When I did ‘The Great Escape,’ I kept thinking, ‘If they were making a movie of my life, that’s what they’d call it – the great escape.’
Where were you the day the Cavalier Essentials original lookbook released? It should be like when people ask where you were when Kennedy was shot or Pearl Harbor happened (I wasn’t alive for any of those either). It was February 5 of 2011. I know where I was. I was at my computer sitting in a puddle of drool along with the entirety of the internet lusting after this brand, but it wasn’t even a brand.
Cavalier Essentials was a project that was made by Taylor Pemberton back in July of 2011. In typical cool guy fashion Taylor said that he made the project for school and had no intention that it would be such a hit. It wasn’t even meant to be released. The lookbook was inspired by what Steve McQueen, “carried a beat-up leather duffel bag on the back of his motorcycle.” To me and to much of the internet lookbook was basically perfect. It was crisp, it had the car, and it had the girl. The products gleamed against a white studio backdrop yet carried a rugged manly mystique. Taylor got on interview on Complex, he got a feature on a series called Men of Distinction and a bunch of other blogs scattered across the net. Suddenly Taylor Pemberton was everywhere I wanted to be. In one day he seemed to have accomplished nearly everything I had wanted to. I was a a bit jealous, however my jealousy wasn’t full fledged. You see, there was one problem. The whole production was just a concept. None of the products actually existed.
There wasn’t anything being sold. What was produced was just an idea. Nothing tangible, nothing ready for production. So Taylor and the gang saw a good opportunity and they started putting things in place to actually make these products come to life. I lurked in the shadows of the internet, watching, waiting. It was a lot like when Drake was producing his first album. People wanted to see if Drake could turn all of his unsigned hype into success. I wanted to see if Cavalier could turn all of their current promotion from their into concrete success.
I waited until November 21, and though I don’t know all of the details behind the release, I felt let down when their online shop came into fruition, it didn’t seem to live up to the hype. It turns out they weren’t really a brand. They mostly sold products made by other brands. Also some of the products that we drooled over in the lookbook, didn’t go into actual production. I wasn’t sure whether to scoff at them, or share in their pain. I wanted it to succeed, I wanted it to be really successful because I needed to see another brand succeed. I want to see other brands come out of nowhere and make their own success with solid, quality, accessible product. Mainly because that’s what I want to do. The other side of me wanted to laugh and shun them as if to say, “You thought this business was that easy? Did you think that you could come in and join on this game we’re all playing and it wouldn’t be hard? Just because on your first day you got a lot of press doesn’t mean that you can escape this, reality will find you.” I was their admirer. I want to see people succeed in startup fashion. I want to be inspired.August 19, 2014
Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is you did everything you could. There wasn’t one more thing you could’ve done.
Coach Gary Gaines, Friday Night Lights
The life of creatives. The internet makes it so appealing doesn’t it? They live in big cities, own their own stores, run their own lives. They’re not bogged down with schedules, they make their own. They don’t have to deal with bosses, they are their own boss. The internet has become the perfect medium for them to share the perfect amount of their day to make their lives seem to be just that…perfect.
How many videos has the internet produced following creatives and showing how much better their lives are than ours?
I am a creative (Translated: I like to think I am sometimes). Not a full time one. I sped my day’s working a day job, and my nights trying to build a brand. I spend roughly 4 hours of my day trying to be a creative entreprenuer and those are most definitely the hardest hours of my day. Trying to find inspiration, connecting with my customers, trying to pack up orders. Trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Hypebeast won’t post about my brand even though I feel as though they’ve posted about many less developed and worse brands. I wrestle with this for about 4 hours every day. I can only imagine what wrestling with these issues for 8 hours a day or more can be like. These things stress me out when I know that I can still be ok tomorrow because I have another job. If this was my only job, how much more stressed would I be? I fall into the trap of thinking that if I could just figure out a way that I could support myself solely off of my creativity, that would fix my life. Not only my day job woes, but my family woes as well, my, maybe I should have gotten my masters degree woes, my I missed the game winner in last nights pickup basketball game woes. I feel as though it will solve everything. Like, “Ah man if I can just solve that one piece, everything else will fall into place.” Anything that comes my way in life I’ll cast aside with ease because I know that that I became successful off of my creativity. Somehow that is the idea that these creatives, that these videos have left me with. I need to realize once and for all that if I become “Successful” at this. That the other stresses in my life will either remain the same, or grow.
