There’s something distinctly American about Mike Amiri, a sense that anything is possible and nothing is unattainable. Channeling Jim Morrison’s nonchalant sex-appeal or Axl Rose’s defiantly messy style, Amiri’s collection is a homage to the grunge aesthetic of 1980s and 1990s Los Angeles. And while rock star glam has long inspired designers from Jean Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld to Hedi Slimane and Marc Jacobs, Amiri’s quintessentially Californian vision is both laid back and extravagant, with a level of artisanship that has distinguished his coveted label in the luxury market.
Gigi Hadid, Mick Jagger and Axl Rose are some of the brand’s devotees, gladly investing in leather biker jackets with hand-painted palm trees and denim jackets emblazoned with a Grateful Dead poster print. These style icons have an affinity with Amiri’s clothes. When Guns N’ Roses reunited for Coachella, Amiri was asked to style and design the clothing for the tour. “After Coachella I found myself in a room sitting across from Axl Rose, who was the main inspiration for my collection. So it was a very surreal moment for me. How do you sit next to one of your heroes? He reached over and said, ‘come sit’. We sat and talked for 45 minutes and had a few beers and talked about fashion and style and how he developed his personal style, his iconic look. It was amazing because I chased that spirit, and I tried to hone in on that spirit and now I’m sitting with the guy who came by it organically.”
Amiri’s aesthetic was shaped by his early years skating on Sunset Boulevard, and watching club kids at the area’s many legendary venues. Despite having no formal training, Amiri was passionate, and his relentless research, experimenting and fine-tuning in the city’s garment district helped him perfect his signature haute streetwear style. With all the new talent in the creative industry, Amiri is a leading voice defining the iconic LA look—artfully dishevelled, sexy, music-fueled—that is influencing fashion and street style worldwide.
“Being really young and skating with kids who were older, the way they look and the way they act, that always sticks with you,” explains Amiri, wearing his staple black t-shirt, skinny jeans, suede boots and fedora. “It’s no secret that my collection revolves around my upbringing in LA and those clubs where I was too young to get in, but where I saw kids spilling in. Their style was so significant and aggressive and as a kid, it almost seemed so heroic and romantic in the eyes of a 16-year-old. The sunset strip was wild, you had the Roxy, Infamous, the Rainbow; Axl Rose was always hanging there. I always had an affinity for vintage clothes and classic Americana.”
The vintage boutiques of Hollywood proved a valuable resource for Amiri. His in-depth knowledge of fabrics and style was honed not only in this environment, but also by spending hours at Maxfield—a luxury store in West Hollywood—analysing the racks that now carry his own line. Rather than following a traditional path and attending fashion school, he poured over skate videos and music clips. He studied LA bands like Mötley Crüe, Van Halen and Guns N’ Roses, and the crowds of groupies amassing outside bars and clubs—Whiskey a Go Go, The Viper Room—on a quest to unlock the mystery that has haunted pop music for decades: what makes a rock star iconic? After several years working with Helmut Lang, J Brand and RRL, Amiri began experimenting with his own line, seeking to define his own voice and aesthetic. Making denims by hand he learned the art of distressing fabrics. “I had no formal training so had to learn by myself,” he says. “In LA you have a lot of resources in manufacturing. You could walk door to door and find contractors who sold silk or denim and get your start that way. There were a few notable locals. Rick Owens started here as a pattern maker and a lot of the places I went to had photos and stories on him.”
The immaculate attention to detail in Amiri’s clothes may not be obvious at first glance. His signature MX1 jean, requires several months to hand sew, destroy, and then rebuild, adding French plongé leather patches. The line is carried by more than 140 stores worldwide, including The Webster in Miami, Montaigne Market in Paris and Antonia in Milan. Amiri launched a women’s capsule collection earlier this year, with soft, feminine versions of grunge classics like cardigans and plaid shirts. He also premiered a new line of sneakers and bags at Maxfield last June.
Though the collection has grown, Amiri has kept his hyper detailed approach. “The brand really started organically, and I made something really significant and special,” he explains. “When I worked on the denim I did each piece myself. Everything was thought out and meticulous because you’re only making a few pieces. So when the collection grew I didn’t want to change anything that made that garment as special as it was … Being a young brand and entering a global luxury market with no real history or legacy you need to shine in a different way and take different measures. You have to go the extra mile.”
That’s how Amiri’s most singular idea came to him: marking t-shirts and denims with the blast of a shotgun, leaving on the fabric a pattern of holes that is completely unique to each individual item. “I thought what if you create something beautiful with the best fabrics in the world and sewed it so meticulously and then do the unthinkable which is shoot it with a gun. What does that juxtaposition create and how rare could that be?”
Amiri has created his version of luxury, infused with the energy of LA’s beaches, streets, celebrities and bohemians. “Luxury has certain elements now that it didn’t have before because the world is changing,” he says. “You’re exposed to so much through social media. Luxury itself can’t just be an item with a high price tag … whether it’s a t-shirt shot with a shotgun, it’s something you can discuss. It needs to be something that’s rare, that’s special, remarkable, scarce. Discovery is an important element of luxury now. It’s easy to go somewhere and buy something you know about. But to go somewhere and find something you’ve never heard of and be touched by a certain energy, a certain excitement. That’s luxury.”
The democratisation of fashion is not a new concept, but the change has been most apparent in the new style influencers. Where once this position was held by the few elite, social media has opened the doors to a flood of new faces. “The rock stars now aren’t necessarily rock musicians,” explains Amiri. “Some are rappers, some are athletes, some are models, but the energy is the same. Seeing someone like Travis Scott on stage performing, is the same energy as watching Axl Rose in front of 50,000 people. It’s an energy. As far as their style, you can see that everything they wear goes back to classics. So ripped jeans and a t-shirt is as relevant [today] as it was in 91.”
As for his own rise on the fashion and celebrity circuit, Amiri attributes it to the clear vision he’s maintained from early days. Now, as he’s dressing the very men he once adored, his perspective has shifted. “As you climb the mountain you get exposed to so many things, and get to look behind the curtain,” he muses. “The people seem a lot less unattainable.”
For more visit mikeamiri.com