In fashion, it's trendy to act different, look alternative and incessantly say things 'over it', 'loves it' or 'kale is so the new lettuce.' However, actually being different is another matter altogether. In fact, it's borderline unacceptable and somewhat frowned upon.
This is something I learned firsthand while planning the DL1961 Runway Show at Lincoln Center.
I maintain a strict no-asshole policy. However, in an industry filled with raging egos and people who just take themselves way too seriously, finding the right people was a challenge. Weeks before the show there were two types of people who walked through my doors -- those who really believed in us and those who simply nodded yes to the vision but had no intention of bringing it to fruition. Let me talk about the latter first.
There were a few standouts in this category especially one particular DJ who for legal reasons will be unnamed and referred to simply as DJ Tightly Wound or DJ TW for short.
DJ TW was a rather special individual who for some odd reason didn't get the memo that he was not a composer but in fact, a DJ. Nonetheless, against my better judgement I hired him. When I told him my idea of the flash mob, old school hip-hop beats and a show that was entertaining, he looked mortified. It was priceless. He told me my taste was 'commercial', 'unsophisticated' and that my audience wouldn't appreciate the direction. He went on to say the collection was 'actually good' and why would I want to ruin it by interjecting Eminem. All in all, DJ TW simply failed to understand we are selling denim, not $5,000 dresses. I couldn't take it anymore and two days before the show, I fired him.
Enter Kris Bones. A gold-toothed London boy with some seriously sick beats and a no frills attitude. The result? A high energy, unpretentious show that showed off our collection beautifully and an audience who just couldn't get enough.
I may not have experience, but I do have foresight. I can see the market is craving some fresh air. Fashion's new stars are 20-something bloggers and with the exception of a few designers, New York Fashion week generally failed to give them Instagram-worthy moments. Almost every brand live-streamed their show this season ignorantly assuming that their name alone would would draw large online crowds. They felt they didn't need to change, be more interesting and work a little extra to capture the audience. They also didn't realize that the online world is fair to the point it's cruel and that their audience consists of pre-teens and 20-somethings who have lots of disposable income and an attention span comparable to that of a bumblebee.
Hence, I designed the DL show for the bumblebees. Every moment was worth capturing. People were people peering in through the glass walls of Alice Tully, camera phone in tow, trying to capture everything from the flash mob to the clothes. The statistics proved this. That night 92,000 people tuned in to watch the show. The hashtag #dl1961 had 925,449 impressions. One-hundred eighty pictures were posted on Instagram and received 130,309 likes and 1,368 comments. And for those 15 minutes, fashion was what it should be, fun, accessible yet aspirational.
As for experience, I had the best: Maliha Faisal, Julia Samersova, Kemal Harris, Andrea Wilson, Violeta G and my amazing DL team: strong, powerful and straight-up 'gangsta' women that I have affectionately named my G-Women.
These women and I fought, argued and butted heads because they were equally as passionate about what we were trying to accomplish. They believed in the brand, believed in me and did anything in their power to make it better than I imagined. I will never forget how Julia Samersova, our casting director and (rumored) member of the Russian Model Mafia, harassed every agent in town to get us the best possible girls and boys. If I liked someone, she made a call and a few Russian slurs later, it was done. And just like that, we had an all-star crew and I didn't have to be Marc Jacobs to do so.
Because of such women I feel have a responsibility to young girls who obsessively follow the fashion world. In an industry predominately consisting of women but run by men, insecurities run rampant and nothing is never good enough. Young women should know it's OK to not give a shit about what other people think. Being cool is a full-time job that requires being bitchy, alternative and possess the ability to change with the mood of the season. I reluctantly update my iPhone every so often to the thought of being cool just seems rather tedious.
I was raised to be exceptional, not cool. Thanks to my parents I have a very strong sense of self and an insatiable drive. To them, doing this at 23 is considered normal. After all, they gave me the resources, the education and the intelligence so I would have to be a real asshole to choose recklessness over work.
They always told me, "You're lucky, you don't need to work up from zero to100, but you have the opportunity to take it from 100 to 1000." One thousand definitely seemed more enticing.
It's Asian parenting at its finest and I wouldn't have it any other way. It keeps things in perspective.
And, at the end of the day, it's just a fashion show.
Weeks of planning culminate to 10 minutes where everyone gasps, claps and then goes home with a faint memory of what just happened. They are used to it, expect it and look forward to the same grind season after season. With our show, I wanted to genuinely shock and awe the audience. I wanted to them to let go, escape and experience the show. And most importantly I wanted them to leave with a message bigger than denim, leather and silk. It's about celebrating diversity, recognizing change and knowing that unless you take a risk or two, you will never evolve both as an individual and as a society.