In this interview you will enjoy Mike’s humble, almost bashful, view of his story.
But don’t be fooled. He lives in a beautiful story of wealth.
Not necessarily of worldly monetary wealth, but one of passion and art and friendship.
- Why we believe we need to consume more in order to be happy.
- How to live a simple lifestyle.
- How billionaires want to get back to the basics.
- How a happier existence gets mucked up by smartphones.
Mike Field is the perfect combination of Artist and Entrepreneur.
He cannot help but put one foot in front of the other in pursuit of his artistic vision.
He has been an artist, painter, and designer for over 20 years. His artist mother raised him in the Hawaiian Islands.
He watched the power of expression and he is compelled to let the art out.
He is creating a clothing line that combines Life+Sport+Art = M.Field.
Today his beach wear is sported by some of Hollywood’s finest, Victoria Secret models, and stay-at-home housewives.
Better yet, outside of his sportswear being shown on Rodeo Drive, Tahitian water-men use it while paddling between Hawaiian Islands for multi-day races.
Mike hangs with world-renowned cyclists, movie stars, big wave surfers, and beach bums.
As he states so well, he can roll with a Billionaire (which he does) and he can roll with the guy who owns three t-shirts and a surfboard.
Mike is an infectious kind soul.
He is the big brother that you wish you had. He taught me to surf on my most recent trip to Hawaii. I even slept on his living room floor.
Aaron McHugh (00:11): This is Aaron McHugh, and if you're looking for a thoughtful ally in your journey of Work Life and Play this podcast for you. I'm Aaron McHugh, and today I'm here interviewing Mike Field. Mike Field can be found at M Field, f i e l d.ceo. Mike is a lifetime artist, and the last few years he's been taking that art and actually transforming that into his own brand. Mike now has developed his own clothing line and we'll get a chance to hear a little bit about his story today. So, Mike, welcome.
(01:02): So Mike you call Hawaii home. Why don't we start with that? So tell us a little bit about your story of growing up in Hawaii, what you do for your day job, and how that works its way into your art every day.
Mike Field (01:18): Sure. Well, I grew up in Hawaii I was actually born sort of southwest of Hawaii on an island in Guam. Back in the late sixties, I had a father who was in the military and did the whole Vietnam stint. And we ended up over in Hawaii due to some circumstances. But anyhow, I ended up being raised and quickly gravitated towards the ocean and all the sports that come with it. Surfing and sailing and swimming and, and canoe paddling, more importantly, was probably, the big focus. But it was a good way to keep me grounded, keep me outta trouble. And from that my mother was an artist and I got to watch her in her world and watch her craft grow. And I sort of had that on the back burner.
(02:25): And when it was time to go off to college and pick my degree, I, was so clueless on what I wanted to do. But I really loved art and didn't even think that I could even remotely make a living doing art, but thought, Hey, this would buy me some time and I can pursue the art and maybe learn a little bit more. And so I did that and got more and more immersed into it and loved it. And just started to figure out well, what I do now with this. So I graduated from a college in Los Angeles, and I made my myself back to Hawaii, and I started to go back into my ocean world of paddling competitively and sailing competitively and swimming and all this other fun stuff that you do to bring up your weekends.
(03:24): And then I would always do the art at night. And slowly over the years, I was able to make art my sort of full-time career. Yet at the same time, I was still very involved in the ocean lifestyle. And I finally made myself over to the big island to work for this development company that really embraced what I did, both artistically and sort of the water side of what I like to do. And I think the combination of both where I can sort of describe artistically what I do on the water to canvas or to print was something that I enjoyed doing after I got outta the water. And from that became posters and prints and paintings and sculptures and murals and all kinds of fun stuff.
Aaron (04:33): Okay, Excellent. So then, to sum up, when you talk about art, then that falls into painting sculptures. Now you've taken all that art that you've created over what, the last 20 some odd years? and now that's what you're using as a basis of your work, to move into this new clothing line. Is that right?
