Proper Interview: Mark Batista, Brand Progression/Welcome Edition

A long time friend of Proper and someone with his finger firmly on the pulse Mark Batista is both highly respected and something of an oracle in the world of menswear. His agency Brand Progression looks after some of our favourite labels whilst his trade show Welcome Edition also contains an incredibly impressive roster of highly desirable brands. As Mark seems to know what’s going on way before the rest of us, we thought it pertinent to drop in on him to see what’s going to go down……

How have you been during these stranger than strange times mate? 

I’ve been alright thanks. I mean, if you take into consideration that every single store we work with had to close their doors for three months then if I’m actually 100% honest, there were some moments where mentally, I nearly went under. However, I gave myself a good talking to, stopped with the self pity and reminded myself there were people having a far tougher time than me. I began a militant daily routine which started at 5am and consisted of coffee, exercise, work, dog walk, bit more work, netflix box set, scrabble and then early to bed. I’ve done a bit of delivery driving as well which helped keep me sane and I actually really enjoyed it. The family time was a blessing that I’m already looking back at and wishing I could do more of now.

I’ve found music to have been a real lifesaver throughout isolation and I know you’re big into your tunes, what have you been blasting out of the speakers to keep you sane? 

I pretty much need to have music playing constantly whether it is when I’m working or just hanging out around the house. During lock up I listened to a lot of stuff that felt familiar and evoked memories of good times. Massive Attack, Joy Division, Roy Ayers, Nu Yorican Soul, Minnie Ripperton, Wu Tang Clan, Doves, DJ Shadow……the list is endless. There were some incredible virtual DJ Battles which we would never have experienced had it not been for the pandemic and the RZA v DJ Premier head to head was next level. The legendary Ennio Morricone sadly passed away during lockdown, who I’m a big admirer of, so I spent a whole day listening to his back catalog which I highly recommend.

As the founder of our favourite menswear show ‘Welcome Edition’ how has it been adapting to an online showroom? 

Thank you, that means a lot coming from you guys. I’ve had the virtual Showroom idea in my head since around 2010 but every time I ever discussed the concept with buyers or brands the overwhelming response would be that product needs to be seen, touched and tried on. Around early March we realised there was a very real possibility this wasn’t going to be an option and we moved fast to deliver the Welcome Edition Online Showroom.

Do you think this is the future of showrooms or will we all be able to get back together in Paris again one day to admire beautiful clothing whilst drinking really nice coffee? 

Initially there was a lot of zoom buying appointments which kind of went OK but it soon became pretty apparent that the buyers weren’t loving it and we ended up seeing most of them in our London Showroom. With this in mind, and travel restrictions permitting, we are already making plans to return to Paris and possibly one or two other cities for Jan ’21.

You’re also the head honcho at Brand Progression agency, what brands are you currently representing and what changes have you had to make there? 

I feel like the current collections we have in the Brand Progression Showroom are the strongest we have ever had in the last 22 years and as you know, we have had some bangers over that period. In no particular order we currently represent Portuguese  Flannel, Fracap, Hikerdelic, Baracuta, Sandqvist, Hestra, Sanders and Sanders, Kestin, Far Afield, Gloverall, Foret, La Paz, Hatton Labs and Anonymousism socks. We ventured into Worldwide sales with a few of the brands we represent which was made possible with buyers willingness to order via Zoom and next month launch a direct to consumer website, both of these are positives for our business that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the pandemic.

I know you’re a fan of all the brands you represent so which brands/pieces have you been wearing a lot lately? 

Ah mate, that is like asking me if I have a favourite child. What I will say is that we have a strict criteria for working with brands and that is if we are not into something, no matter how much of a money spinner it might be, we won’t have it in the showroom. This has led to us losing out financially in the past but we feel it has allowed us to maintain a level of integrity and buyers have come to know that we wouldn’t show a collection unless we all personally believe in and would wear it.

Being several steps ahead of the seasons in terms of style and direction, what trends and looks do you see coming up in 2021? 

Outdoor pursuits will continue to have a major influence. Technical fabrics will become further present in everyday garments as the lines blur in what we are wearing between leisure, commuting, exercise and work. The functional requirement is for clothing that protects against the elements during a cycle or run to the office but then is acceptable attire for a meeting and maybe even a night out afterwards. Don’t write off leisure wear just yet either. Track suits/sweat shirts/sweat pants have never been more relevant or appropriate during SS20 and I expect this to continue into SS21 and AW21 with brands that produce responsibly (organic, recyclable, fair wages) being more in demand than ever.

Final question, who’s the best dressed you or your brother Paul? 

Well, Paul is older so when were growing up it was definitely him as he benefited from first born privilege and would get bought nice new gear whilst I would get his hand me downs all battered and weirdly stained. However, as his growth stunted from around the age of 15 (and I rapidly outgrew him) our Mum was forced to start buying me new garms and ever since then I have consistently been the best dressed Batista brother.

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