Jack + Mulligan is a new line of American-made bags — duffels, briefcases, totes, iPad sleeves, laptop folios and dopp kits — conceived by founder/creative director Michael Szewczyk who saw a void in the market for affordable, clean-lined, minimally branded menswear accessories. We caught up with Szewczyk, who works in tech by day, to find out more about his promising new launch.
theFashionSpot: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Michael Szewczyk: Growing up, I always loved to draw and I was fascinated with architecture. Whenever I had the chance, I was drawing structures or building them out of whatever was around me. I think my passion for architecture led to do my ultimate path with an accessories company that focused on clean design, form and function. After college, I moved to Palo Alto to pursue the development of a technology company and I still work in the tech space. I’m actually developing a product at the moment as well – a video platform launching this summer. I grew up on computers and studying product and design. It feels natural to apply that skill and understanding to technology, apps and programs, particularly considering the excitement in the space. I love the idea of offering a utility to a consumer that they don’t have or perhaps a better version.
tFS: To that end, how did the idea for Jack + Mulligan come about?
MS: Jack + Mulligan came about very organically. I have always liked building things, creating and designing products that I can’t find. For a while, I had been feeling as though I couldn’t find the perfect tote – one that was clean and sharp looking aesthetically, well-priced and well-made, also here in the U.S. I never wanted to carry a bag that was overly branded or complicated and one day we just decided to make our own bag.
tFS: Once you decided to launch the brand, can you walk us a little bit through how you did that?
MS: We knew what we wanted to create and what we wanted the bag to look like. We started researching vendors that sold the fabric and hardware we wanted to use. Eventually, we found exactly what we wanted and created our first pattern. We continued to research and meet with vendors, secured factory space for the brand. One tote led to another and we eventually launched a full collection of accessories.
tFS: Where did the name come from?
MS: Jack and Mulligan are the names of my dogs.
tFS: Man Bags seem to be a growing trend. Why do you think men are being more open to "bags" aside from the traditional briefcase?
MS: Men, particularly in the U.S., are increasingly more open to exploring and expressing their own personal sense of style. Globally, men are becoming more interested in fashion and confident with the notion of spending on fashion — you can see this from the runways to guys on the street. Men are more tech-savvy; they can find what they want and shopping can be convenient and even enjoyable. The traditional briefcase is a perfectly functional style, but if you happen to be open to trying something new – whether a duffle style with a crossbody strap that’s certainly a little more soft-bodied and versatile or a tote that’s an easy-to-access carry-all, why wouldn’t you?
tFS: What would you tell a man who is feeling wary?
MS: I would tell a man that if he’s wary about wearing a man bag, he might be contemplating the wrong bag for his personal style. There are a number of men’s accessory brands, each with their own quality. Some might focus more on unique fabrications, prints or others on bold color or hardware. It’s important to be sure that if any man wants to try a more modern option, he’s looking at styles that offer him only what he’s looking for. You have to be comfortable to enjoy what you wear.
tFS: Your big point of difference seems to be quality/materials. Can you talk to us a little bit about those?
MS: We set out to make bags that offered high quality at an affordable price, produced here in the U.S. That was our mission. We care a lot about materials, durability and reliability in a product purchased. We use 18oz canvas, U.S. YKK zippers, cotton twill lining. We’ll also offer nylon lining for certain styles, however. The Thompson Tote has a marine-grade rubber bottom that offers superior protection. We also make a Midnight Collection in 18oz twill that is very popular amongst men for both work and travel. We have new styles for summer that we’ll launch shortly that are made of 18oz water-repellant canvas with either canvas or leather bottoms.
tFS: What do you think sets your bags apart, construction-wise?
MS: Our bags are designed and constructed to feel sharp, strong and without complication—when you see them, you quickly notice the form and structure unique to each style. We work hard on the relationship between the architecture of the design and the fabrications to ensure the perfect bag is created. That’s our goal and so far we’ve had really good feedback. I’m excited by what we’re doing and I’m looking forward to what’s next.
tFS: How often do you plan on coming out with new designs?
MS: Our core collection will continue to be available as a seasonless offering. We plan to introduce new colors and styles each season. In between seasons we also run limited-edition styles or collections – for example, the Midnight Collection. There’s a lot we want to do, and we’ve been getting a lot of requests. The benefit of producing locally is that we can turn around an idea pretty easily.