Behind the seams with WCFDA designer Daniel Vosovic

I’m baaa-aaack!

Every now and then a girl needs an impromptu vacay, no?  But after several days of utter relaxation, I’m so excited to bring you this conversation from this month’s CFDA Fashion Incubator presentation at the W Buckhead in Atlanta.   Daniel Vosovic – who was my favorite on Project Runway Season 2 – was absolutely lovely, and honestly his talent speaks for himself.  His sophisticated yet unpretentious designs were simply beautiful; he knows how to dress a woman with elegance and ease. The gracious designer spoke candidly with me about the industry, as well as his journey from a Midwestern upbringing to folding sweaters at Banana Republic to PR to his own label. Read on.

The most surprising part of the FI: I would say that change can happen so quickly when you have the right people behind it. We picked up 19 new stores in one season, which is great for me.  So, because the right people were there from the beginning, to help say ‘Well, why don’t you offer more skirts, why don’t you offer more solids’…from development, to the right people in place to sell it, the right people in place to promote it…all of a sudden there’s now accountability. It’s really amazing how tangible those goals all of a sudden are…six months ago I never would’ve thought I’d be in Atlanta, with an event, as a guest designer…that’s amazing.

How would you compare the environment to Project Runway? What’s funny is, Runway was never a real-world scenario ever. Donna Karan does not have to justify to consumers what she does, and Ralph Lauren doesn’t. It may mean that the customer may say no in the store, but there’s never been that level of defending, so I think that’s what’s really interesting. But going through the Runway gauntlet has allowed me to have conversations like this or conversations with new consumers and I think that that’s what’s been very, very beneficial from my experience, which has proven to be very helpful for the Incubator program – doing that in an eloquent way, in a way that doesn’t turn people off.  That’s just [smart marketing] from a business perspective.  

Can you elaborate on your professional journey? I’m very driven. And it’s a good and a bad thing because it means I’m never satisfied. I can never live in the moment. I’m always thinking two or three steps ahead. That’s a good and a bad thing. So for me, when I realized – I say this to my interns – if you don’t know what you want, acknowledge what you don’t want.  I did not want to be an architect, at that point. Instead of floundering, instead of saying ‘Oh my gosh, what do I do?’ I said ‘Let’s try sewing, let’s try art history, let’s try pottery.’ And basically all of my experiences since I’ve been a child – even gymnastics, even living in the Midwest – all of those experiences have made me into the designer I am today. So I can’t say that it’s even unusual because it was my path.  You look at some of the most popular designers: Alex Wang dropped out of design college. Tom Ford dropped out of design college [Ford graduated The New School with a degree in architecture].  There’s so many designers out there who did not have a “set” upbringing or regimented education. Basically, get it from where you can get it. I could’ve lamented that I couldn’t afford to go to Parsons for $40,000 a year, and where would I have been? B*tching in Michigan.

What do you know know that you wish you knew “then”? Hmm. How much work starting a small business is.  I interned at great places, and I worked at large places.  But there’s nothing more exhausting than starting something from the ground up.

What’s running through your mind just before you show?  My gut…honestly goes into auto-pilot mode. It’s acknowledging at that point it’s a show.  It’s not just about clothes; it’s about a vision. And why did I invite these people and spend tens and tens and tens of thousands of dollars to get them there for 8 minutes? Because if they just wanted to look at pretty clothes they can come to the showroom.  I become a show producer – I’m not a designer anymore; the clothes are already made. It’s about executing this amazing vision with lights and timing and the right model with the right hair and the right music for 8 minutes on stage.

On fashion bloggers and editors: I would say that editors designers bloggers can exist cohesively in the same universe without harpooning each other. I think that editors have traditionally years of experience… in regards to, they have physically been at that show…they remember certain collections from a decade ago.  They remember the moment when so-and-so showed crop tops.  A blogger can bring awareness on the ground level.  They can say ‘This is what’s happening on the street. This is what’s happening in my community,’ whether it’s Japan, Chicago, Atlanta.  So, for a designer it’s about working with both of them to offer two different things. A magazine has a three month lead time. So you’re gonna offer a different story than you would to a blogger who needs immediate content and then is going to need more five minutes later.  So I think as a designer you can harpoon yourself if you choose one or the other. It has to be both, so the message can get out there in a variety of ways.

First piece you designed? Unprofessionally, it was an asymmetrical black dress, back when I was straight and had a girlfriend [laughs]. You can put that in. Then, my first real professional piece probably was…I did a jacket for Heidi Klum as a one-off, and this must have been in 2008, but it was the first time I had sewn my own label into my own jacket. 

What’s it like seeing your label for the first time? I remember the first time it happened and it was weird – it was very weird to see my name on a label. Or I remember when the first box of labels arrived; there’s so many little thresholds you reach as a young designer: the first time a non-family or friend person buys your clothes full price. Great thing! The first time a celebrity wears your garment.  All of those little thresholds are super exciting on a really intimate level.

What’s next for you? February: fashion show. I think we’re launching e-commerce Spring ’13. Which is going to be great, because it’s going to give me more access. I’m not selling in a brick and mortar store, currently in this area.  With WCFDA all of a sudden I’m now known to this area and I have to make sure I can reach them.

Can’t get enough of Daniel Vosovic? Neither can I! Check out his book, Fashion Inside Out!

All images courtesy Pouya Dianat and Ben Rose Photography (model)


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