The idea originated as playful banter: “Let’s start a company,” Malcolm Laws-MacDonald said to Max Neve. Little did he expect that Max would confidently answer with, “Let’s do it,” and for the project to instantly launch into action. With a simple statement, the brand was born. “It’s mac” is a streetwear brand started by Tufts students Laws-MacDonald, a sophomore, and Neve, a junior.
“When I found Malcolm, I was like, ‘Okay, this is someone who’s as driven as me to succeed,’” Neve said. “And I knew that if we worked together we would never let each other fail … That was the most gratifying part for me … actually just getting started.”
Laws-MacDonald agreed. “I think the best thing you can do with anything like this is just to get started. I’ve always had tons of ideas in my head … You can think and think and think, but it doesn’t really matter unless you get started.”
Laws-MacDonald and Neve first met at a Tufts pre-orientation program, when Laws-MacDonald recognized that Neve was also from New York by the soccer shirt he was wearing. They started talking and have been good friends since, now living in a suite together.
The roommates started their brand out of their dorm room, currently littered with sweatshirts, prints and ironing materials. “If you walk into our room right now, you’ll have a little difficulty getting around because there’s boxes all over the floor, just packages full of sweatshirts,” Laws-MacDonald said.
Although the co-founders share the majority of the brand’s responsibilities, there are slight differences in their managerial roles. Through his experience producing music and working as a DJ, Laws-MacDonald has grown used to the creative process. Therefore, Laws-MacDonald is more inclined to the design side of “it’s mac.” Neve thinks his creativity lies more in “leveraging human talent” around him. Although Laws-MacDonald is certainly involved in logistics, Neve manages the majority of the business side of the company. Nevertheless, whenever he feels overwhelmed, Laws-MacDonald is ready to help out. “[Malcolm] is a quantitative economics major, he knows what he’s doing,” Neve said.
The brand started as a collaborative process, and that culture has remained ingrained at its core and in all facets of production. “Malcolm and I go back and forth on everything and I don’t think there’s been a single decision made in the entirety of the company that hasn’t involved both of us,” Neve said.
The brand’s name originated when Neve was filling out an application for the Tufts Ideas Competition and misspelled Laws-MacDonald’s last name as “Laws-McDonald” instead of “Laws-MacDonald.”
“Actually, it’s mac,” Laws-MacDonald said when he saw the mistake. “Say that again?” Neve asked. And that was it; the brand became “it’s mac.”
“I’ve heard of so many stories of people who spent years and thousands of dollars on marketing firms trying to come up with names,” Neve said. “Some of the best ones you just have to take intuitively — like, it sounds right to me … let’s go with it.”
This low-budget, self-starter personality can be seen through “it’s mac’s” marketing strategies. The brand’s promotion has been primarily social media-based — the pair has friends and family share their Instagram page and has spent no money on advertisement. “As soon as we knew we wanted to start a brand, we started on Instagram,” Laws-MacDonald said. “I think our generation is so heavily on Instagram that if we hadn’t done that, I don’t think we would have sold three sweatshirts.”
According to the “it’s mac” Instagram, “inspired by speed” is the brand’s slogan. This idea was created by Laws-MacDonald, who was attracted to the shapes and designs that make up motorsport uniforms and livery. But the pair described how speed as a theme is incredibly versatile.
“We can do so much with the idea of speed, you have speed in terms of automobile racing but you also see speed in terms of a cultural context,” Neve said.
The pair believes that as the theme evolves and develops, “it’s mac” will begin to differentiate itself from other up-and-coming streetwear brands. The struggle at the moment is being able to produce creative and diverse products with a tight budget; both Laws-MacDonald and Neve are funding the project with their own savings. “We don’t have a lot [of money] to throw around … I hand-printed all of these things … and I spent four days in quarantine here, just ironing on patches, doing all the packaging and folding … it really goes from start to finish with our hands on the product,” Laws-MacDonald said.
Nevertheless, money has been a limiting factor. Their first collection, released on Jan. 29, consists of a white pullover with “it’s mac” printed in black on the front and a patch on the shoulder. Although they would have liked to release the pullover in more colors, that process will take some time. “If you want to get 55 pullovers of this quality, you only get a wholesale discount if they are the same color,” Neve said.
As of now, the collection is 68% sold out. The pair is hoping for 100% sales, as that will give them enough revenue to reinvest in production, they said. They explained that since this first release they have readjusted the business to hit smaller batches while it is still a small brand. “It’s learning those things as you go,” Neve said.
And that’s exactly what they’ve done. Although being cost-effective as working students may be difficult, the co-founders have found starting a brand while enrolled at Tufts to be surprisingly helpful and have learned a lot throughout the process.
“I am very aware of the fact that fast fashion is one of the largest detriments to the environment — 10% of CO2 emissions annually come from textile manufacturing,” Neve said. As a result, he has geared his economic studies toward that, taking environmental economics and working closely with his professor to find ways in which he and Laws-MacDonald can improve the brand’s sustainability goals.
“I have all these brilliant minds around me,” Neve said. “The connections I’ve had with the professors here have definitely given me the most impactful lessons I’ve had in my entire educational experience.”
Laws-MacDonald and Neve envision a sustainable future for “it’s mac,” and have already begun looking at eco-friendly textiles. They mentioned that one of the possibilities would be ECONYL. The issue, they said, is that these textiles are extremely expensive.
“We need to make sure that we have a fundamentally good brand that people want first, and then incorporate sustainability,” Neve said.
The pair agreed that they want to make “it’s mac” as big as possible, “We want to take it as far as we can go,” Max said.