Fashion designer Armen Gregorian’s MAE brings some je ne sais quoi from the runway to the cannabis industry
When the word of cannabis becoming a lifestyle brand hit the editorial circuit, there was trepidation and understandable hesitance. How would an industry far too often associated with a lackadaisical mindset and at the opposite spectrum of luxury lifestyle and mainstream media ever persuade the masses that the idea of weed had long since grown up? And yet in spite of legislative restrictions, continual regulatory revisions, the cannabis industry has done more than grow up. It has transformed one of the largest industries in the world from one of underground black market cultivation and criminality to an industry that is quickly rising as one of the fastest growing markets in the world.
So why has cannabis finally been taken seriously as a contender in luxury lifestyle, culture, and wellness? Because like many things that are unjustly criminalized, once its uses were properly researched, tested and studied—and the benefits far outweighed that of alcohol or other recreational substances—it was too big to ignore. From reputable wellness brands to sustainable fashion, mixology and cuisine, the use of cannabis continues to diversify multiple industries. And adding layers of sophistication to the industry is something we’re very excited to see.
In order to truly elevate the industry, it requires preconceived ideas and misconceptions about cannabis be amended. Brands most certainly are at a crossroads in terms of how to market to the savvy consumer, and recognizing that the cannabis consumer is not only twenty-somethings but also a higher echelon of recreational users from CEO’s to Female Entrepreneurs, Doctors, Politicians, and the like is a fine start. According to the 2020 Cannabis Consumer Demographics report, the old assumption that cannabis consumption is coming only from millennials has been disproven.
“THC buyers are now coming from all ages and all walks of life. Understanding your customers is no longer optional. Because customers today expect a personalized experience, you need to know this information in order to remain competitive.”
When it comes to image and marketing, the cannabis space has been in a state of reinvention, especially over the last five years. In a recent report, it is also the fastest growing industry on a global scale. In the United States, cannabis represented $20.5 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $90.4 billion by 2026, recording a CAGR of 28%, in terms of value. Over the course of the last few years, its appeal has reached the luxury lifestyle space as chic and something to strive for, and with projected growth of billions, refining the industry is a must.
That is where high-end brand MAE fits in flawlessly.
MAE, Mind at East, was launched by fashion designer Armen Gregorian, founder of former fashion label Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent and designed in partnership with renowned designer Joe Doucet, who is synonymous with elevated design and luxurious materials. Inspired by his daughter, a love of sophisticated design and the peaceful vibe one derives from cannabis, MAE offers cannabis consumers something understated, elegant and incredibly discreet. Once you’ve gone online and witness the cinematic high-fashion quality of how MAE is marketed, you’ll understand the passion behind the brand.
That je ne sais quoi we mentioned earlier, arrives in MAE’s signatory red box (much like Tiffany blue, Doucet and Gregorian created their signature red). The MAE box is gorgeous as are its contents which includes a sculpted hand holding The Palm (compatible with all 510 cartridges and burns through an entire half gram cartridge with a single charge—standard mini-USB charging cable included), ashtray, luxe grinder, refined pipe, the clip, CBD Pen Zero, and humidor all in rose gold. The modern approach to cannabis design with MAE is a breath of fresh, clean cannabis air.
Speaking to Gregorian about how it all came to be, we found inspiration in the brand, the man, the vision, and the products.
What prompted your desire to get into the cannabis space?
From 1975 to 1979, I was an avid supporter and user of Mary Jane, as many were at that time. Looking back fondly at that era, I always think of the icons Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, which gives me a sense of nostalgia. As I got older, I transitioned into being a wine drinker, to which my daughter suggested I try cannabis instead. After trying a bit of today’s flower, I couldn’t believe how much it had changed from the 70s. This sparked the creation of Mae.
Because of the green rush in the U.S. market, we are seeing more and more gatekeepers in the fashion world include cannabis in their latest collections. Coming from a fashion background, I’m aware that it will always reflect what is happening in our culture and society. The fact that cannabis was becoming somewhat trendy and influential in other markets like fashion intrigued me and I wanted to expand on it.
MAE is as fashion forward and sleek as a cannabis product can get. What was the thought process behind the brand development?
After copious amounts of research both in-person and online, I found that the accessories department of cannabis was lacking. Subsequently, looking at the enormous success of Beboe’s products, I knew that there was a market of luxurious cannabis users. Combining cannabis, something society has deemed inherently bad for years, with the feeling of luxury and sleekness has the ability to evolve the sentiment around cannabis completely.
Additionally, Joe Doucet’s sleek design concepts create a luxurious feel and that’s exactly what I wanted for Mae. He is a prolific designer with deep-rooted experience working with big name brands like Mont Blanc, Nike and BMW. I knew that if I was going to bring world-class cannabis accessories into the market, I had to enlist the right person to design them.
You’re the kind of brand I’d like to see in magazines. Talk to me a little bit about your background and how that played a role in your marketing campaign on the website.
In 2015, I sold A.L.C. shares to InterLuxe Holdings in hopes of retiring from the fashion world, but quickly realized this wouldn’t be the end to my career. Coming from fashion, the cannabis industry was a brand new world to me. I had to dig deep, complete extensive research, and visit various stores to get an idea of where the industry was at.
After realizing the accessory vertical of cannabis was completely unoccupied, it dawned on me that I didn’t need to separate my two worlds. This ultimately led me to combine my decades of experience in luxury fashion with cannabis, positioning the brand as the go-to couture line within the industry.
Let’s talk about the MAE red. What does it mean to you as a designer, cannabis enthusiast, and marketer?
What I love about the color red is that it carries so many different sentiments. I wanted to carry its diverse range into Mae. Mae is for everyone, whether you are the cannabis connoisseur, a first-timer, or even skeptical about the industry. Just like red is for emotions, I wanted Mae to be for cannabis users.
How did your collaboration with musical artists come about?
I’ve always been drawn to the ways artists visualize their music, transform it into a work of art, and give the piece to their consumers to interpret and enjoy. At Mae, we are always looking for unique ways to stand out from the crowd and these artists that we spotlight do just that. They inspire us to be different and capture the attention of consumers.
The short film on the website is shot beautifully. Did you handle creative/art direction? Or entrust that to filmmakers?
The short film on the website was handled creatively by me with the hopes extenuating Mae’s luxurious attitude and overall feel. I led the charge on the creatives mainly because I knew what I envisioned in Mae and wanted to ensure that the end product would be ideal.
As the world transitions to cannabis use as an acceptable form of recreation, what do you believe is the most critical aspect of how cannabis is mass marketed?
Although legalization is becoming more and more of a reality throughout the country, there still lies a bit of a negative connotation around it. Marketing cannabis and its accessories to fit a certain aesthetic and look ‘trendy’ can definitely affect the perceptions around it completely, and even help jumpstart a wider push, influencing more people to dabble in the cannabis space. We are already seeing a big advancement with CBD among the younger generations; it’s in everyday products and celebrities and influencers openly use it. This is just one step closer to having different variations of cannabis widely accepted in the U.S. market.
Combining cannabis, something society has deemed inherently bad for years, with the feeling of luxury and sleekness has the ability to evolve the sentiment around cannabis completely. I want Mae’s consumers to be proud of the products they buy and show them off, rather than stash them away in a drawer somewhere.
How can you be a part of the inclusive and diverse narrative as a company?
I always strive to educate myself more and more each day about how my brand and I can do our part in fostering change in our society. By spotlighting inspirational, diverse artists in our communities on our social platforms, we are attempting to uplift those voices that get left behind. Mae will continue to push for more diverse hires and amplify the needs in our local community.
The Palm | The Humidor/Stash | The Pipe | The Ashtray | The Grinder | The Water Pipe
The Clip | Juel Puffbar Necklace | Artisanal Chocolate | CBD Pen Zero