Everything changed for Jaden Smith and his clothing brand MSFTS when he traveled to Italy. The musician, actor, and designer had been hard at work making MSFTS—a streetwear/skate brand helmed by Smith, his sister Willow, the actor Moises Arias and his brother Mateo aka Téo, and—a known name since it was first released in 2011. But beginning this year, Smith and his associates have started making moves to pivot the brand into the luxury space—first by showing at Pitti Uomo, then by transferring the production and design studios from Los Angeles to Milan. The brand also has a new CEO, Cristiano Minchio, and partner company that creates the collections in small batches in Italy.
Smith, speaking on the phone from his home in L.A., says he spent most of 2020 playing guitar and writing the material for his latest album, Cool Tape Vol. 3. But he also found himself deeply immersed in the creation process for MSFTS—he was making the collection with Willow, Téo, and Arias, all of whom knew they wanted to take the brand in a different direction.
“Before we went to Italy, we didn’t work as professionally as we do now,” Smith says. “Before, it was just us making the clothes and releasing whenever we wanted, off the schedule. Now, we’re taking this seriously—but at the same time, we’re being equally as reckless and all over the place with our designs.”
A sense of rebellion and counterculture is baked into MSFTS’s brand codes, Smith says—those aspects of the design will never change. And indeed, in the label’s latest collection for fall 2021, typical office or classroom-ready uniforms—blazers, knit vests, slacks, structured tees—have been given the MSFTS treatment, with geometric shapes, texts, and skeletal X-rays of hands holding up a middle finger printed on them. (Smith says “How laws were developed around certain systems here in America, punk, sacred geometry, and ancient mystery schools,” all made it onto the MSFTS mood board.) The main difference this time around is the way the clothing is made: sustainably, and with fewer pieces coming out of the factory. Smith, his brother, sister, and Arias, each see the brand as a way to express their hopes for the future, “and how we can make our imprint on the world, change it for the positive and make it work more harmoniously with human nature,” Smith explains. In a previous interview, he said they all hoped to maintain a healthy earth to give to their children, expressing a desire to “radically decarbonize the atmosphere.” I point out that starting a clothing brand does the opposite of that, by creating more waste, along with excess water and fossil fuel usage.
“Let’s be clear: if you’re going to do it in a blind way, the normal way, then it really is the opposite,” Smith says. “That was a huge part of moving over to Italy: for sustainability, and making sure the people who are making these clothes are getting paid the right amount of money and their health is being taken care of. We want to begin to set trends within the fashion industry, the way Elon Musk has done in the electric car industry—he’s making all of these car companies switch over to electric. You’re going to see a bunch of other people using sustainable practices just as an industry standard now. That’s what we want to do with MSFTS.”
The line is completely cruelty-free, using eco-vegan “leather” for its printed tote bags. But Smith hopes to bring production to the next level in collections to follow, by making accessories out of what he calls “apple leather,” a method that turns apple skin and pulp into faux leather goods—in a similar family of the mushroom leather wares that Stella McCartney, Iris Van Herpen, and other big-name fashion brands created this year.
Apple leather production was revealed to Smith during his time in Italy, when he could barely contain the ideas he had for subsequent releases. And he’s carrying that energy into this new phase for MSFTS. “I want to have a full apple leather line,” he says. “I want to take old clothes and print on them instead of creating more clothes. I want to make sure people are actually donating the clothes I don’t sell, instead of destroying them and putting C02 in the atmosphere. I’m trying to create a new status quo within the fashion industry so that moving forward, other brands can be inspired by what we’re doing.”