Kent State Student Overcomes Stigma of Hemp Fibers to Create Sustainable Jeans
An undergraduate education is a stepping-stone for many to figure out their path in life. Some students pick their programs and career goals before the 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 different perspective.
“I have this real-world application now,” says Kupiec. “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 post-graduate 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 said. “Nobody wanted to work with us.”
Magu Studios co-founders contacted a dozen different mills in the U.S. from North Carolina to Los Angeles. The co-founders found a negative stigma exists towards hemp because people associate the fiber with marijuana. Magu Studios picked this fiber for the 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 said. “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 business’ motivation continued to thrive after finally landing 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 said. “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 was first released at the end of October 2016, limited to 100 pairs. The jeans sold are 10.5-ounce hemp denim consisting of 20 percent hemp and 80 percent cotton raw selvedge jean.
“The idea behind raw jeans is the fit begins stiffer and has a deep indigo color,” Kupiec said. “Once you break into the jean, it starts to fade molding to a personalized body shape and color.”
Magu Studios designed a jean that will mold to the consumer’s body and blend individually with the way the jean is worn, and how often the jean is worn, creating a unique wash. The price of each pair currently ranges from $200 and $220 depending on the color and shape.
“The price point is because of the quality,” Kupiec said. “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.
“We want Kent State and Cleveland to be a part of the legacy for our brand,” Kupiec said.
Not being a brand to go straight to LA or New York City was important because Kupiec felt that was 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 said. “We want to take advantage of that and not forget where we came from.”
Magu Studios has many plans for the future and is not going to limit products to jeans.
“Keep an eye out for us, we are going to do a lot of interesting stuff,” Kupiec said. “We want to collaborate with people in any industry we see fit to promote hemp textiles and our business concept.”