Friday, January 22, 2010

Interview: Chay$ the Great @ MoMA

Today, I caught up with Chay$ the Great at the Museum of Modern Art.  I got to sit her down and ask her about all of the interesting things that she's doing on her path through the world of fashion design.  I got some great responses, some really good photos (more on that after the interview) and took in some phenomenal art work.  The Tim Burton exhibit is super dope so if you haven't seen it yet, definitely try to allot some time to go see it.  You won't be disappointed.  Without further ado....


RF: First of all, thank you for allowing me the time to sit and talk with you.  I know you have a lot going on.  The moment I met you I knew there was something very interesting about you.  So, I thought to myself, "I have to lock this girl down for an interview."  I'm just going to ask you some questions about what you're doing, what you're planning for the future and where you're going with Chay$ the Great designs.

RF: Tell me a little bit about yourself.  Where are you from?  What's your educational background?  What are your general professional and non-professional interests.

C$: Well, my name is Chay.  I'm originally from the suburbs of Washington D.C and Maryland.  I grew up in a fairly creative household.  My mother, she did hair and used to make a lot of our clothes growing up because we didn't have a lot of money.  So, instead of buying designer stuff, my Mom would say, "It's really easy.  I'll just go get a pattern and make the same thing in any pattern, color or fabric that you want." I spent a lot of time in fabric stores as a kid.  Also, my Grandmother was a huge "thrifter".  She was really good with her money.  People would think that she spent a whole lot of money on her clothes, but she didn't.  She was just really good at "thrifting" and finding really amazing items.  That was a big part of my childhood.

RF: After that?

C$: I decided to go to school.  I was going to major in e-commerce and web design.  I ended up changing my major to fashion merchandising because that was my thing.  I grew up with it in my house.  I started designing when I was in high school.  My friends and I had our own clothing line.  It was basically us just deconstructing  things that we already had.  It was a way for us to express our individuality.  Growing up in the suburbs everyone pretty much looks the same.  Everyone shops at the (same) mall.  All the houses look the same.  We were trying to assert our individuality through our look.  That's where I got started.  Then I went to Philadelphia University.  I majored in Fashion Merchandising and Marketing.  (After finishing there) I moved to New York and I worked in the corporate side of the fashion industry for a (while).  It was a good experience.  It allowed me to see exactly what I wanted to do in this industry (as well as) what I didn't want to do.  I didn't last longer than 6 months! (Laughs) I was working for Macy's and I was like, "Oh, my God!  I'm working in a little cubicle.  This just isn't me."  I tried so hard to get fired.  I used to do the craziest shit with my hair and wear crazy shit to work.  At that time they were all about diversity so they would not fire me.  They didn't want to get sued. (Laughs)

RF: So how did you get out?

C$: I ended up quitting.  I started designing and I've been doing freelance styling ever since.  I had a stint with H&M where I was doing visual merchandising and windows, which also plays into the installations that I do as art.  I have a clothing line where I specialize in custom designs.  I'll (make) a couple different styles and allow my customers to have those styles in a fabric and color of their choice.  Once again, it's all about individuality.  There's so much out there that's mass produced.  I do a lot of 1 offs and limited runs of things.  For me right now, (since) I don't have any investors or anything, everything comes out of my pocket.   (Doing it that way) is easier for me and it's something that I (truly) believe in.

RF: What about your styling work?

C$: Yeah, I work on commercials, TV and movies.  I've been working on commercials more because it allows more freedom and (pays) better money. (Laughs)  I'm hoping that this recession ends soon so I can get more commercial work.  Sometimes I'll have 2 months in between jobs....

RF: Then it's what to do next, right?

C$: Yep.

RF: We met through a mutual friend.  She said that your worked with her on a project in Japan.  What was that project and how did it come about?