Mike (04:51): Yeah, I mean, there's some, I mean, obviously, when I go back and I look at stuff, 10 years ago, I think it's dog food, and it's like I'm my worst critic, right? I think we all are, but I think it was some of my earlier works and I see it when I was still eating tuna fish outta the can. I felt like I was really living. And when once you start buying into that American myth of we need more and we must consume more, that sort of passion and that sort of living sort of guide. And I think that's why I like to live out here and visit the South Pacific Islands and hang with friends that have a really simple lifestyle.
(05:42): It feeds me and I think we all want that. And that's what I try to portray in the art that I do. I don't try to make it as busy, as I can. I'm actually going the opposite. I'm trying to make as simple as I can, but really pull some of these true colors and evoke that message of why we like to go visit, why we could stay on the beach until the sun goes down and walk air and go to the hole in the wall restaurant and stay up till late hours just listening to music and drinking beer. And to me, that's what I like to do.
Aaron (06:24): Nice. I've heard you say this kind of phrase that life is really simple if you let it be. So say a little more about that just from a core belief standpoint, and then I think that ties into what you just were speaking of related to how that makes its way into your art
Mike (06:42): So living here on the big island I have friends on both spectrums. I have, what I like to call “from bums to billionaires”. And I see the friends who have a lot of stuff, all they want to do is go back to the basics. And oftentimes that's more so than the friends that don't have much, they're pretty content yet. I mean we all want more and we always feel like money can help take some of the financial pressures and family pressures. But by and large, I think and feel that living a simple life, whether it's nutritionally, spiritually, culturally, or socially seems to play into just a happier existence. And we muck it up. These smartphones that we deal with and consume us at dinner tables and at movie theaters and, wherever we go we're constantly attached to them. And it's only gonna get worse before it gets better. I'm trying to wean myself off of being so dependent upon that. And one way of doing it is getting outta the country, I can't afford the international plan. So that's good,
Aaron (08:13): Nice. So it shuts off when you go to Micronesia, wherever you go.
Mike (08:18): That's right.
Aaron (08:19): Nice. So Mike let's talk a little bit about your last couple of years you've taken this idea of who you are living this lifestyle of, of being on the beach and participating in all these water sports, and then looking at just kind of some functional things like the hat wear that you came up with and you came up with your own logo design. And now just this week while I was here with you at Coqui, now you have your own store and you have t-shirts and you have custom-painted surfboards, and all kinds of stuff. So back up a little bit and talk about the idea when you wanted to bird this into an actual brand off of just canvas and now actually onto kind of clothing in your own clothing line.
Mike (09:10): Sure. Well, it just kind of happened by chance. I was always feeling like I needed to tag all my stuff, whether it was my Fins or my pair of board shorts or something. Cause you throw 'em in the back of your truck and they blow out and you find 'em later and your name's on it, or someone gives it to you and they go, “Oh, here's your stuff.” And it's like, Oh, great. Had you not had your m field or whatever little design on the inside they would've gone missing. So it was kind of a fun thing that I was doing just by being an artist, I was sort of creatively monogramming my stuff, so I wouldn't lose it.
(09:56): And I came up with the bird. My daughter's name is Paloma, and I've always admired the Dove of Hope. And I've always admired a story that a friend of mine who's a Polynesian Voyager who would always tell me these great stories of, these birds that he would look for between crossings from island to island. And it was this one particular bird that was sort of the beacon of, of like, Hey, it's, it's gonna be good. We don't see land, but it's close by. So it's sort of my Polynesian dove of hope. And I thought it was kind of a neat symbol to represent my life and where I've gone and the uncertainties and the unsureness we have with growing up and taking on different casts in your life.
