approach to materials and partners is mirrored in a desire to work with those in a long-established network, creatig a campaign that reflects the brand’s integrity. Wing is keen to point out the creatives involved are “mostly mates, people I’ve worked with on global client campaigns, those I’ve mentored to help sell themselves”. Again, this isn’t a Manchester thing, but the city has been the meeting point for these talented minds: credits including photographer Akash Khadka and illustrator Andrew Dudgeon, with brand campaign videos by Hyde Productions, sound by Shiloh Osu, and 35mm behind-the-scenes imagery, like the branded shots on this page, captured by revered artist Yadohh.
“I don’t want to say there was downtime during the shoot, because there wasn’t, it was stacked. But any opportunity we had to talk, we talked. Team dinners at the end of each day, things like that. I was basically said: ‘Listen — you all do these great things, so when you’re not shooting, chat, build your network, open up to collaborating and create fucking magic between ya’. That’s a massive thing for me. When I hear two of the guys have made a tune together, one girl is planning to shoot content with the video guy, because they got on, I love it,” Wing continues. “On the day, I was putting clothes on everyone, doing outfit changes, but giving everyone the opportunity to muck in and experience multiple aspects…. They were helping me, telling me what they thought looked good, and I was taking that vision on board. At the end of the day, they’re the ones wearing it.”
“There are people involved from all over: Ivory Coast, Jamaica, China, Ireland, the Congo. The campaign needed to show the diversity of the people who would fuck with the brand — the people who support it. I wanted to show that side of it,” he says, recalling an original plan to escape the North West and shoot worldwide, from Shibuya, Tokyo, to Friedrichshain, Berlin, location in line with those on camera. Covid-19 cancelled that. “Obviously it didn’t happen, but when you look at the campaign it still tells that story. The beauty of Manchester is that it has these pockets of cultures, the fact it is a melting pot meant it worked out.
This collaborative approach reinforces the idea that MNT CNDITION stands apart from so many brands. Future plans further emphasise this. Of course, you’re never going to find these wears readily available , or arriving in typically timed autumn/winter releases. Even offers from boutique stockists are being heavily vetted and considered, with online currently the only place to buy. But the door is open to collabs with designers, artists and photographers who can show they’re in-tune with the overall ethos, which, as the guy in charge puts it, “is not a clothing brand… it’s a lifestyle, a culture.”