Making it in the cut-throat fashion industry as a young designer is nothing if not a constant uphill battle, especially when doing so without big financial backers. Aside from being creatively talented one needs to be business savvy and astute when it comes to capitalizing on opportunities. To that end we spoke with up-and-comer Shavonne DeAnn who has managed to creatively build buzz and awareness via planned stunts (like crashing New York Fashion Week), modern fundraising channels, and strategic outreach.
The Fashion Spot: Given the security around Lincoln Center, did you get into any “trouble” with your guerrilla style fashion show?
Shavonne DeAnn: I had a little bit of trouble, the police stopped me a few times telling me that I couldn’t be on Lincoln Center property and told me to move several times, but I just circled around and came right back. I wasn't leaving until I felt enough people had seen my collection, I guess I'm a rebel.
tFS: Can you tell us about your plan of attack and how it went down? Would you do anything differently in hindsight?
SD: At the time, I was working on a collection and I wanted to show it with little money. My boyfriend and I were tossing ideas back and forth then a light bulb popped up! Why not show during NYFW and just have my own runway show outside of the tents when the big designers are showing, there's a huge fashion community, celebs, buyers, etc. I gathered up some of my model friends and my last $200 to rent a 12 passenger van and we drove up to New York from Pennsylvania. Prior to showing my collection, I had my friends scope the place out to find out where the police were and where everyone was hanging out. They mapped out where I should walk and everything. Then I crashed it! I don't think I would have done anything differently. It was perfect.
tFS: What was the response to the stunt?
SD: The response was amazing. People were calling me Einstein's modern daughter. “This was a genius marketing stunt,” “I love what you’re doing,” and so on and so forth. I also received quite a bit of media attention for it including Vogue Italia.
tFS: What pieces caught Angela Simmons’ eye?
SD: What happened with Angela is I actually reached out to her stylist and she showed Angela my collection She loved it and ordered a two-toned “Aisha” dress from my Spring/Summer 2011 collection.
tFS: As a young designer, what are some of the biggest hurdles when starting out without investors?
SD: Money of course! Being an entrepreneur is not easy, but it's a great challenge and beautiful struggle. You have to think of creative ways to find the money for your business. I have used Kickstarter in the past. I was able to raise the money needed to produce my Spring/Summer 2012 collection. It was very successful. I know one day I will come across an investor who believes in me and my story but if not, I am still determined to make it. Just have to have faith.
tFS: Are there times you think about giving up? If so what gets you to keep going?
SD: Oh yeah, if I said no I'd be lying. I'm human and I have emotions and feelings, sometimes you'll have bad days and some good ones, but overall I know there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Praying, God, family, friends, and supporters keep me going and without those things this would be much harder. Just having someone in my corner and always giving me words of encouragement and (tough) love helps a lot. Also looking at the video of me crashing fashion week keeps me from wanting to quit. I have to look at that as a reminder of what I did and know that through all the tough times I am blessed because I'm doing something I sincerely and truly love.
tFS: What do you think are key things to remember for designers thinking about leaving the security of a day job to start their own brand?
SD: I would say to make sure they have some sort of solid foundation to help build their brand and some sort of financial support. You don't need a lot to start your own business, but you need something along with faith and belief in yourself to know that you can be successful at what you do. Also, always know that business will always be first and fashion second.
tFS: When did you know that fashion design was for you?
SD: I didn't know fashion was for me until my junior or senior year of high school. I started making things for friends and people in my neighborhood and I received great feedback and people began telling me that they could see me as a fashion designer one day. I never had the stories of always wanting to be a fashion designer when I was a little girl or I sewed my first skirt when I was 5, it was none of that. I actually wanted to be a choreographer first!
tFS: Most memorable piece of clothing you've ever bought? Designed?
SD: My most memorable piece of clothing was this grey sweatshirt I bought that was part of the Viktor and Rolf H&M collection a few years ago. It had this big hand beaded heart on the front. It was a really great top and to this day it's nowhere to be found, so sad.
The most memorable piece of clothing I designed was a 1930s-inspired trench coat that I designed as a part of my senior collection. I saw a picture of a man standing in a bread line during the Depression wearing a tweed coat. So I then took a coat and turned it into a dress trench coat that was very hard to make, so I definitely remember that!
tFS: What is one thing you never leave home without?
SD: That's so hard to answer… I'm going to say one thing I can't leave the house with is my cellphone, just because all my emails and contacts are there and if I'm away from my computer, I have my phone with me. It's like a mini computer.