(10:53): I just thought that was a good iconic figure. And now, I've also incorporated a flying fish, which is kind of another fascinating creature in the ocean, which I'm still confused by, I don't know if it wants to swim or wants to fly. It kinda makes up its own mind. And that's kinda how my son is. My son sort of has these, these great adventures and he's constantly trying different new things. So now I've incorporated his whole personality and I've transferred that into a paddle too. So both those icons sit in a paddle shape. So without getting too detailed it all came from the heart and I’m trying to figure out why I wanted to have that on there. It had to have a meeting. I wanted the story to be something significant. And I felt that to me that helped represent the stuff that I was always into more so than a guy sitting on a horse with a pole mallet on the side of your shirt.
Aaron (12:11): So Mike, tell me a little bit about just the creation of a brand. We talked earlier about the importance of a brand having a soul versus, just being another t-shirt or another hat that's out there in the market. So what's the difference of somebody puts on an M field? What's that gonna be versus a Hollister or an Abercrombie? What's the real story behind what you're hoping people will experience when they're wearing your clothing?
Mike (12:42): That's a good question. Well, the one thing, Aaron, that's helped me, but also maybe is a curse, is when you live on an island in the middle of the Pacific and you don't have much exposure to giant mals and massive crowds. I'm designing or creating, or drawing or thinking of things that just came kind of from what I've been seeing as opposed to seeing what's out there in the market. I think I could probably get a lot of interesting ideas had I gone to a mall or to a trade show of some sort. I think that can also be damaging in the sense that it can play into pulling away from what your main thoughts are and what your main vision and passions are.
(13:35): So my whole take was just making stuff that I felt was durable, that wasn't so fancy yet. It lasted, It could evoke a conversation at some point that wasn't so loud, but it wasn't so dull either. And I'm at the forefront of trying to figure out how to take it to the rest of the world. I've been enjoying making it just for friends and people that can find me over here. And I think at some point within this next couple of months, it's gonna get launched into a larger arena of people.
Aaron (14:20): So tell me a little bit more about your trip when you went down to Asia, and you went through all the factories where all the fabrics are made and the logo design and all the iterations. So tell us just a little bit about that journey when you kind of first stepped off into that. It wasn't like you had a lot of experience, but you had a friend kind of connect to you, and then here you were in this world where everything's available, everything's possible. 24 hours later you come back and there's another version iteration of what you came up with yesterday. So tell us a little bit about that process
Mike (14:53): Sure. I think the most important thing for me, well I mean, you can completely get overwhelmed. There are probably 10,000 Mike Field types out there in the world. But what's gonna distinguish me and myself and the rest is the quest that I'm going for. And for me, I just wanted to build something from the ground up that I could feel it could last a trip if I had to sail a canoe from, one island to the next, or scamper up a hill or swim 15 or 20 miles and know that my suit's not gonna blow out by the time I reach the shore.
(15:42): So I always had function and form sort of meshed together, and I wanted to just take it to the next level. And being an artist, I thought; “Hey, it'd be kind of nice to kind of get a little bit of artistic bling”, but not in a way that's so loud and obnoxious. I've always enjoyed “style”, whether it's restaurants or culture or fashion and I’m kind of new at this, but I know what I want and I know what quality is, and I've wanted to continue with that. So I went off to Asia two years ago with a friend of mine, and who was in that business, and he pointed me in the right direction with the right people and Hong Kong and Taiwan and Japan, and really took my time and listened as closely as I could and tried to sort of adopt their way and adapt to it, and then basically adapt to what I wanna pull off with the budget that I have.
(16:50): And at this point, I've been really cool and I'm growing slowly, but I'm doing it the way that I wanna do it. And I've got a lot of control as far as how I see things, and how I really wanna be associated within that industry. And it's just a matter of being able to get my story across in a way that puts a smile on people's faces and makes them think, Wow, you know, I remember going to Hawaii, or I remember going to, or I remember going to parts of the Caribbean. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with Hawaii. It's all about sort of the anywhere where a palm tree grows is kind of where I wanna sort of send that message. And it's about the sunset. It's about the humidity. It's about the greens and the blues and the browns and the people that you come across and the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the beers that really help make up the story.
