MACKEENE — Brothers, Kite Surfers, and Designers
As summer is in full tilt, The Manual had the opportunity to speak with designers, brothers, and kite surfers, Rodolphe and Harold Mackeene. Their brand, MACKEENE, is a lifestyle beach swimwear & accessories label, made in Portugal, sold here in the U.S. and around the world. The collection launched in 2006, is made of a poly/elastine blended fabric with a proprietary hydrophobic, UV-block coating. With one brother residing in Paris, and the other in St. Barth, this collection is truly a passport of international style.
From an observer’s perspective, kite surfing conveys the image of a bird in flight. When did you know you wanted not just to be in the water, but also to fly above it?
Rodolphe: I was already into sailing, surfing and windsurfing; so when I first saw some people adding kites into the mix, it was just an organic fit (for me). And it appeared to me that this sport had a huge potential for getting substantial air, and that’s what I was looking for – an instant appeal! When the sport was just getting started, you couldn’t get really high off the waves – about four to five meters maximum¬ – but I wanted to fly, so I did some investigating and quickly found ways to go higher and higher, now its normal to get higher than 15 meters (that’s 49 feet y’all)!
Harold: My brother always finds a way to convince me to try his new sport – and because he is always way ahead of the curve (in sport, style and many other categories), I am always happy to follow his lead.
You’ve made it to a professional level, how did you know how to even begin?
Rodolphe: With my background and passion for other board sports, and with a childhood that consisted of kite flying on the beaches of France, it didn’t take me too long to learn how to do it… but like most things worth doing, turning pro has been a longer but worthwhile process! Once I mastered how to descend, I was able to become an instructor, then a manager for some kite [surfing] clubs. Those jobs gave me enough free time to practice (and practice, and practice). After a couple years I was making a name for myself on the circuit, got some small sponsorships to start competing, and the rest is really history! I think though, most importantly, I started traveling and competing for my sponsors – to promote their brands and the kite surfing sport – so my profile certainly rose through those competitions, trips, magazines and videos.
What are the technical demands of Kite Surfing that MACKEENE strives to resolve?
Rodolphe: We developed MACKEENE because there was nothing appropriate or specifically created for purveyors of this awesome sport. And being French, I suppose we have a predisposition to classic fashion so we wanted to make sure that what we created was a mix of form, fashion and function. With this in mind, We created a unique product – a swimshort that combines several cool, fashionable fits and cuts but integrates tech-focused elements like performance stretch fabric which utilizes unique nano-technology and hydrophobic treatments; and we’re also quite proud of our unique-to-MACKEENE “magnetic zip” fly.
MACKEENE is a brand that is both stylish and technical. How do you take something with such specific intent and design it in a way that relates to everyone?
Rodolphe: That’s Harold’s job!!!
Harold: I think that every man wants to be chic and there are many things that make a man feel well dressed, this is the little secret from our family that I keep in mind always. I also love the balance between something that is very elegant and luxurious as well as very useful or intelligent. It’s all about form x function for MACKEENE.
The ocean is something you’ve described as your inspiration; the ocean has many faces – many personalities, which one is speaking to you today?
Harold & Rodolphe: The ocean consumes both our days and nights. We literally go to sleep thinking about where and when the next good waves or windy days will come, and when we wake up the first thing we do is to check the weather forecast to decide what will be the activity of the day before or after work: surfing, kiting, spear fishing, speed flying, etc. It’s also inspirational – the colors, the life, the emotional connection – we love all of it’s personalities.
Traveling as a professional kite surfer, life plunges you into a variety of environments and you’ve said you adapt your style to your surroundings. What is the personality of your style?
Rodolphe: I’m a pretty calm person in general; I’d rather spend some time in the water than getting stressed out in traffic! I mean I’m more of a small beach village guy than an urban metropolis one – but I love sharing my passions with people around me, so it’s true, as Harold mentioned, I’m quite often the one who is pushing everyone to go and get into the water. The best moments are definitely the ones you spend with friends or family going kiting all together on an epic session and, at the end of it, you are just enjoying your surroundings and chilling with those you love. I love sharing my passions; But don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a very bad teacher, so sharing my passion means, “come and ride with me but don’t ask me to teach you.”
You’ve said before that your “family was scattered around paradise-like islands.” Your life keeps you in St Barth’s and your brother in Paris, how would you describe your working relationship with your brother?
Rodolphe: My brother is my best friend. It’s true he is in France and I am in the Caribbean, but we both travel a lot, so we get the chance to meet in different places, most often in fun places such as St Barth, Barbuda or other amazing places on the ocean that are certainly better for waves and wind than Paris. Our parents also have a lovely house in Normandy, so we all meet together there each year to make sure to get some quality time with our family.
Much of your life is devoted to balancing soul and body, usefulness and pleasure, sea and sky – how does the pursuit of that balance influence the work that you create?
Harold & Rodolphe: We say in French, from the Latin, “un esprit saint dans un corps saint/mens sana in corpore sano:” a sound mind in a sound body. We created MACKEENE to be a balance of our aesthetic preferences, and athletic preferences. We must do some kind of sport or exercise–riding, surfing, free diving, flying–every day, so we manage hours to work before or after, and that’s how we balance our soul and body.
Harold & Rodolphe: For us, staying committed to the sport leads to success…style grows from there. We feel fortunate and lucky to be successful in both areas – and we feel commitment to what we are passionate about builds success.
Life is a journey of accomplishments, what goals are you focused on next?
Harold & Rodolphe: Having our MACKEENE family story become even more of a success story so we can maybe one day have the MACKEENE Beach Club, taking the success we’ve had in Europe into the US market – we’d love to be in a high-end department store next season for sure – maybe even a MACKEENE store? And would certainly be great to have these in big cities, as well as in some gorgeous tropical location.