C$: I was introduced to Daisha through twitter, actually. (Laughs) So random!  I was telling everyone that I know that I was going to Japan.  I asked that if anyone knew someone there to let me know because I wanted to meet people there and see how people were living (there) and make as many contacts as I possibly could.  My friend, Tasty Quiche, who lives in New York said, "Oh, you have to meet Daisha!  She's dope!"  So we were introduced that way.  When I got (to Japan), we ended up hanging out and we just got along so well.  She was working on the first annual Japan Music Week.  That was great because I got be V.I.P. just hanging out with Daisha.  She was doing a showcase event and asked me if I'd style her.  I said, "Of course I'll style you!  I'll even make you something."  I took a corset that she already had and funked it up and I made her a skirt to go with it.  Then she asked me if I wanted to vend at her event.  She said she really loved my stuff and she thought it would be a great opportunity for me.  I happened to have brought some of my clothes with me because there were some pieces that I had been trying to sell in the US that people didn't get, I guess.  So I took a couple of bags of clothes to see if I could sell them.  Just to see what would happen.  On that one night, I sold about half of what I had.  It was a real eye-opener for me.

RF: Any plans to go back to Japan?

C$: Yeah, I'm actually trying to go back in March for fashion week.  I want to assess the situation there and see if I would like to show there in the future.  It's interesting though; a lot of Japanese people that I know don't really mess with fashion week.  I guess it's the same as here in NY.  People don't really bother with NY fashion week unless they are in the industry.

RF: It's so funny.  Japanese fashion trends have become so popular here but their whole fashion aesthetic is based on the fact that they don't really have one.  It's just, "I like this. I like this. I like this." and they put them all together.

RF: What does fashion mean to you?

C$: Fashion is such a broad term.  People (generally) think it just applies to clothes but it applies to everything.  It applies to interior design, cars; I think it's anything that we consume.  I always here the argument about fashion versus style and vice versa.  I think it's ludicrous.  There's so much overlapping.  You may have your own style but you were things that are in trend or fashionable, as some say.  I do it.  I wear stuff that I make, I wear vintage stuff that's "out there" and I usually wear shoes that are in trend.  Everybody mixes, matches and melds to (create) their own style.

RF: How would you define NY fashion?

C$:  In general, it's really difficult to determine different regions' styles because of the internet.  For example, I'll got to Maryland and I'll see kids pulling off styles from Japan or New York or Paris or London.  Every place has its own idiosyncratic differences but, for the most part, everyone is starting to be on the same wavelength trend and fashion wise.  On the whole, I think New York fashion could be more edgy.  I think people have gotten too caught up with labels and trends and being consumers.  I would love it if more people pushed the envelope.

RF: What was the first article of clothing that you ever designed?

C$: I believe it was in high school.  I made a shirt out of a cut up t-shirt and safety pins.  It was really dope.  Back then everybody was into that shit.  Well, not everybody but a lot of people were into the punk aesthetic back then.  I should do some of that again, actually.

RF: How long does it usually take you to construct a piece?

C$: It depends on the piece.  If it's a more complicated piece, it could take a week.  If it's less complicated I can do it in a day.

RF: Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a piece of clothing.

C$: The general process? (Laughs) I'm still refining that process.  I'm trying to be more disciplined and actually sketch it first and conceptualize it, fabric swatching, pattern making and then making the garment.  Before, I was just doing it for fun; just for me.  Now I'm doing it for customers.  I have to go through it in the proper manner so there are no fit issues, etc.

RF: Who are some of your favorite designers?

C$: Alexander McQueen is definitely on top of the list.  His shoe game this season is just...(crazy)!  I'm like, "Who do you think you are?" (Laughs) He's amazing.  I also like Comme de Garcons.

RF: How do you select your fabrics and materials and what are your favorites?

C$: You know, it depends on what I'm going to make.  Often times I just wander around the garment district and if I see some cool shit I'll just pick it up.  Even if I don't have anything to make at the time.  I might have it for months and then all of a sudden I'll remember that I have it and I can make what I conceptualized out of the fabric.  I really want to start using more non-traditional fabrics.  I've mainly been using Lycra because I've been making a lot of leggings.  I want to try using plastics and even metal.

RF: What matters to you most as a designer?

C$: What matter to me most is that I like it.  Then, that someone else likes it.  If I like it and someone else likes it then someone will buy it.  Also, that I make the best product I can make.  The best quality and the best design.

RF: How do you define your personal style?

C$: I describe myself as electric and eclectic.  A friend of mine added afronaut and afterfuture.

RF: Afronaut is dope as shit!  You have to make that a t-shirt and I will be first on line for 10 prints.

No comments: