When Kate LaGere was taught the game of Mahjong two years ago by Marlene Stern (a veteran instructor in Dallas), she was quickly drawn in by the sensory click of the tiles, the communal nature, and the strategic complexity of the centuries-old Chinese game. She searched for a unique set of her own, one she could proudly bring to friends’ homes to play, but came up empty. So LaGere set out to make her own. That The Mahjong Line is finally launching during the pandemic — when the popularity of analog activities like puzzles and chess are soaring — is just a timely coincidence.
To create the set of her dreams, LaGere joined forces with equally entrepreneurial friends, Annie O’Grady and Bianca Watson. Marlene Stern served as a Mahjong consultant of sorts, while Dallas-based O&H Brand helped design the individual, color soaked tiles. Each set is a limited release to keep things fresh.
“You don’t want to buy a set all your friends have,” LaGere says. “Part of the fun is having a set that’s cool and reflective of you. So our colorways are always limited release, and then we retire them forever.”
There are five colorways to start, which fall into three thematic categories: Minimal, Botanical, and Cheeky. The women’s vision, paired with O&H’s thoughtful designs, brings each set to colorful life, and reflects Mahjong’s lively nature. Common expressions and themes like Flowers and “Bams” find their way to the stylish tiles (in Botanical and Cheeky, respectively), all little works of art on their own.
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The stylish crowd will likely find their way to The Mahjong Line soon (it officially launched today), but not purely because of the brand’s beauty. The game, which originated in China’s Qing dynasty, is experiencing a renaissance.
“It’s constantly being picked up and passed down by generations of women. But there is absolutely a growth spurt going on in the younger crowd, across different demographics and in different cities. It’s just attracting really cool, fun people with a ton of style,” LaGere says. “It’s played in homes or by the pool — sometimes with drinks, sometimes without. For some women, instead of picking up bridge, they’re picking up Mahjong. We’ve had so much fun creating a brand around it.”