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Fashion | Brand Focus: Mara

The first edition of our new Brand Focus series sees DJ Mag's Amy Fielding chat to Mara, the Scottish label focused on sustainable streetwear

“A lot of people think sustainability is just using organic fabrics, but for us, it’s ever-evolving.” DJ Mag is speaking with Sean Cosgrove, co-founder and creative director of Mara, a clothing brand based in Glasgow. Over the last two years, Sean has worked alongside a close-knit team of friends to create the brand, striving for alternatives to products made overseas, after learning about “fast fashion” from a young age.

“My mum worked in fashion for 30 years, and she was always travelling to places like Bangladesh, China, and Pakistan,” Sean says. “She used to talk about how, when they knew my mum or other visitors were coming, they’d hide loads of stuff, and make out like they’re squeaky clean. So, I always had this idea that there was something quite dark and shady about the fashion industry.”

There’s a chance you’ve already seen the Mara collection; DJs like Big Miz and Liam Doc are supporters, and after meeting Bristol label Sector 7’s Boofy and Hi5Ghost while working at Dimensions festival, Mara made its first Boiler Room appearance with the latter. Music is a huge part of what Mara do — Sean grew up playing in hardcore and metal bands, and now produces electronic music as SENGA. “A big ethos of the brand is DIY, which definitely comes from the music scene,” he says. “When you’re in bands or a DJ and you’re just starting out, you make your own stuff, your mates design it. We’ve tried to keep that going. We get mates to embroider swing tags and labels, and we cut them out ourselves.”

The brand name Mara is taken from a tale in Buddhism about a demon of the same name, who takes things which are mundane and makes them alluring. “From the beginning, the idea was that we take something mundane, like a hooded sweatshirt, and then knit it in the UK, construct it in the UK, and make it fully organic,” he explains. “We put real time and effort into making something which people are used to seeing everywhere special, and adding something extra to it.”

This year, before the pandemic hit, Sean was due to fly to the states and host a Mara pop-up shop in New York. It was looking to be a huge year for the brand, but instead, saw Sean reselling old lines the team had planned to take to America. Then, when Black Lives Matter protests swept the globe following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in May, Mara brought back another product to help the cause. The brand raised over £12,000 for BLM-related charities with their “Hot Summer Nights” t-shirt, which depicts a police car on fire, and printed the names of people who have died in police custody on the inside of the shirts in remembrance.

Mara’s forthcoming drop, Altered Futures, is a landmark for the brand. It’s the first time they’ve made production on a line completely circular, with zero waste. “This is a new era,” Sean says. “It’s a fresh slate, and I want Mara to continue on this path. We make our main-line stuff, but the scraps and leftovers, the offcut fabrics, we get that sent back to us, to be made into new garments that is its own range. It’s season-less, and only available when there’s enough scraps to make the clothes. That way we get our circular economy.”

Mara’s next step after Altered Futures, which is available from this Friday (27th) at 11AM, is to begin making their t-shirts on fabric spun from 100% recycled bottles, and other products from upcycled material. “We’re just trying to be better all the time,” he says. “Just consistent evolution. And hopefully talking about this on an even bigger scale.”

Keep up to date with the latest drops from Mara via their instagram @maragang, and visit the online store here.