So Street: My journey from streetwear to high fashion and back. Part 6
I am coming towards the end of my one month stay in Thailand. The last few days spent in Pattaya a coastal city renown for sex and bars among other things, have been a crazed excursion into the depths of human debauchery, although mostly from a spectator's point of view. They have nevertheless, informed my way of thinking with a new sense of self discipline I didn't know I possessed. If you want to stay alive in a place like that, knowing what not to do is more important that knowing what to do.
And so picking up where I left off with part five of my story I can say with complete assurance, that the same held true back then, but maybe my sense of self-discipline wasn't nearly as developed, or I was focusing on everything else but the "now". It may sound as a cliche' but unless we take care of what's happening now with complete undivided attention, the future may not turn out as expected or for that matter, it may not turn out at all.
The race against the clock to show my new spring/summer collection at New York fashion week was on!
The problem was that in the midst of the flurry of activity taking place while getting the collection together, came this sudden tornado called "breaking up with your partners" and the whole thing became a category 5 hurricane ready to hit land mass. The issues had intensified to a point than no one spoke to one another, and while this was going on, I was doing my best to keep things moving forward. However since we were all working from the offices and design rooms adjacent to the factory floor, the tension transpired to the cutters and seamstresses, making it hard for me to get much done, my saving grace was and still is my mastery of the Spanish language and the mutual sense of respect I enjoyed with the head seamstress and cutter. (If you ever intend to go into Fashion as a career, I would say that a command of Spanish, Mandarine, or Vietnamese is a must or for that matter, any other language spoken by your production team).
The hurricane hit land mass one morning, Danny my brother and marketing manager for the company, confronted our partners head on with figures in hand claiming they were overcharging for production, skimming off the top and accusing them of undermining our branding efforts with Nistka by refusing to fund the next show.
Frankly as far as refusing the funding of the show, that was the first time I had heard anything about that, and obviously since I was in the midst of development, it dropped on my head like a ton of bricks, if anything, why wasn't I told this before.
A shouting match ensued and within a few moments it had escalated to an all out war over the destiny of the label. Needless to say, this was the end.
Within the span of what was to be a very trying week we had come to a settlement to dissolve the partnership. That left Danny and I with barely one month prior to show time, to secure a new partner, finish the range, and pay the balance of money owed for the show.
We engaged the services of a young attorney friend of ours that was just getting started into the business, to clean up the mess left behind and forage for a new partner and a new home and production facility for Nistka.
If Lady Justice wears a blindfold, Lady Luck should wear prescription glasses; often times, it seems that what looks like a stroke of luck is rather a calamity in disguise.
When pressure mounts and decisions are made in haste with little or nothing in a way of alternatives it is just a matter of time before the disguise comes off and you are staring into the mouth of a fiery dragon.
Having said that, after a nerve wrecking week we found a home and a partner to follow through with Nistka.
As part of the dissolution of the partnership, Nistka was the only brand we had managed to keep, we had to ceed ownership to the other brands for a very small amount of money, that would pay some of our expenses while we regrouped.
The new partner, a large California apparel manufacturer, headed by a husband and wife team, decided to take us on primarily on the strength of the label presence in the press on the heels of the last New York show and the distribution overseas specifically Japan, as well as some key clients we had managed to retain such as Bloomingdales.
The underlying and somewhat more pragmatic reason for taking us on however, became evident to us once the ink on the new contract had dried.
Our new partner was a supplier of apparel for one of the largest US department store and mass merchant. They delivered millions of dollars every month in goods, while our little brand barely broke a million a year in sales, however, it was at the forefront of "edgy, relevant" fashion for that time, and it would serve eventually as a design incubator for our new partners.
Truth be told it was something that we overlooked initially, we were after all tracking our own path forward and in such a dire time, one can afford little discern for anything else other that what's in front of you.
The upside was that we got to pay for the show, keep our New York showroom, have a better equipped development and production facility and got a new staff specifically dedicated to our label. From this new team came Alex my production manager with whom I forged a relationship that lasted many years in spite of all the changes that were to still take place. It was also the time I met my second wife Ilona, I spoke about her briefly in part 5, she would also be instrumental and an integral part to my career development. The facilities at my disposal were without a doubt far superior than the one we had left behind, I now had at my disposal a full on development team and production ensemble, ready to heed at my command, even one of the owners got into the act, she was in charge for the product development for the whole company and pretty hands on...and yes she would turn out to be the fiery dragon.
One of the most personally endearing aspects of developing the new collection, was this group of knit dresses I had designed in iridescent silk yarns, with the colors of my childhood summers: Sicilian orange sunset, Acqua green Mediterranean sea, Marine fog blue greys, coral pinks. they expressed the carefree days spent on the beaches and surrounding isles of Sicily where I grew up, and the dolce vita of the late 60's, summer of love Italian style, sexy and sinuous.
They needed to be knitted as one piece on a loom, and producing them from the apparel centric downtown garment center of los Angeles, was like scoring a movie with a kazoo. I managed to find after some deep searching an old fashion Mexican knitter with a portable loom, proficient enough to work on the pieces.
The only problem was his love affair with Tequila and complete disregard for deadlines. Many a times I would have to fish him out from a downtown bar in the midst of a drinking binge, take him back home, get him in the shower, feed him and set him back in front of the loom, all the meanwhile looking over the very slow process of creating the samples...but at the very frayed edges of fashion, this is how things got done. In the end the results far outstripped the efforts.
Once everything was completed, all the fittings were done and it was time to work on the order of showing, I took a big gulp of chalky air, and exhaled staled angst...
I thought I had a pretty good collection on my hands...ready for show time.
...The city of Pattaya is falling into night, in all of its gloriously chaotic multi-colored light show of neon signs, people, street vendors, bars, massage parlors, strip clubs and restaurants. The effect is at time dizzying, as I negotiate my way amongst it all, I think of how far I am from all I am recounting, and yet how similar it all seems... trying to find a sense of order in the confusion of it all...