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Our Kind of People – Interview with Mark Wales of Kill_Kapture

July 29, 2016

Ambitious. That is one word I would use to describe Mark Wales. Inventive, driven, and enthusiastic also make the list since Wales is not the kind of man that can be summarized in one word. And how could he be? This Australian native lives a vocational double life. Working with the consulting firm McKinsey & Company by day, and crafting sleek and edgy leather jackets by night, Wales has a foot in two different worlds, but his ambition doesn’t stop there.

My biggest dream,” he tells us, “is to create something amazing that inspires a lot of people to do great things.” Like Nike and Apple, Wales wants to create a company that not only produces high quality products but also motivates and inspires his consumers to get out there and make their dreams a reality. He continues, “my purpose is to share the lessons from my military service and teach a lot of people to apply the same basic considerations in pursuit of difficult things - I think that can help a lot of people.”

Motivation is one thing that Wales has plenty of, he’s practically made of the stuff. When he was young he knew what he wanted, which was to be part of Australia’s special forces unit, and chased his dream relentlessly until he got in - eleven years later. And if that doesn’t impress you, then maybe his ten tours serving the military will. But Wales wasn’t done yet, after touring from Afghanistan to the Solomon Islands, he left the special forces to go to the Wharton Business School where he met our own Sarah and Colin Hartman.

It was there he began to develop his brand, Kill_Kapture, and product, the Pathfinder Jacket. Made from kangaroo leather, the Pathfinder has smooth lines and a clean, minimalist feel with a distinct military edge that gives the jacket personality; not to mention it gives the wearer the air of an action movie hero (cue the background explosions). The inspiration for the jacket, Wales states, came from his time in Afghanistan. “Our uniforms had become incredibly functional and cool - I loved them,” he explains, “I realized that I could turn them into streetwear and it could be a very unique brand.”  

And unique it is. When asked what makes his jacket stand out from the rest of the market, Wales responded that the jacket is incredibly strong, thanks to the kangaroo leather. “It’s 10 times the strength of cowhide, and half the weight,” he explains, “I was sick of leather jackets being made of poor material that would sag or warp. Ours is water resistant and holds up well to a beating.” But that’s not all; the jacket also has a tracking beacon imbedded in it (inspired by the time Wales lost a prototype on a plane and never got it back) and a “Made in NYC” tag boasting the fact that the jackets are made in the Garment District of NYC.

Yet Wales takes his brand even further, giving every jacket a serial number that makes the buyer part of a community. He explains, “If you buy one, you join a group of 30 people in a ‘Team’ The first team was Foxtrot, that Colin joined. It’s named after my first troop.” This level of product interaction is definitely not something you would get with any other leather jacket on the market.

But starting such a unique luxury brand is no easy task, especially in the early stages of manufacturing which Wales compares to herding cats. “It’s exacting and time consuming.” He states, “You are trying to guide 8-15 different businesses to support yours, without getting ripped off in the process.” Wales also warns that this early stage is critical, if you fail to take the right “next step” in development it can seriously hurt your company’s growth. Such a high maintenance project such as this requires almost all of your attention which, as Wales states, is why his full time job suffered. “I put a lot of time into [my brand] on the side,” he explains, “but I also find that those exciting things make life a whole lot more bearable, and you should always invest time into yourself every day - even if it is just exercising and reading.”

As you might expect, even though Kill_Kapture is off to a great start Wales is unsatisfied with where his company currently stands. “Our margins are not sustainable, because we produce locally” he states, “We are passing a ton of value onto the customer, which I love, but we are making them at cost.” To remedy this Wales has future plans to smooth out the company’s operations, lower costs, and bring in retail expertise, but by then it is likely that Wales will have even bigger goals for his company.

Like creating a whole line of men’s essentials, for instance, just in case a highly stylish and luxurious leather jacket wasn’t enough for you. Wales also mentions that there are even talks about designing uniforms for veterans during the Invictus Games - an international Paralympic-style multi-sport event for veterans. It‘s clear to see that Wales will not be slowing down anytime soon, so what keeps him so motivated? According to Wales - purpose. “If you can think long and hard about what excited you in life, you will probably find on overarching purpose,” he advises, “all your actions and achievements can then be a subset of that, and they can all be guided by this bigger vision.”  

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