Kent State Student Creates Sustainable Jeans From Hemp Fibers
An undergraduate education is a steppingstone for many to figure out their path in life. Some students pick their programs and career goals before their first semester begins. For others, it can take new majors, new perspectives and new materials to find the right fit.
Brian Kupiec, a marketing major in Kent State University’s College of Business Administration, found his career path and passion through his love for jeans by co-founding a small business with the help of LaunchNET Kent State.
Kupiec and two of his friends, Valentin Garkov and Garrett Durica, spent their time buying different types of jeans, always looking for the best quality. Eventually that constant search turned a common interest into a business opportunity, and Magu Studios was born.
“Just for the fun of it, we decided to start making our own jeans,” says Kupiec. “We started looking into different fabrics and stumbled across an article talking about the inexplicable, nonexistence of hemp jeans and hemp garments all together.”
Kupiec says he always struggled to find a link between his studies and the real world. Magu Studios has helped him to look at education from a whole new perspective.
“I have this real-world application now,” Kupiec says. “Instead of approaching school from the perspective of ‘what I am going to use it for?’ I see that everything I am learning in class or in life can apply to business or the pursuit of knowledge as a whole. I am paying attention and studying to learn, not to get by.”
Kupiec’s change of perspective sparked in him a desire to research and read into each class he takes before he schedules it to ensure it will help him succeed in his postgraduate goals.
Kupiec started at Kent State as a fashion merchandising student and recently made the switch to marketing. This background from Kent State’s Fashion School and College of Business Administration has allowed Magu Studio’s co-founders to utilize the resources available to them at each school.
The Kent State fashion and business faculty, staff and alumni were a big help kick-starting the business in the beginning. The next step was to research hemp and find producers.
“Eventually, we realized hemp was a fiber that is extremely hard to work with because it’s so coarse and hard to weave through machines,” Kupiec says. “Nobody wanted to work with us.”
After Magu Studios co-founders contacted a dozen different mills throughout the United States, they discovered that a stigma exists toward hemp, which people often associate with marijuana. But Kupiec says the co-founders picked the fiber for its specific industrial applications.
“We chose hemp as a more sustainable option because it doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides to grow, and it yields four times as much as cotton,” Kupiec says. “That helps the environment. … There is a lot going on with the environment in the fashion world.”
Kupiec saw a resource that could help with the quality of clothing made outside of fast fashion. According to the company’s website, the advantages of using hemp include a unique break-in, superior durability, year-round potential and resistance to bacteria.
The motivation for the business continued to thrive after the co-founders finally landed a producer of fabric in Okayama, Japan, a city known worldwide because of a small town called Kojima, which makes high-quality jeans on “Jeans Street.”
“We took our production of the product from there, designing fit, jeans and the basis for the company,” Kupiec says. “The jeans are sourced and stitched with the same company in Japan on Jacquard looms bought from the U.S. in the ’80s.”
The finished product, first released at the end of October 2016, was limited to 100 pairs. The jeans are 10.5-ounce hemp denim consisting of 20 percent hemp and 80 percent cotton raw selvedge jean. Magu Studios’ jeans will mold to the consumer’s body and blend individually with the way the garment is worn and how it is worn, creating a unique wash. The price of each pair ranges from $200 to $220 depending on the color and shape.
“The price point is because of the quality,” Kupiec says. “People should not categorize it as a luxury brand or not affordable. From the buttons, stitching on pockets to the selvedge and belt loop, it is quality.”
Magu Studios wants to have a lasting effect on Kent State and Northeast Ohio. Kupiec says it was important to him that the brand not go straight to Los Angeles or New York City because, he thought, that would be the easy way to make it in the industry.
“Cleveland is on the come up, but not a lot of fashion brands come out of Northeast Ohio,” Kupiec says. “We want to take advantage of that and not forget where we came from. We want Kent State and Cleveland to be a part of the legacy for our brand.”
Magu Studios has many plans for the future and is not going to limit products to jeans.
“Keep an eye out for us,” Kupiec says. “We are going to do a lot of interesting stuff. We want to collaborate with people in any industry we see fit to promote hemp textiles and our business concept.”