Join our Brand Ambassador, Brandon Rohloff, as he interviews Phoenix Fashion Week Finalist and Founder of the upcoming men's fashion brand - Being Dapper. ((Part 1 of 3))
Note: The interview below has been shortened and paraphrased for easier flow and reading. You can find the full audio at the end of Part 3.
Brandon Rohloff (B.R.): First, congratulations on making it as one of the Top Finalists selected for the PFW. How does it feel to know you were selected from over 300+ designers?
JC Donaldson (JC): A lot! There must be something about me that they thought was special.
B.R.: With 14 designers chasing the title “Designer of the Year”, I've notice you're the only designer truly representing men’s fashion among the finalists this week - do you think that will work for or against your favor?
JC: I think it's definitely going to work for, because I stand out in a totally and completely different way. It's a bold step that I believe will work for me this weekend.
B.R.: After becoming a finalist, you had to go through a 4-month, bi-weekly, boot camp. While going through your boot camp, did you make friends with any of the other designers or was it hard competition the entire way?
JC: No, there's no competition between designers at all. We're all a family, we're all seeking the same goal, we're just trying to grow our brands, and we can learn from each other - we need to come together, it's all about being unified.
B.R.: Was there a lot of that actually happening?
JC: Absolutely, I connected with Rockin Streetwear and I found other people that do 'rockin' stuff. Cody Chris - same thing, he had a tons of different designs and machinery. And anyway I could find with social media that I could possibly plug them in and help them out, I did so. I wasn't expecting anything in return, it was just out of the kindness of my heart.
B.R.: With over 40 models competing for "Model of the Year," less than half are male models-
JC: Yes, 12.
B.R.: There's 12 of them?!
JC: I know the number because I have all 12 models.
B.R.: Haha, that's right - as the only one creating a full line of men's fashion, you would. After working with the models, do you have a model favorite? Or one in particular you hope wins the "Model of the Year" title?
JC: I think they equally all killed it. That's a really hard question, because I saw some of the things they've gone through, all the different challenges, and they're really good! Each and every one, like each one of them killed a challenge. There are certain ones where each one shined. There is no, "Oh this guy!" or "Wow, did you see so-and-so do this shoot? It was amazing." - because they were all good. I'm not saying that none of them out-shined, but it was all pretty equal.
B.R.: Okay, so they went through a boot camp kind of the same as the designers did?
JC: Absolutely. On the other side, they are very competitive with different photo shoots and different mediums of how photo shoots went. Some of them were crazy stunts, like Renaissance, futuristic, and all different types of scenarios. So, while they did their own thing - it was really neat to see and to be a part of.
B.R.: Without giving too much away, what can we expect to see from your designer line on Friday?
JC: You can expect to see an even spread of men's contemporary clothes. Everything from just a very casual look, to more of a "I'm going out," as well as a lot of fall attire because of the season, and definitely hardcore contemporary. So, suits, blazers, and you'll definitely see a tuxedo.
B.R.: That's great! And this is all expanded way beyond what's available on your website right now, correct?
JC: That is correct. I have the suits available now on the website, were you can go in and make orders but I'm still implementing some of the new collection.
B.R.: How long until we see your new collection available on your website?
JC: Q4, you'll definitely see it in Q4. I mean, we're in Q4 and I definitely want to put that up very soon - but I want people to see it first and see what people really think about it first.
B.R.: Is there anything in particular I should keep my eyes open for during your show? I know you had mentioned to me earlier that you had a finishing piece you were kinda giving me info about before.
JC: My 'finale' piece.
B.R.: Your 'finale' piece! That's the one we gotta keep our eye out for - it's gonna be high end, little gloss going on?
JC: I think a lot of people are going to be very surprised. I'm very, very proud of it.
B.R.: And you just got the final materials for it today, right? A day before the fashion show.
JC.: Yeah, I just got it here and finished today. So, just in the nick of time, haha.
B.R.: Haha, down the button.
JC: To the hairline!
B.R.: I think one of the other male designers had mentioned that he shows on Saturday and he's still working down to the line on Saturday before he shows.
JC.: Oh yeah, Orlando Dugi is a couture designer and a lot of his work is done by hand. So, it's no joke - a lot of man hours. Couture designers have super attention detail, so I get it.
B.R.: That makes sense, as an up-and-coming designer that's showing his work before other, already established, high-end designers - you really want to make sure you shine.
B.R.: I saw that you recent gave an interview to FabulousArizona.com and you gave advice for upcoming fashion designers, do you have any advice for anyone currently blogging and looking to make the change to designer?
JC.: Definitely do your research, know your market, don't give up, learn systems - systems are super important and that was my biggest take back from Phoenix Fashion Week. Having those systems in place is critical and I'm still building them out as we speak, and also having a really strong relationship with your manufacturer. That way, you can actually procure your design - if you don't have that, you don't have anything.
B.R.: Right, you just have your dreams and your ideas and a look.
JC: Get samples, use social media, do whatever you can to present your own mini-runways for the general public - that doesn't cost you anything.
JC: I have done a few and people reacted to it pretty well.
B.R.: Do you still blog?
JC: I do, I still blog. Being Dapper is a lifestyle and sometimes you'll see me putting certain watches with certain suits - because the difference between Being Dapper and a lot of other contemporary designers is we don't just put you in a look, we show you how to wear it, we educate you on how to wear it. A lot of guys will just buy the clothes but they don't know how to style it, and that's where Being Dapper shines.
JC: I was just outside, right before this interview, speaking with an Influencer for the brand and I was styling him. He was showing me some of the shoes he had and I was like, "Oh no, you wanna go with the round derby style, classic style, classic cut shoe - that way you can have style for years to come."
B.R.: That way you can actually pull off the full quality of the look and everything.
JC: That's right, so we definitely still blog and that's because that's what this brand was built upon. And we're actually going back to YouTube - we're coming back.
B.R.: Back to YouTube?! I don't want to say much, but I pulled it up and I only saw a couple videos from a few years ago.
JC: Haha, yeah that's when we were just starting out 5 years ago. I didn't even really know what I was doing! But we're going to have really good focus this time with YouTube, planning what we're going to say, and having really interactive videos. I've been watching a lot of videos from men's fashion blogs - they're pretty good, but it's just not raw enough and I want to take it to that raw reality level. Subject matter experts, not just me, not just the guy who makes the clothes-
B.R.: But the people that wear it?
JC: I'm talking about everybody, from how to clean up your home to what type of cologne you should wear, how many sprays you should wear, how to clean your iron - these are the things that are missing.
B.R.: Alright, so you want to fine tune the class of 'Being Dapper'?
JC: Sure, and then they're like, "Oh! You're the guy that sells clothes, too." You see? It's making the connections with people - I feel that relationships are very important in this business.