There is one instance that I feel the stress of the industry is shown. In a video interview that has since been removed from the internet (I scoured the internet to find it again but it is gone, alas) Rick Klotz from Warriors of Radness is discussing The buyout of Warriors of Radness by American Apparel. In the video Rick who is known for his brutal, sometimes too brutal honesty says something to the effect of, “I’m not saying that I’m ‘trying something new’ like most designers say. The industry is hard.” Which seems to shed a little light on the reason the deal went down is because financial reasons, and also that when designers stat another company to, “Try something new.” It may be in place of saying that their other brand failed. It is understandable that the backing of a multi million dollar company like American Apparel could help a smaller brand like Warriors of Radness. So Rick, the owner and founder of the now defunct Freshjive. One of the original brands heralded for it’s authenticity and stance against corporate America. Rick joins the fallen to assimilate and become part of the empire while Luke Han and the gang still battle for their rebel survival.
The piece that I am probably missing here is the art of “lifestyle branding.” Every brand tries to market a lifestyle, whether successful or not brands are trying to push a certain way of living upon you. They are either portraying a lifestyle displaying how you are currently living, or how you want to live. The creatives behind these brands are a part of this marketing as well. How these designers portray themselves in interviews is an extension of their lifestyle marketing. They have to be living the lifestyle they are portraying of relaxed, carefree lifestyle filled with luxurious products. This is at least part of the reason that Ralph Lauren has the Double RL ranch in the middle of nowhere with influences from the old west. It is an extension of his brand, his vision. He will let us in on only the pieces of his life that extend his marketing. This is something that I myself understand. When anyone asks me if I am making money from this brand (Which they often do) I always say the same thing, “Yes” and I will always say yes. The reason is because I realize that my answer to this question is marketing. People want to support a brand that is making money and that brings joy to people. If I said to people that the brand was failing and times are tough people don’t want to support that. They want their clothing to be a sign of prosperity, not a symbol of hardship.
It is for these reason that I believe that these brand owners and founders are not going to let you into their lives. Most of what you will see will be calculated, thought out, and only what they want you to see. You won’t see the dirt and the grime, you won’t see the sweat and the tears, you will only see the finished product, because it’s all about that just that…product.August 18, 2014
And the Lord spake, saying, “First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Quit your dayjob. That’s what it’s all about. In 2014 that’s what everything is about. People who go to prestigious schools don’t go there to get a job. They go there to make a job. Movies like The Social Network only reinforce this. In the world of fashion people like Sk8thing do as well. In my opinion Sk8thing’s art in the reason Billionaire Boys Club, Ice Cream (They have the same website now? Even further signifying that they are basically the same product), and A Bathing Ape became successful. It wasn’t as much Nigo, or Pharrel. Without his art direction those brands don’t have substance. It is his artwork style that is the essence to those brands to me. Not so much to cool guy mystique of Nigo. Sk8thing is the man behind all of those brands which are basically the same product just filtered through different lifestyle mediums. What did he do? Of course he started his own brand. Then he started wearing masks interviews, but that’s another topic. CLSC Josh is currently working at the hundreds, also Benji used to design for The Hundreds. Look/See founder Kyle Yamaguchi used to work for Nike Basketball. James Jebbia of Supreme used to work for Stussy. Shawn Stussy used to work for Stussy which is the brand he founded, only the leave his own label and sometime later start S/Double. Rudolf Dassler left Adidas and his brother Adi Dassler to begin Puma which in my opinion is the Romulus and Remus story of the fashion world. Instead of being the origin story of Rome it is the origin story of corporate tensions and modern branding in fashion. The list goes on and on. It seems that everyone these days are only working in these industries just to get enough to spawn their own “vision” because everyone thinks that they can do it better. Can they? Can I?
