With a name like Mass Luciano, you are destined to either be a villain in a video game or a fashion designer. Luckily for us, Mass Luciano is the latter… he’s much too nice to be a villain.
From military kid to Mr. Gay World to fashion designer, this out and proud Latinx artist has literally seen the world. Currently living and designing in Hong Kong, he has been in the fashion industry for over 15 years, learning his craft at Los Angeles’ Fashion and Design Institute. His work with major, international brands includes Guess, Rock & Republic by Victoria Beckham and Lee Jeans, but it was his win as Mr. Gay Hong Kong and, ultimately, Mr. Gay World, which gave him the spark and confidence to launch his namesake brand, MASSBRANDED.
His designs are instantly recognizable, a mix of Jean Paul Gaultier and military flair. Colorblocking, structured form, swatches of mesh, and slim fit elements accentuate the male body and demand attention, to be touched, to be looked at. MASSBRANDED clothes are designed to be worn to and from the gym, casual nights out, on the dance floor, and everywhere in between.
This summer, Mass has joined forces with global LGBT personality Eliad Cohen to create MASSBRANDED for ELIAD COHEN. An avid social media influencer, Eliad is also a well-known Israeli party producer, actor, and model. The two joined forces and designed this “athleisure capsule collection for the urban man on the go.” Eliad’s military influence can easily be recognized in the color and structure scheme of the new line. With so many of us stuck at home, this line inspires you to feel sexy no matter the occasion. For some of us who have packed on the COVID pounds, this is an inspiration to stay in shape and accentuate your closet with fashion that’s ready to hit the streets once we are able to.
We chatted with Mass from his home in Hong Kong for this Metrosource exclusive as we chat fashion in the time of COVID, his new line, sexuality in fashion, and casual day.
You moved around a lot throughout your childhood. What were the positives of this? What were the negatives?
Looking back, the positive side was that I had to learn how to make new friends every time we moved, which was every 3 to 5 years. Also, being exposed to different cultures made me more open-minded and gave me a more realistic perspective of the world. The only negative was that I didn’t have a sense of ‘home’, all the places I’ve lived in felt transient or temporary.
When did you start to notice fashion? Who were your earliest inspirations?
I started noticing fashion when supermodels in the ’90s became part of pop culture. I loved flipping through my mom’s fashion magazines and Gianni Versace would have icons like Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Linda Evangelista in the advertisements. I kept a sketchbook when I was 12 and started drawing the styles I’d see in the magazines. I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer by the age of 15.
You studied at FIDM in LA. What did you learn most from your studies? What aspects of studying at FIDM were your hardest?
At FIDM I learned the basics in fashion design, like fashion illustration, sewing, pattern drafting, and draping. I think the most important part was learning how to merchandising a collection and costing, which isn’t the most fun but is essential. The hardest aspect was working on big projects with limited amounts of time. That really prepared me for working in the fashion industry where things change quickly but the deadlines stay the same.
What did you learn most for working for big-name brands like GUESS? What did you learn NOT to do from working for the big-name brands?
With the big brands, there are so many components that come together before the styles hit the stores. From merchandising, design, pre-production, and sales, all teams work together to put out a collection. The design aspect is a small part of the bigger picture and that’s surprising to most people. I learned not to design random styles, but to design a collection that is cohesive. It’s important to edit your work and make sure each style is part of the same story.
Your creations are very sleek, sexy, and distinct – like a sexy military outfit. What is your creative process when designing something new?
Thank you! I draw a lot of inspiration from my life growing up on military bases. I wasn’t really good at playing sports, but I loved the uniforms and that influences my designs. I’m also inspired by architecture, shape, form, and construction.
When designing a new collection, I start by asking myself: If I were in the military or an athlete, what type of uniform would I want to wear? How do I want to feel when I wear it? And what image do I want to present to the world? I strongly believe that fashion has a way of transforming how you see yourself and that’s powerful because how you see yourself is how others will ultimately see you. It’s exciting that our customers can relate to that and it’s reflected when they wear the styles.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the fashion industry? Do you feel pressure to reflect trends in the industry?
I try to avoid following trends, which are often dictated by fashion buyers who base things on sales numbers and not original ideas. MASSBRANDED gives me the freedom to create original styles that reach our customers directly via our online store. Trends blend in, I prefer to stand out.
You have been living in Hong Kong for the last few years…what’s life like for you on a regular day? What are your favorite parts about Hong Kong?
Life is fast-paced here in Hong Kong. On a regular day (pre-COVID), I wake up by 5:30 am to do my meditations in the morning, hit the gym by 7 am and in the office by 10:30 am. At the office, my partner and I prepare our online orders for shipment, which is always fun. I visit a few fabric vendors or go to the sample room to check on new developments. I’ll meet up with friends for drinks and dinner around 7:30 pm and try to be in bed by 9:30 pm.
Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, but it’s also sub-tropical with lots of nature and islands with beautiful beaches. Unlike other big cities that are spread out, Hong Kong reaches up with impressive skyscrapers in between mountains. It’s very easy to get around the city and public transportation is quick and reliable. It’s been my favorite place to live so far. Unfortunately, we’ve been struggling with the protest and political instability for over a year, which has taken a toll on regular life in the city.
What do you wear on a casual day?
Every day is casual day, but dressing casually doesn’t mean dressing down! I like wearing sweatshirts with shorts, like our Renegade sweatshirt and matching shorts from our MASSBRANDED FOR ELIAD COHEN collection. I’m actually wearing them now!
How did you meet Eliad Cohen?
We were introduced by a friend in Los Angeles who has a shop in West Hollywood called Universal Body. We talked about collaborating on a capsule collection and together worked on the MASSBRANDED for Eliad Cohen line. We met in London this past January to finalize all the details and go over the samples before launching the collection. He’s great!
What aspects of Eliad make MASSBRANDED a perfect fit for your new line?
I’ve been a fan of Eliad for many years, ever since he did that Arisa party videos. Eliad portrays the ideal of masculinity: strong, rugged and handsome, but doesn’t take himself too seriously. He embraces his queerness, is playful and provocative, which are characteristics we proudly associate with MASSBRANDED.
What do you want the person who wears MASSBRANDED FOR ELIAD COHEN to feel?
I want them to feel strong, athletic, and stylish.
There is a sexiness and sexuality to all of your pieces, do you think sexuality is becoming more mainstream in everyday fashion?
No, I don’t think sexuality is becoming more mainstream in men’s fashion. But I do believe that people’s attitude towards sexuality is changing and that allows men to express themselves a bit more provocative in how they dress.
How do you pick the models to represent your fashion pieces?
We usually shoot our own campaigns and product photos in Hong Kong. My partner Antoni d’Esterre Darby-Dowman is a photographer and together we come up with the concept for the shoots. We mostly pick models that we see on Instagram that are in our area. We like guys who are a bit rough, with tattoos and an edgy attitude, not your typical commercial model. It’s sometimes limiting since most models in Asia aren’t very diverse, but sometimes we travel to Los Angeles where there is plenty of guys to choose from that have the MASSBRANDED look.
How has COVID most affected your business?
Our customers wear our clothes to events where standing out is essential, like Pride events, music festivals, dance clubs, and cruises. COVID has put all those events on hold and that has affected our sales. But we do continue to receive orders from around the world and we are grateful for the support.
Can you design a line of clothing for me with pockets for a martini shaker and cocktail glasses? LOL
Check out our full podcast interview on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Metrosource.com and YouTube.
Last modified: August 12, 2020