The Good Life: Q&A Sean McKinney

How’d you get into sports apparel? When I graduated from St. Joe’s in 1997, I knew I had no chance of becoming a pro athlete. I looked at working at Nike, Adidas, Reebok, all those companies, and got very lucky at And1, which was then in Philly, and a very up-and-coming brand. I eventually headed up their licensing division for Triple5Soul.

How does Mitchell & Ness stay on top of the trends? You have to know what’s happening not just in the apparel market, but also in society, where the shifts are. Luckily, we have a diverse mix of employees across the country, and a partnership with Fames in Tokyo, a Japanese retailer that sells only Mitchell & Ness-branded apparel and does a lot of designs for us.

How do you get the stars to wear your apparel? We never sought to become part of any scene, and ultimately, that’s why the hip-hop community, the rap community, respects us. We never sold out. Every week, a celebrity seems to drop by the store.

Name-drop, please. Recently we’ve had Ryan Howard, Good Charlotte, Bow Wow, Sylvester Stallone, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ernie Banks. A lot of the regulars call ahead to let us know they’re coming in. But most of the time, we don’t know. I love to see our customers turn around and see an artist or athlete next to them and just flip out.

What’s next? We recently signed an exclusive partnership with Nike, and Michael Jordan is giving Mitchell & Ness the exclusive right to make Michael Jordan on-court licensed apparel. In February, the line launched with 500 jerseys, which sold for $400 each. They sold out in 20 minutes. And I love the new NFL line coming out in fall: fleece hoodies, parkas and wool jackets.

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