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Meet MI Leggett

Today we’d like to introduce you to MI Leggett.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I am a non-binary artist and the founder of gender-free upcycled fashion label, Official Rebrand (OR?!). The brand is built upon concepts that defined my identity and creative process since childhood. From a young age, I repurposed household items like curtains and newspapers into clothing.

For the first seven years of my education, I attended all-girls Catholic school with strict uniform policies. I lived for “civvies” days when we could wear whatever we wanted and my weekends were spent making collages from Vogue and doll tree-houses from cardboard boxes.

In high school, I worked for a sustainable agriculture non-profit in Boston called The Food Project, where my on-the-ground experience sparked a passion for food justice and environmentalism. It also taught me to question existing structures and institutions and to constantly envision alternative paths to a more equitable and sustainable world.

As an art university student in Berlin in 2016, I worked for the radical gender non-conforming designer and iconic drag queen, Fábio M Silva (a.k.a. Collapsella). Working with Fábio was an education in the essential role that style plays in self-expression within queer communities. A focus of my work with them was hand-painting on clothing. Empowered and excited by the process with my mentor, and I started drawing and painting on my own clothes and finally recognizing my own gender-queer identity.

I was humbled by people’s positive responses to my work. I started receiving commission requests on Instagram and unsolicited interest from galleries back in the U.S. I officially founded Official Rebrand shortly after returning to New York from Berlin and finishing my degree at Oberlin College.

Since incorporation in 2017, I’ve participated in multiple New York and Berlin Fashion Weeks as well as the New Art Dealers Alliance Miami. More recently, I showed work from my Berlin artist residency at Lite-Haus Gallery and exhibited my Earth Month 2019 collection, AGE OF DESIRE, through a launch party at Otherwild LA followed by a multimedia performance art event in Brooklyn, co-hosted by Milk Studios. I’m currently preparing for my Berlin Fashion Week collection, DECLARATION OF CODEPENDENCE, to come out on July 4th. Right now I’m also really excited for some new work, a collaboration with LA’s House of 950, to land at Days LA at the ICA in downtown Los Angeles.

Please tell us about your art.
Official Rebrand (OR?!) is my gender-free fashion label that challenges both genre and gender. Through painting and other alterations of recycled garments, my “rebranding” process, and alternative supply chain propose a sustainable alternative to mainstream clothing lines, while rejecting boundaries between fashion and art. With Official Rebrand, I hope to redefine what it means to be sustainable within both fashion industry and the art world. I also hope to inspire a more non-binary approach to life, by taking gendered clothing and transforming it into non-gendered clothing. By rejecting the confines of gendered expectations, I aim to inspire limitless human potential and encourage others to resist binary social constraints.

But aside from the environmental and social-impact intentions as a business, it is also my art practice. I tackle a wide variety of themes. My work currently explores tensions between the ecstasies and agonies brought on by desire. Often figurative and text-based, sometimes laden with biblical references, my visual language delves into collisions of anxieties surrounding climate change and dependance on decadence. Played out on a wide variety of repurposed objects, I emblazoned my reclaimed pieces with paintings of sinuous, genderless people, blinded by desire. From large scale paintings on blankets and curations to screen-printed T’s my work conjures a world rich with vibrant flora and fauna threatened by their own desires and impending climate crisis.

Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
Besides being a vital form of self-expression, I got into fashion because it was easier to sell as a young artist. Selling a painted T-shirt is easier than selling a painted canvas. I really look up to Keith Haring because he made “high-art” accessible by reproducing it on T’s and other merchandise. Despite being criticized for being too commercial, I believe this marketing inspired a huge shift in the dynamics of the art world, making “high-art” much less exclusive. Although I create work that sells for thousands, accessibility is also a priority so I sell shirts for as low as $20 and sometimes even do custom rebranding for free at special events. I’m still figuring out my perfect balance of high-priced elaborate works and more sellable screen-prints, but I refuse to be put in a box, or put my customers/clients in a box and know that a wide price range is really important to my art practice, my business, and my personal ethos.

Another balancing act I’m still working on is that other paid fashion industry and art world work is much more lucrative but nowhere near as rewarding as pursuing my own passion and advocating for alternative modes of producing and creating. I have to be selective about the other projects I take on, as the most financially enticing gigs often mean the largest time-sacrifice. I don’t see enough of what I want to see in the world and that’s a major aspect of what motivates me and keeps me focused. I’m taking risks to forge the future I want for others and myself, and I want to dedicate as much of my time and energy to that as I possibly can.

Being a young creative, it’s really easy to get exploited and big companies often try to take advantage of young artists for “exposure” or convince us we are worth less than we are. As young queer artists, in particular, we are worth the world. Learning to stand up for ourselves and never selling ourselves short is vital, but easier said than done. We are the future and need to advocate for ourselves knowing the weight and power of our creative visions.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
As I said earlier, I’m looking forward to new work, a collaboration with House of 950, to land at Days LA at the ICA in downtown Los Angeles. I also have worked at Otherwild NY & LA, The Phluid Project, The Canvas by Querencia Studio, and soon to land at Studio 183 in Berlin for Fashion Week.

Besides IRL, the best way to see what I’m up to now is through Instagram @official_rebrand. I have archives of past work on my website www.officialrebrand.com. I sell work (clothes, cards, paintings) directly from Instagram and my online shop www.officialrebrand.shop. Most of all, I love to do collaborations and commissions, taking clothing clients once loved but are tired of and revitalizing it through paintings and other alterations. You can find a contact us submission form on my website www.officialrebrand.com.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Sessa Cookie Mueller, Jasper Soloff, Sven Gutjahr

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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