When Solange dropped her video for her hit song, “Don’t Touch My Hair,” style lovers everywhere salivated over the visuals.
But for designer Mia Wright Ross, a sense of accomplishment came along with her sheer admiration for the project. The 27-year-old is a designer at Tibi and one of the talents behind the brand’s shoes that appear in one of the scenes in the video. She’s also the creator of the Mia Wright Ross Collection, a unisex accessories line that happens to be complete magic.
We spoke to the young designer about the aesthetics behind her amazing line, her career, and how she felt to have a seat at Solange’s style table.
Who is Mia Wright Ross?
I was born and raised in Richmond, Va to an amazing family full of crazy, yet dynamic women. I currently live in New York City and have lived here since 2007. I moved here to attend university at Parsons The New School of Design, majored in Fashion Design, and graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in 2011. My years at Parsons were some of the best and worst sides of myself as a designer. But that’s only because it was the beginning stages of the designer I am today. We all were our very best and very worst selves at Parsons. That’s what the school does to you, makes you into a fiery Phoenix. I have been working professionally as a designer since 2011 but I have been designing and involved in Art my entire life. My first job was as an Assistant Footwear Designer at Calvin Klein. I have also worked for 3.1 Phillip Lim and presently, Tibi.
My cousin Jeff is the person that nurtured my talents at a young age. I credit him to the reason I am on the journey to success. When he passed in 1997, I vowed to myself that I would make sure I always worked in the medium in which he cultivated within me. I have been drawing ever since.
Your collection is amazing. What inspires your aesthetic?
Thank you so much for saying that. Girl, it’s definitely a symbol of my soul so when people say they like it, it means the world to me, lol. I would have to say my aesthetic is ultimately how I currently view my personal past, present, and future. The aesthetic of MWR Collection has become so very bold and I have only recently become comfortable with that. I have become more aware of myself and I think that has inherently effected the look of the collection. In my awareness, I am more inspired by the aesthetic of my grandmother and My great-grandmother. They would tell you that they were the fliest things smoking when they were younger. My grandma always wore accessories, always. I think that is ultimately where I get my aesthetic from. Memories of watching her get dressed, or my mom taking me to get her leather bags repaired to keep them in good condition, or the brocade drapes that used to hang in my great-grandma’s living room and changed the entire room into this amazing sepia tone; all these things have inspired my design aesthetic.
You’ve lived and worked abroad as well. What were those experiences like?
Well I have worked in a few countries throughout my short time in the shoe industry (6 years). I have worked in China, Italy, and Brazil. All amazing but extremely different experiences. The first country I worked in abroad was China, which was the biggest culture shock of them all. I remember having so many questions about consumerism, labor and even time. It is an exact 12 hour difference, so when I would FaceTime my Mom at 8:43pm, it would be 8:43am in Richmond. It freaked me out for a while because I had never experienced jet-lag like that before in my life. However, I can honestly say that experience changed me for the better. It had such an impact on how I view my purpose as a designer. Developing shoes in China in the same towns with furniture factories, toy factories, and even Christmas tree factories (yes, girl. Christmas trees!), made me realize that I must create a high quality product that people could truly feel. I always strive to make an emotion and soul tie with what I create. My work is a reflection of me and the journey I go through and I want the customer to feel the humanity in it when they see it. I am putting the soul back into product development. That is what I strive to do with my work with MWR Collection and at Tibi.
The visuals for your collection are quite stunning. I love how you use a male and female model to show the versatility of your line. What was the thought process behind putting that together?
MWR is a unisex brand so I always try to show both sides of the coin. Even with my models, I always try to choose muses that have hints of conflicting characteristics, hard/soft, submissive/dominant, calm/intense. It’s amazing to see the models transform in the clothes because they usually come in with a particular characteristic in which they think I chose them for. But when we begin styling and working through the looks with them, there is a sort of magic that takes place. They begin to see what I see and in the beginning it is always uncomfortable but I love this part of the process because it rings true to the authenticity of my creative process; I come in with one idea and then magic happens and its flipped on its head. I always look for the antithesis of my original idea because then the inspirations somehow become more bold in the presence of the contradiction. It is good to work with models and a team that allows that spaces to happen. I am very lucky to have an amazing photographer and friend, Matthew Pandolfe, that believes in the brand and has made it his personal goal to create such dynamic visuals for the brand. From the product shots to every single campaign shoot, Matthew helps curate the vision in a way that pushes us both to see the unseen.
You also design for Tibi and some pieces from the line are featured in Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” video.
What was your initial reaction to how those visuals came together with something you helped to create?
Sheer joy! So, if you know me on a personal level, you know that I Stan for Solange. She is a constant muse in my creative process. When the “Don’t Touch My Hair” video came out after I was already going crazy about how amazing the album was, I waited to go home and watch it on my TV but a friend of mine texted me with a screenshot from the video and said “So clearly you have a seat at the table…” and I literally screamed. It is such a blessing to work for an amazing company as Tibi. Being apart of the design team is such an honor and an unbelievable position to have since I am only 27 years old. It just amazing to be a part of a visual masterpiece even in the smallest way with something I created, especially when I feel that the album and visuals represent exactly what I feel as a Black Woman.
Where can people purchase your collection?
Currently, we are available through MWRCollection.com but will be launching with two retailers in November and December of this year and January. The first launch will be with an amazing new Canadian Menswear Fashion App, Bonsai, which is set to launch in November. The 2nd is a great Japanese retailer, EDIFICE. We are so happy to be participating with these retailers and looking forward to more growth for MWR Collection.