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)

WCFDA Designer Spotlight: Emanuela Duca

My recent trip to Atlanta for the W Hotels Buckhead/CFDA: Fashion Incubator presentation was such a whirlwind that it took me a week to recover! It was AMAZING to chat with the featured designers, and I spoke with jewelry designer Emanuela Duca. Duca, a native of Rome (Italy, not Georgia), insists on retaining a crucial connection with her pieces. Working primarily with sterling silver, she infuses her scupltural, delicate-yet-strong pieces with emotion and textural elements reminiscient of her homeland’s volcanic ash. This was her first visit to Atlanta, and she expressed that she considered the most valuable aspect of the Fashion Incubator (FI) to be the exposure it provides designers to retailers, editors and the opportunity to be participate in events like the one we attended.

Who do you design for? The woman who wants to…wear a piece of jewelry is a statement. A woman that can go out there in the world and get what she needs and to say, “You know, I’m in a place in my life and I need to be who I want to be be.”

What emotion do you wish to convey in your work? I believe I design for a woman that has so much to offer – not necessarily just someone who goes out there to get what she wants but also someone that is not afraid to be a woman, to be feminine. So there is a contrast between soft and hard. Even in the color, the black and the white, [there’s] a very strong element of contrast. We as [women], we have so much to give and it is not just the image, it’s much, much richer than that and that’s what I try to express in my work.

How do you know when a piece is finished? I just feel it. You know sometimes I’m not happy and I have to put it away for a while. Then all of a sudden it just clicks and then it’s “Oh okay, now I know what it needs,” and then it’s finished.

How do you use the FI’s workspace? Oh, I use it completely. It’s divided in two main areas: one is a gallery and where I invite my retailers to come over to view the collection. The other one is really like a workshop where I develop my design. I do have my hands on the product. I develop the first design and then that gets sent outside for production, but I am the one who creates everything. You know, I feel like when I have the material in my hand I can do something that would be very difficult to explain to somebody else. And lot of the creative process happens through working with the material -how [can] I explain that to someone else? Just touching the material, I create a shape.

How do you let go of the art you’re creating? You know, it’s been several years, and I’ve learned that there is always something next to come. That way I’m capable of letting go.

What’s your impression of Southern style? It’s really great. I find that the women wear these beautiful lines, you know…they’re very elegant and they’re also interested in trends…they’re very interested in what’s [to come] in the market. They came here today very curious to learn about us and I love it.

If you weren’t designing…?: I would be a dancer. Actually…I would probably be a choreographer. I did study dance, and I got into my life and then I realized that I was so interested in movement, not necessarily in dancing myself, but to coordinate the shape. So I do that today in my metal work.

What would people be surprised to know about you? Wow. That’s a tough one [laughs]. You know, I am someone that comes from Rome – from Italy – and had to adjust to a different culture. I mean, the Italian one is not that different from the American one. But I didn’t speak any English when I came to the United States. And I went through such a challenge, such a struggle. You know, [a] long time ago I used to say if someone ever asked me if I’d do that again I would probably say “No.” Today, I would say definitely I would do every single thing [the same way].

Duca is looking forward to “creating a fashion jewelry collection…to be launched sometime at the beginning of the new year. I’m working very hard to get that done. So a different price point, different material, still statement [pieces], but different.” Check out her pieces HERE.

Images via Moses Robinson, Pouya Dianat, Ben Rose/Getty Images

Whew.

Same Chic Different Day is brought to you by the letter “W” today….
#Wow. My life has been a #whirlwind this #week! I feel like I was #whisked away to the #wonderful #world of Oz! Here’s the quick and dirty:

20121214-063246.jpgOn Tuesday I had the privilege of sharing fashion tips with the clinical staff at the Aletheia House (from the root word “truth” or to be “truthful with yourself”), which provides affordable housing, job training and placement, substance abuse treatment, HIV prevention and other services to men, women and children (and veterans). A special thank you to Keisha Kennedy (Director of #Women and #Wellness Services) and Carla Pennington (Outreach Specialist) for hosting me. The Aletheia House is truly a special place offering “a special kind of caring!”

20121214-064734.jpgThe whirlwind picked up speed on #Wednesday; I hit the road before dawn to drive to Atlanta as a guest of the #W Hotel Buckhead as it presented a series of events in partnership with the Council of Fashion Designer of America’s {Fashion Incubator}. The Fashion Incubator helps emerging designers prepare for handling the business side of the fashion industry by providing mentorship, professional education, networking opportunities and creative workspace. The day included a breakfast with design students and featured Fashion Incubator designers Daniel Vosovic, #Whitney Pozgay, Emanuela Duca and the Burkman Bros. Next was a luncheon and fashion presentation, then interviews…and the evening ended with an exclamation point: a fabulous cocktail party in the W’s rooftop bar. And of course I had to squeeze in a little #window-shopping! More on this to come on Monday…but after all this #work, I’m ready for the #weekend!

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