Everyone wants to quit what they are doing to do fashion full time. This is whether your current day job is in fashion or not. Quitting to start your own brand is the holy grail. I feel like the day you do when you leave your home everyone will be cheering and laying roses at your feet. Why? Because you made it. You made it to the holy grail of startup fashion.
I just finished reading 10 things to consider before quitting your day job to start a brand over at Hypebeast. In the article Richard Liu of DSPTCH goes over a list of things that will hopefully make people not start their own brands. The most important thing that I think he talks about is adapting. That is the thing that I didn’t expect as much when I began. In the beginning I sold mostly my Les gens courageux design and my Fin design. Now my sweatshirts sell the best. Why do I think this is the case? Because people already have t shirts from me they are looking for a different kind of product now. I have to change with their consumption habits and hopefully be able to identify the new habits. I was reading some article in GQ about marriage (Terrible idea) and it said that not only are you marrying the person now, you are marrying them in 5 years, 10 years, you are marrying that person as well. The same goes in fashion if you are thinking about it long term. You have to be comfortable with making your brand what it needs to be in the market 10 years from now.
This is why you have to be sure about doing this. In my own life I’ve seen people try and fail at this. However I am still here. The hardest thing is that for the 5 years I have had this brand I have been feeling like the world has been telling me no. They haven’t paid as much attention to my designs and my work as I expect/hoped they would. I need to hold out for a yes, but I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out and if I can endure the waves of change was I wait. I question my dedication. Am I willing to lose my arms, my legs, and maybe even my head over this?August 15, 2014
Has cradled them
Along the shores of clear bays
And with a love song
Has rocked my heart for life
La Mer (Translated from French)
Today is the day. Release day. The day I’ve been waiting for La Mer is now available in our Online Store. You see currently I only release new products twice a year so it is a pretty rare thing for me. Today is the day that my La Mer Collection is released into the world. To fill up email inboxes, be the content of blog posts the world over, and hopefully the collection will work its way into your heart, and your closet.
What is La Mer. “La Mer” is French for, “The Sea” a nautical themed collection that my brother and I conceptualized after a particularly relaxing Christmas vacation. As my brother and I drove through by snow spotted harsh Midwestern homes of Chicago on the way to Midway Airport we were in the dreaming up ideas of beaches and boats. Even though the vacation was relaxing, I was not relaxed. My brother could tell as he drove me to the airport to fly back to my sunny California abode. I didn’t know what to make the following year and how my brand should change. So over the next hour and a half he helped me get where I needed to go. Our minds clicked together so efficiently during that drive that I thought that if my brother and I were given enough time we could accomplish anything. It was exactly what I needed at the time.
It started with a classic French song that he had emailed me years prior. One that he scrounged the internet for to find the best version. It was from Julio Iglesias…not the Julio Iglesias that you are thinking of. “La Mer” was the name of the song and he said, “You should make that the name of your collection and use that boat that you used on the Seafarer sweatshirt.” After that a lot of the pieces came together and I started brainstorming what I would make. The collection that I am releasing today is honestly only about half of the pieces that I designed because after 5 years of doing this I learned that you have to optimize. For example I had a tank in the collection, one that I think was pretty great too. I was going to use some embroidery on it and it was going to have a contrasting trim along the sleeves. However tank tops (Or A shirts for you Europeans) do not sell that well for me so I had to cut it out of the collection. What’s the sense of making something that won’t sell? It’s the balancing act that designers and all creative types have to deal with. What do I want to make vs what will sell? If you read most designers interviews they will all say that they just make what they love. This is a lie, or at least not the entire truth. In this industry you have to look at your trends and cater to the buying patterns that your customers have given you. To ignore these patterns is absurd. However it sounds cool so designers say it. They make it sound like they have no concern whatsoever for business, when the reality is that they must.
The downside is that you can guess wrong. You can accidently pull one of your better selling garments from production and never know. I almost did. At one point I had removed the Petit Bateau sweatshirt from the collection. I had subbed in another garment. Then at the last minute I added it back because the other garment was going to cost more to produce. Once I received all of the pieces of the collection in the mail my favorite piece was clearly the Petit Bateau sweatshirt. There is a large disconnect from viewing a design on a screen and finally receiving it after you’ve been designing it for months. It quickly rose to be my most coveted piece in the collection. The story behind the collection is that when my parents French friends saw the Seafarer sweatshirt, the first thing one of them said was “Petit Bateau.” It stuck with me and I created this new sweatshirt. I have to thank her because she inspired my favorite piece.
