You’ve worked for some very prestigious names such as Ralph Lauren and Hussein Chalayan how does working on your own label compare to working for someone else?
Working for Ralph Lauren and Hussein Chalayan was a great educational experience. I learned so much. However, these are established names in fashion. I am not. I was hoping that after my Spring 2004 show I would become the next Proenza Schouler. Not the case. I always think that each of my collections has the potential to launch me into stardom. However, the reality is starting a fashion business is one of the hardest things to do. Competition makes our jobs so difficult. Each day my job requires extreme focus, risks, determination, and endurance. For the first time, I am putting my fate in the hands of others. Most of the time everything works out, but sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, it is my name and money on the line. All responsibility lies on my shoulders. This has been the hardest thing I have had to do. What keeps me going is knowing that I am following my ultimate dream. My short term goal is to keep my sight set on the day when DRES is financially sustainable. I really hope it’s soon.
What gave you the idea to work with artists to develop your collections?
Number one reason is I can’t do it alone. Fashion design is labor intensive. Fashion shows are major productions. The only way I can survive is by outsourcing. I find inspiration from working with others. I use DRES as a vehicle to meet and work with amazingly talented and creative individuals. It is difficult to build relationships in a city where everyone is so busy. DRES allows me the chance to involve people in my work and helps me to build lifelong relationships. Slowly, I am beginning to feel like I am an important part of NYC culture. My work helps me to build community. I did not feel this before.
What one thing would you change about the fashion industry?
I feel that the trend of recycling fashion is preventing new ideas from being recognized. The industry now tends to feel nothing new can come from design. Everything has been done. This belief is completely untrue. I feel editors and buyers are comfortable in this trend. Even though they say they are searching for innovation, they continue reporting and buying the conservative and the familiar. Sales, merchandising, and marketing have taken priority to design. These areas are where most industry dollars are spent.
The run up to fashion week must be pretty stressful, could you give our readers a summary of what preparations have to be made when showing a collection.
My Spring 2005 Fashion Week show was the most difficult endeavour to date. I showed a small collection for a cancer benefit early in August. The benefit was a wonderful opportunity to show with other respectable NYC designers. It was also an opportunity to come together for a good cause. The reception to my collection was great. However, less industry people showed up. Having 10 looks completed, I faced the decision to show again for NYC Fashion Week. I decided it was in my best interest. I pursued first by finding a venue for the event. MAO Public Relations has an alternative site each season for designers to show. The cost is much less than Bryant Park. However, I still could not afford to show with MAO without a sponsor. I called everyone I knew who could possibly help. I thought hard to find unusual prospects for funding. Unfortunately, all paths led to dead ends. We started too late, and many sponsors had already committed to funding other events. I then considered alternative venues to MAO. I called numerous clubs and bars in NYC. Finally, I discovered a few options that could work out well. It turned out that an old friend from my college days in upstate New York was promoting Gallery, a lounge in the Gershwin Hotel. I then worked a perfect time out with the New York Fashion Calendar. No one else was scheduled to show during the time. It also worked out perfectly with my friend Morgan from Mercury Method. It was right at the beginning of the weekly party he promotes in the space. We then teamed up with Tricia from Safyre Events to find an alcohol sponsor, runway, lighting, seating, and staff for the event. We also pooled names/contacts to send invitations. In the meantime, I found 3 people to help out part-time and put 10 more looks together. Meanwhile we were touching up the 10 looks from the first show. Unfortunately, we did not find an alcohol sponsor. However, we found a caterer for the night. My seventy five year old father arrived from California to help my production manager transport the runway and lighting to the venue the day of the show. They spent all day painting, arranging the seats, and setting up the curtains and backdrop we had made. Meanwhile, I am at home frantically working with the sample makers to finish four pieces for the 10pm show. My dad stays with one sample maker to finish two pieces. My production manager and I head off in a large truck to Gallery with the other sample maker. The third chooses to go home. I am typing up the run of show on my computer while we are stuck in traffic. We arrive to the event one and a half hours late. Unfortunately, I had one make-up team cancel on me three days prior. The hair and make-up teams present confirmed the day before. Everyone is waiting for instruction. We have way too many dressers hanging out and have to let some go. I burn a disc and pass the run of show to two volunteers. They are going to Kinko’s to have 200 copies run off. The make-up team started doing their own thing and has to be redirected. I have not yet decided on outfits for each model. I had spent weeks prior begging agencies to send models for trade. As always, everything happens at the last minute. Backstage is chaotic. The show goes on 45 minutes late. One model falls from her platforms and wipes out on the tile floor backstage 10 minutes before. The lighting blows a circuit 5 minutes before. The show goes on in the dark. Luckily, the models are not informed of the situation. The flashes from the photographers cameras are enough to document the event. Unfortunately, it is difficult for the audience to see and there is no chance of documenting the show on video. Immediately after the show ends everyone races back alarmed by the lights going out. Once the lighting is back on, the photographers and the audience want a second show. However, half of the models leave, and the remaining models will not have time to change outfits. A second show happens. People are happy. The next task at hand is breaking down the runway, seating, and tearing down the backdrop. Once this is completed, the space is filled with people for the night event. My dad and I park the truck and join some friends for a drink and eventually a good night sleep in a a room at the Gershwin Hotel.
Who would you credit as being an inspiration to you?
So many people inspire me. NYC inspires me. African Kings inspired me to create my Spring 2004 Show. However, one continual inspiration in my life is Jack Doroshow (aka Flawless Sabrina). I found Jack when I was looking for performance artists to debut my Fall 2004 creations. Jack is my inspiration because he is an exception to a rule. Like a good wine he gets better with age. He has a youthful spirit, yet his mind is wise with experience. He maintains a peaceful mind and a life of moderation. He continues to actively participate in NYC nightlife as a performance artist. He is an inspiration and counsellor to the most talented and creative in NYC. He also spends his days working closely with the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton. Regardless, he is always generous with his time and willing to lend a helping hand whenever. Jack is my mentor.
If you had to choose another job in the fashion industry which would it be?
I really feel I have made the best decision by choosing to be a fashion designer. The responsibilities allow me to exercise all of my talents. I have so many freedoms. I am continually challenged and never bored. However, there is one responsibility I do love and find myself not having enough time to dedicate. I am talking about the specific responsibility of show/event production. I love coming up with new ideas and concepts when it comes to the how, where, and why’s for a show. I love transforming a space to reflect and strengthen the message of a performance. I love making fantasy come true. I also love collaborating with people to make an ephemeral event last in everyone’s mind, like Xanadu or Brigadoon.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Lighten up. I tend to take everything too seriously. I feel this tends to be the burden of artistic and creative people. Life is made up of the extraordinary and the ordinary. The key is to find happiness in both. I am a dramatic person. I crave the high and hide from the low. I am now looking to achieve more balance in my life. I hope to experience this in my 30’s.
DRES is available from the following boutiques