Mary Seats, best known as Mz. Skittlez, is quickly becoming the “It” girl of urban wear in the fashion industry. She started from humble beginnings in Cleveland and became known as a talented rap artist among her peers. After she realized that her unique style of dressing could create an uncommon lane that would be sought after by other fashion-forward girls like herself, she started Cupcake Mafia. Mz. Skittlez jump-started the brand in a closet-sized office with $300 and sold T-shirts, but now her creations can be found in over 800 stores in 15 countries.
With clothes that feature bright colors, funky designs, and fresh mottos such as “Get Your Cake Up,” Cupcake Mafia has become a hit with girls of all tastes, from those who adore street wear, to girls who prefer a Gothic vibe to their wardrobe, to those who enjoy a playful and soft style.
The 28-year-old CEO spoke to rolling out’s Robert Williams to dish on how Cupcake Mafia is taking off, linking up with urban apparel giants like Forever 21 and Puma, and how her team’s brilliant marketing strategy helped them become a powerful force in the fashion world.
What’s the most challenging part about being a designer and coming out with fresh, new ideas?
I think the most challenging part is staying ahead of the game, because with Instagram and social media, it’s so easy to get inspired by other brands, so I try to just stay focused and take all my attention away from that so I can stay organically rooted in what is Cupcake Mafia.
What are some trends you’re interested in taking on?
I definitely love sequin. I love the fact that you can add the street style, but make it girly by adding a little sequin, like what I’m wearing now, you have the mesh, but you still have the sequin and verbiage, and our customer loves aggressive verbiage. Verbiage is always in; you can put something aggressive on the shirt and girls will love it. And I love tie dye — I’m a total tie dye girl.
What are some fashion philosophies that you stick to that are evident in your brand?
Our Cupcake Mafia girl is all about the verbiage; she wants to wear exactly what she’s thinking without having to say it, so we always keep verbiage around. Also, we like to play with different things, like fall, we’re doing camel. Summer, we did a lot of tie dye. We tend to play around with everything, but cupcake mafia is expressive and colorful at the same time.
How versatile is your brand to the everyday woman?
I think it’s pretty versatile. A girl can wear one of our t-shirts to go out, or to work, or to a cookout. Like, you can wear it in so many different ways. You can come in the store and find a look for everyone around the world. That’s what Cupcake Mafia is about — uniting girls together all over the world.
Is Cupcake Mafia as a brand giving back to women in the community?
When we started Cupcake Mafia, that was the goal — to unite girls together all around the world, and by doing so, we give 20 percent of our proceeds to breast cancer. We started a foundation called Save the Cupcake Foundation where we give 20 percent of our growth proceeds to breast cancer and we do a lot of races. We donate to all the races. We donated t-shirts to races in Indiana, Cleveland, Chicago. We do makeovers and we do fashion shows. We love to partner up with breast cancer awareness and let girls know their cupcakes are very important.
You talked about social media. Is that where you’re getting your verbiage from for your shirts? What’s the source of your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from our girls being go-getters, independent, strong … everybody cares about money, you know, so like something like this [verbiage from a t-shirt], “Thou shall change the game,” it can be any game, it could be in school — if all your friends are failing and dropping out, you’re that one that’s going to be motivated, you’re the one that’s gonna push them to get their stuff together. So our verbiage just comes from inspiring other girls to be better or inspiring other girls to be focused and get their money and be great entrepreneurs, that’s where our verbiage comes from — get the cake up. It just comes off the top of our heads, but Instagram definitely plays a huge part. We always ask questions on Instagram to find out what our girls want — “where do you want to see us,” “what store do you want us to be in?”
We’ll be in Forever 21 for the holiday. We’re also doing a collaboration with Puma, and Rihanna is the new face of Puma, so we’ll be under that for spring 2016, so I’m super excited about where Cupcake Mafia is going.
How important is social media for who you are and who your brand is?
Social media is so important. We have a social media manager and she does an amazing job of making sure that she’s taping into our girl, knowing what she likes and what is our best sellers versus what’s not selling. And we have like a portfolio of five different girls that we tap into and we know that with each post, it’s tapping into one of those girls. We don’t try to go out and reach everyone because you know that you can fail by doing so, but we tap into those five girls, and those five girls rock with us like none other. Not five girls per se, but five different girls from five different backgrounds where every girl can tap into one of those girls.
Can you give us more on those five?
For Jasmine, she’s like our ethnic girl. She reads rolling out for all the daily tea. Then we have Marcy; she’s more of a dark girl. She’s like our emo, Gothic girl. She shops at Dolls Kill. Then we have Amy, our very soft girl that wears pink. And then we have Taylor, who is more like an Iggy [Azalea]. She listens to Mac Miller, she listens to Iggy, she loves that street scene, but not too street. So she’s, you know, kinda like a Iggy-Teyana Taylor type. So we play around with those girls because we know exactly what they like, we know exactly where they’re shopping, and exactly which girl is gonna buy which piece from our collection. So, like, Jasmine would rock this and Kelsey would rock this, or Taylor would rock this. We know what we’re making and who we’re making it for, and that’s I think how we’ve been successful the past four years is by knowing who we’re catering to.
For more information, visit www.mzskittlez.com and shop at Cupcake Mafia here.