The most fun part of this collection was shooting on site. Prior to this I had always shot in a studio, or a studio like setting inside where you can control all of the variables. Shooting on the beach was so much fun. One of the most fulfilling things since I’ve started this brand, I honestly want to make my next collection just so I can shoot it somewhere. The added variables are such a joy. The sun, the wind, the sand, the boats, the water, all of it. Before I received the results I already had a great feeling walking away from the shoot. As apposed to feeling drained when I left my in studio photo shoots. I was energized and I wouldn’t shut up. I hope all of your enjoy La Mer.August 13, 2014
“They seek him here, they seek him there
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere
Is he in heaven or is he in hell?
That demned elusive Pimpernel”
― Emmuska Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel
Anonymity. Can it really exist today? Can people truly remain anonymous? I am skeptical. I feel that if you search hard enough you can find the information that you need about anyone. What has brought this to light is the recent unmasking of the head designer of Maison Martin Margiela. Business of Fashion did a piece discussing how this secrecy has been one of the main pillars to this brand and how it is one of it’s biggest strengths. The Hundreds say “Maintain the Mystery.” It appears that for many people in the industry they believe that withholding is more powerful than sharing. There is an allure to it. A calling to the unknown. A secret admirer, twisting off a bottle cap to see if you’ve won, opening a box of assorted chocolate and hoping that you don’t pick the one that is filled with toothpaste.
I feel I have seen some people play this secrecy game well. One of them is Supreme the brand that everyone’s brand wants to be. They release products out of nowhere and it feels like they didn’t even intend to. James Jebbia the founder of Supreme has a quote from an interview he did with Business of Fashion that I feel really identifies the brand, “Let me put it this way,” he adds tellingly. “We work really, really hard to make everything seem effortless.” This they do better than anyone. When their website isn’t releasing new product they shut it down. Almost as if to say, ” We don’t need to give you anything to hold you over. We don’t need to give you content, a blog, or sales. We know you’ll be back” In typical cool guy fashion. That is what Supreme is to me. A bunch of cool guys standing around, seemingly doing nothing and then all of a sudden they release the most coveted products on the market.
Another master of mystery is the almost household name Banksy. He is the truly the epitome of modern anonymity. The new Scarlet Pimpernel. Saying, “You don’t know who I am, but I will have a website, gallery shows, and even a movie made.” It seems pretty counter intuitive to value the secrecy of your identity so highly and release so much content. If you want to be a secret then do things in secrecy. He doesn’t. Everything he does seems carefully calculated. That is why to me his secrecy is simply a moneymaking tool. He only keeps his identity hidden to make money. His identity is of no value to him besides that. There is no other goal to his allure than profit.
So the question to answer for me is that if all of these people have made great money or success off of secrecy why would someone like me who is looking to make a brand volunteer everything? Why wouldn’t I subscribe to the same ploy, why don’t I use similar tricks. My answer is that I thought that secrecy and anonymity should be used and held for a greater purpose. Maybe it’s because of all of my comic book heroes , and Sunday morning cartoon watching that I did in my youth (Actually I haven’t stopped) but I feel that you should be only be allowed a secret identity for greater goals. You should have a secret identity when you’re trying to stop the Joker from destroying Gotham, or trying the thwart the Kingpin , or saving undeserving patrons from madame guillotine during the oppressive French Revolution. Not to sell art and clothes. To be clear I am not talking about naturally private people who don’t share. I am speaking about those who give minor details just to tease interest out of us. Just to get an ounce of desire from us. One of the reasons for this is because when you try to share information while keeping details hidden it makes you sound very self absorbed. How many brands and people have you seen post, “Coming soon.” With some shadowy or cutoff version of their product displayed (This blood stains my hands as well…I mean I used to do that).
And to prove that even I am not immune to this.
