MI Leggett wearing Official Rebrand and bag.
Or Official Rebrand began years before MI’s time in Berlin — not with an idea, or a bag, but rather with something much more elemental: Dirt. Beginning around the time they were 14-years-old, MI, who grew up in Manchester, Massachusetts, worked part-time at The Food Project, a non-profit sustainable agriculture initiative based along Boston’s north shore. There, working at farms in Lynn and Beverly MA, MI would spend hours “in 100 degree weather…flipping food scraps over and over." The point was to turn food waste into compost, a process not so removed from the brand's current production strategy. “It was just so satisfying taking this stuff that normally is seen as trash and making it something valuable again,” MI says of their time at The Food Project.
In fact, of the varied moments at which one could say Official Rebrand was born, it is the earliest — MI’s work on the farm — that most directly leads to the designer’s most recent collection. Tentatively titled “The Water Project", MI’s latest work takes aim at the fashion industry for its irresponsible, likely untenable consumption of water. Though the idea is simple, the goal for the project is bold: generating 1,800 pairs of rebranded jeans along with 750 rebranded tees — one piece for each gallon of water it takes to make a brand new version of either item, respectively.
Derek Nguyen wearing Official Rebrand.
But “The Water Project” is not solely a critique of the fashion industry. It is also a love letter. “Being queer provides so much. It's kind of like the meaning of life for me in a way: It means who I love and how I love myself and how I love my friends and the world around me, and you can't do that if there's no water.” More literally, MI is attracted to water’s fluidity: “It's movable. It's dynamic. But it also can freeze. It can melt. It can simmer. It can become the tool to make a cake,” they say. A vital resource and key influence, water is a necessary for MI not only to survive, but also to live.
Ultimately, via the torn, taped, declaratory, singular clothes that populate Original Rebrand’s three collections, MI invites us to consider two simple questions. First: Should clothes be designed based on preconceived notions of gender identity and expression? Second: Is the fashion industry’s emphasis on the creation and sale of brand new items good for the planet? The designer’s work answers both those questions: No and no.
Yasmeen Wilkerson wearing Official Rebrand.
Even the brand's logo is formulated as a question: OR?!. “I write it with a question mark and an exclamation mark to imply that you should be questioning everything and considering alternatives to anything that seems set,” MI tells me. Questioning what, in particular? Not only how mass-produced “fast fashion” has “such horrible implications for the environment,” but also “how social standards put people in boxes and limit their self-expression and their full potential."
“Official Rebrand is about imagining an alternative world where things are not just accepted as the way things are," they continue, "[imagining a world where] things are improved and alternatives are birthed and pursued.”
And, of course, rebranded.