Welcome to our *JOURNEY With* series - aka some fun chit chat around the stories of meandering trails, turbulent rollercoasters, and flowing voyages of some pretty, pretty cool and unique individuals as they follow their life's passions.
AND today we are thrilled to take a peek inside the ever beautiful world of Mason’s fine sense of scents, and the meandering journey that brought him here.
Name: Mason Hainey
Spends most his time in: Coventry, Rhode Island
Grew up in: with a memorable stint in Japan during teenage years
Enjoys being a: fashion + fragrance designer, founder of MIZU
CURRENTLY ENJOYING THE JOURNEY AS...
Natalie: A soft opening for you here… tell us a little highlight to the journey you find yourself in right now?
Mason: This journey into the world of fragrance was not one I anticipated — I wasn’t born with a super smelling ability, but rather deep sense of curiosity and wonder. You could say, it all started with My grandmother, whom I called Mango — she was avid gardener and my best friend. She kept lush beds of aromatic plants, meticulously cared for. I’d visit and she would show me the language of flowers — it was here that a love of nature took root.
Mason went from “ bow-tie guy” to finding his harmony, via the wabi-sabi approach, amongst fragrance.
HOW HE GOT HERE...
Natalie: Jump back a few years, like toddler or gawky teenager years, what were your wildest dreams about your future?
Mason: Looking back, It’s funny how things evolve so slowly, that sometimes you don’t really realize it. I started MIZU in 2012, as sophomore in art school. I had every intention on being a fashion designer, and my first products were actually bow-ties, stitched from old clothes that I’d thrifted from the Salvation Army on Adler Street. I broke out the sewing machine my grandma, Mango, got me for Christmas when I was 14, and stitched some lumpy, unpressed ties, that I began to wore around town. Soon, I became known as the “bow-tie guy”, and people started asking me where they could purchase what I was wearing. So, I answered the call and started selling on the streets after ( or during ) class. Things took off fairly quickly — to the point where I remember selling the ties off my neck. The following year, I dropped out of college to focus on MIZU full time. The big dream then? Show at NYFW. I eventually moved to Brooklyn to pursue that dream, and I guess you could say it was there that the groundwork for the current MIZU, a fragrance company, was born.
THE CRYSTAL BALL APPROACH...
Natalie: Reverse now, and lay up a scenario of where you’d like to see yourself (and/or your business, your family, your career) a decade from now…
Mason: A decade! That’s quite a ways off. But I have plans. One day soon, I dream of having a flagship storefront - Let me paint the picture for you — Lush hanging florals, over a large, heavy wooden door, beckoning you through, as if passing through a portal to a new realm of the senses. In the front stands a boutique shop, displaying an artful array of products I’ve designed - organic perfumes, candles, garments, and anything else that may come to fruition. A courtyard cafe sits just beyond, where my community can come and gather, have meetings and conversation over the world’s best cup of coffee and some perfumed baked treats. I love to establish a sense of community in spaces and create an overall place of acceptance — where one can have new sensory experiences and find beauty to explore, rather than just a typical storefront of boxes goods. Beyond the courtyard, on the opposite side, sits my manufacturing facility, where the majority of my work is lovingly handcrafted, as patrons of the cafe can catch a quick glance of the process though large antique windows. Very secret-garden meeds historic European city vibe, with a modern touch and infusion of Japanese style. Of course, I do still plan on showing at NYFW as well - who knows, in 10 years a lot can happen!
TICKLING HIS FANCY....
Natalie: Now take all that and what was your favorite age? What activities were you doing then, and do you continue to do them now?
Mason: There are two ways I like to think about that — The first, my favorite age is the one I am now. While I love my past, and the struggles and triumphs that have made me who I am today — I put a great deal of conscious effort on staying in the present - celebrating who I am and seeing the beauty of the moment. It’s far easy to fall back into dwelling in the past, when there’s much life to live NOW. The second way, and perhaps the more visceral one, is I think the best years are truly yet to come. I can feel that in my bones — so to say I have a favorite age, it would either have right now, or sometime in my future.
OH, THE ADVENTURES WE GO...
Natalie: If you could set off on an adventure with one person anywhere in the world tomorrow, who would that be and where would you go?
Mason: Undoubtedly, Japan. I got the chance to first visit the country a few times — the first was in 2009 as a student ambassador. The moment I stepped out of Narita Airport, I just felt like, spiritually, I was home. The grass seemed more green, the sky bluer, the air more clean. It’s a nation of such respect, deep tradition, mystery and kindness. I feel very kinship in their values, and plan on adopting Japan as my home in the future ( if they’ll have me). If I could bring one friend, it would have to be my dog - River. She’s my best friend and greatest hiking companion, plus there is no better way to explore new places than with a cute, loving pup who’s always ready for an adventure.
STEPPING INTO THE GOOD...
Natalie: We are BIG believers in putting your best foot forward. Aka perfectly imperfect while we do the best we can feels great. What go-to mantras or memories do you reflect on to keep you driving forward?
Mason: Perfectly Imperfect - yes! As with most artists, I can sometimes ( often times ) get too bogged down in trying to make everything “perfect” before I show it to the world. It’s a habit that I’m learning to break. Finding harmony in the concept of Wabi-Sabi ( the beauty of imperfection ) has largely helped give myself permission to see something perceived as “ imperfect “, as actually full of soul, beauty and with a story to tell. And those stories, those beautiful natural edges, or rough finishes, are my favorite design elements. I often pair them with more clean modern lines, and finishes that creates a more approachable way for others to interact with the beauty of Wabi-Sabi. On the flip side, I love to make my community part of the design process, so when it comes times to create something new, I very often will do a soft-launch, and bring my customers in on the process ( usually via Instagram! ). Asking them what they loved, hated, wanted changed, and put their feedback into action. As for a mantra, I have a few, but this one seems most appropriate (below), a saying I have tattooed on my arm.
Have no fear of imperfection, you’ll never reach it.
ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER...
Natalie: There’s a reason we sneak “Have a Nice Day” into our insoles. We believe that if you do one small good deed everyday, that can add up to some pretty major change. What little (or big) actions do you take in your daily routine to better this planet and its people?
Mason: I enjoy the little moments, the small things that can make someone’s day. Every day, I aim to support other artists because I understand how much a simple share, comment, or message can make a small business or artist’s day. I also try to use my platform to share more about the real side of being an artist, and the struggles in my daily life that I encounter. I think that this helps people know that they are not alone in their own difficulties, and that they can reach out to me for advice.
Mason chasing River around the woods in his Black Royale's - aka forest exploring Jibs shoes!
SNEAKY BONUS TIME...
Natalie: What do you do when your plans suddenly cancel and you now have a spare hour / evening / day free time?
Mason: Creative time! Depending on the weather, or time of day, I’ll hop into my perfume studio and start tinkering with whatever I have in the works - or perhaps even start something new. Or, If I have a little more free time, I’ll take my pup for a long hike through the woods and find some peace among the pines.
BEAUTY OF THE INDIVIDUAL...
Natalie: We see our shoes a chameleon's, where each individual can take a pair of Jibs and give them entirely their own vibe. Aka - it’s amazing to see the same pair of Classics on a preppy Bostonian, a hipster Venice beach’er, a that grandma walking around the block every afternoon… how would you sum up your unique sense of style?
Mason: Minimalist Japanese with a hint of 90’s grandma. Natural, earthy textures, organic fibers ( silks, cottons, linens ) lots of clean solids in earth tones and neutrals with the occasional vintage find that would make you grandma say “ he’s got style “. Most of my wardrobe is thrifted right now, and has been since I was 19 or so. I love the stories you can find in old garments, and the construction of some pieces is unlike what you can find today. They truly do stand the test of time.