So Street: My journey from streetwear to high fashion and back. Part 2
Viva Las Vegas.
As 1991 came to a close I had started delivering my first Nistka range.
It was mostly t-shirts, hoodies and shorts, I had created some patterns, found a cutting facility and a couple of ladies that would sew the pieces together. Everything was made out of PFD (prepared for Dyeing) cotton, it was first put together and then sent out to dye at a garment dyeing facility in downtown L.A. then some of the tops got a print or an embroidery. It was the first time that my artwork was selling as part of functional and practical items. I learned the difference between art and design.
Not all good art works well as design and vice versa. Back then graphic design was mostly done by hand with exacto knives.
Photoshop, the very first version of it was less than 12 month old and was as rare as a pink elephant. So we cut and paste and sometime bled...and somehow it all ended up on a t shirt.
I had secured my first Japanese distributor, the first seed money had partially come from him, the rest from friends and family. That business kept me going while I was trying to break into the U.S. market. As I mentioned in part 1. Japan was hungry for this new wave of design and clothing inspired by the urban culture of the American Cities, informed by punk music and grunge, the skate culture, Hip-Pop and the graffiti art movement. It was raw and straight forward. Surf would also play a part and would eventually merge into the lexicon of Street wear as would snowboarding. But Streetwear ethos was the streets, more than the coast. It was about a way of being cool without necessarily having the money or the car or the girl.
My take on streetwear was informed now as it was back then by my artwork, and activewear, I found this sort of mash-up as the key to what defined my design. At the beginning it was all very raw, basic and somewhat primal. As far as the graphics were concerned I always gravitated towards the primitive, I felt that too much most often is never as impactful as something that has a rather more stark essence...then as it is now, my style of graphics and design has remained constant, maybe defining a period in my life, but nevertheless a constant watermark of style.
Our goal was to bring our brand of art to the people that really matter to us, not the gallery owners or the collectors or the rich folks living in their gated mansions, but the kids that worked late shifts at Mcdonald's rode back home on their skateboards and played their guitar till 3 in the morning to get up at 6 to go to school.
By then my younger brother Danny who served as my manager/marketing director and I had relocated to a small wearhouse studio on Los Angeles street, in the heart of the garment district, we were now legit!
Those few months were precious, I grew creatively in a way I never had before and put out some of my best work which was almost immediately featured in Streetwear L.A. a glossy magazine that captured the essence of that time.
In case you are wondering I am the one on the right and Danny is wearing some of my gear, it always looked better on him than on me.
February of 1992 I did my First MAGIC show in Las Vegas, it would be one of many to come, about 10 years worth to be exact.
For those of you that don't know MAGIC is the biggest apparel show in the world it takes over a million square feet of space with exhibitors from every corner of the globe and just about every facet of clothing...and of course it's Vegas baby! A week of exhibiting, networking, partying, showing off, drinking, gambling...and the list goes on.
It was for me most often than not a place to do some serious business. The First show was ok; wrote a couple of small orders, met some interesting people, some ended up maybe better than I did in the long run, some worse.
By the second show, we were sitting on well over 100K worth of business and close to a cool million by the time '93 rolled around, that was enough of a score to get VIP passes to some of the best parties in town...needless to say this business of streetwear can be loads of fun.
I remember dancing inside a DC3 parked somewhere in the desert, drinking Absolut Martinis of all colors and flavours (Absolut Vodka threw some of the best parties during the show) surrounded by scantily clad models while drugs and laughter abounded.
These days I meditate, run in the Santa Monica mountains and stay away from everything other than the occasional glass of wine. Longevity is key!
In any event if Japan put me in business, Vegas made me relatively wealthy.
However, I never gave money much thought, looking back, the journey was and is a definite rollercoaster. You are in it because you love it, otherwise it is a very rough ride. After doing about four or five MAGIC shows along with a few more ASR in San Diego, I started getting impatient, looking back I must confess, this constant reinvention and existential crisis I underwent with my work and my career took dostoevskian proportions at times, leading me into the dimmest aspects of my being, and yet somehow it also gave me the strength to forge ahead in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds.
Most people in my place would have been happy following the path of least resistance, after all this is first and foremost commerce. I on the other hand, was really proficient at constructing obstacles along the way...I was constantly sabotaging my own career.
Stay tuned for Part 3 it gets worse, before it gets better and then it gets really bad!