Aaron (17:52): Yeah, Beautiful. So your story reminds me as you're talking about developing this clothing line that has both form and function. It has a heart to it. It reminds me a lot of Yvonne Shinard with the creation of Patagonia and the creation of Black Diamond originally. So you've actually met Yvonne if I remember right? and you spent a little time with him
Mike (18:16): Yeah, he’s a total idol of mine. I've been a Patagonia junkie from the very beginning. And they're one of my all-time direction GPS coordinates that I've always tried to follow. They've constantly done it right. They've done it in the way that they've wanted to do it by their own rules. Done it with a great message, Yvonne and Patagonia has really set the bar, and the quality, you can't match it. Eventually, I would love to be able to run alongside what those guys are doing but with a little bit more of an artistic sense of where I would have liked to have gone myself. So another company that’s got a great story was Ralph Lauren. He was another guy who just did quality. I mean, obviously, he's blown it up and he is worldwide and he's in every place. But if you go back to the beginning, the guy was making some durable stuff where the out west and it sort of transferred into the cities and different countries. And Polo to this day is the Nike of, of quality wear.
Aaron (19:40): So in your time of hanging with Yvonne Shinard, are there any fun stories of doing stuff on the beach together, paddling together, or getting up on a surfboard or anything fun like that?
Mike (19:52): No, I wish. I've talked to him a couple of times at different functions. We shared a mutual friend, this beautiful lady by the name of Rell Sun, who really enjoyed and believed in what I did growing up. She was an ambassador for Patagonia and she really helped pave the way with the Women's Line and with Hawaii and with what was right and what direction to go. And unfortunately, she passed away probably over 10 years, maybe 15 years ago. But she as well as I, both understood why, and what made Hawaii so special and really wasn't making it busy, it was trying to bring it back to the simple thing. And that's kinda been sort of my mission as far as, my tagline is trying to keep it as simple as I possibly can, but at the same time make it a durable as I possibly can.
Aaron (21:08): So, Mike, do you envision, in terms of your goals, and this is kinda a loaded question cause I think I know the answer, but do you ever wanna see your clothing up and down the malls of America? Or would you rather it be harder to find and more scarce, retaining that soul and that story that you hope for?
Mike (21:29): Well inevitably, I mean, that's everyone's vision at first. With Yvonne, I think he started out just wanting to make the best climbing apparatuses and gear, first and foremost. And then the business took off and obviously the demand was greater than he expected. That's kind of the route I want to go. I'm just trying to make good stuff. Good or bad, I'm trying not to look at the future, I'm trying to stay within the moment and make sure that what I'm creating at that particular moment is the best I can possibly do. And that's way more unique than what's out there already. And it's durable and can take a beating or you could be walking through Chicago O'Hare and still feel like, Okay, I've got something. Cool.
Aaron (22:28): Awesome, man. Well, I love it. Well, again, you could find Mike at mfield.co. You can see Mike's art. I'll have a chance to put up some of that on the blog entry for this as well. You can see some of his clothing line he's got put up there for hats for sale and others. And I definitely would go on and watch Mike's video, hear a little bit about Mike's story, and you’ll really find that he's the genuine real deal. He actually lives what he says, and his art is born out of his beliefs of life really can be simple and that the combination of life and sport and art is worth pursuing. So Mike, thanks for making the time for this today.
Mike (23:10): Thanks a lot, Aaron. I really appreciate it.
Aaron (23:12): Yeah, man, it's a pleasure. Thank you for listening to today's podcast episode. For more information, please go to aaronmchugh.com. That's Aaron, a a r o n, McHugh, M C H U G H. There you'll find my blog writings, as well as other podcasts, focused on getting the most out of work life and play. And until next time, keep going.
*We’ve done our best for this transcription to accurately reflect the conversation. Errors are possible. Thank you for your patience and grace if you find errors that our team missed.
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