Why do we all do this? As if to say that what we have hidden is so great that it demands secrecy. That if we were to show you everything that we had planned it would overwhelm you. That is the problem that I have with the mysterious/anonymity thing. To me it says that I stay anonymous and in the shadows because I am so great. What I am, and what I offer is too great for the world to know. I must hide it under a bushel. I do not want that to be the message that I am sending.August 8, 2014
- August 8, 2014
La Mer is french for “The Sea.” It was pretty fun putting together a “capsulized” collection like this. What do I mean by that? Everything in this collection is more related to the other pieces in the collection compared to some of my more recent collections. What I tried to do was infuse the cohesiveness of my past “Le Magnifique” collection with the “pop” of the colors of my 2013 collections. And the result is La Mer. I hope there will also be something “Magnifique” about this collection.August 8, 2014
“Where did you go to, if I may ask?’ said Thorin to Gandalf as they rode along.
To look ahead,’ said he.
And what brought you back in the nick of time?’
Looking behind,’ said he.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
The soundtrack from the Hobbit soothes through my white bud earphones, a gift from my ever present but often misguided friend Pandora. The title of the song? “An Unexpected Journey.” A title fit for the road I am on. Am I the Bilbo Baggins of the fashion/independent fashion/streetwear/T shirt brand world? There I was buried in the shire. Comfortable to remain, and not to explore. Afraid to make myself open to the world around me. If you read my story, you will see that it took something that seemed pretty big to make me start my brand Vaughn de Heart. I wasn’t visited by a white haired wizard. I was presented with a highly unlikely event that presented me with two choices. I met Nick while he was wearing a shirt that I had designed over a year prior. This was before I had a brand. He was wearing a shirt I had designed for my fraternity even though he had no connection to the school or the fraternity and lived hundreds of miles away. He didn’t know what the shirt meant, he just bought it at a thrift store in California when the shirts were only made and sold in Washington state. The kicker was that I was wearing the same shirt on that day as well. I could have ignored this occurrence and pass it off as ordinary and return to my comforts. I decided to take the hint that I feel I was given and run with it. I’ve been running with it for 5 years now. Along the way I have begun to pay attention to the fashion world around me. All levels of it. From streetwear to high fashion, I have observed the industry because I am now part of it. Albeit a small part I thought I could learn a thing or two from them. Along the way questions have raised in my mind.
Why don’t people in this industry talk?
There is so much that goes on in the design process and the inner workings of a modern brand, but I can’t find any place to read about it. We have sites like Business of Fashion to go over the financial pieces of the industry, and countless blogs from Hypebeast to Selectism to Four Pins to go over the products that are released. We even have street style bloggers JakandJil and the Sartorialist to document how these clothes are worn by mere mortals. The everyday people instead of the models and editors. However, there isn’t much information about the actual designers. What they do. How they capture inspiration, and how they put a collection together. Most of this is still a mystery.
The pieces that the leaders and tastemakers do leave often just beg more questions. There are a few names that stand out as the elite within their various realms of fashion or because I follow their small niche blog. Oft frivolous, but take up vacancy in my mind.
Will T shirt blogger Coty Gonzalez ever return?
Can Nicky Diamonds really afford a Ferrari?
Does Rob Heppler actually do anything?
Does Johnny Cupcakes actually have a learning disability? Or does he just say that to make his story more inspiring?
If Ronnie Fieg only redesigns existing footwear models, can we really call him a footwear designer?
What ever happened to the original format and articles from the Madbury Club?
I am a lot like Bilbo on this journey. I am surrounded by dwarves and wizards. These are the trained warriors. The ones that were meant to do this. I am more like the Hobbit of the group. The unlikely one. Often overlooked, more an observer than a participator at times. Most of the brands that I talk about I do not own. I don’t get many chances to dress casually, and when I do I wear my own brand Vaughn de Heart. I am the burglar. The one that can steal a glimpse of what it’s like to be in this industry and bring it to you. Most of it will be my own experience as I traverse these misty mountains trying to build my brand. Building my product offering, and capturing new customers. To dungeons deep and caverns old. Welcome to courage.August 6, 2014
- July 23, 2014
- July 7, 2014