In 1968, the year that Ralph Lifshitz founded “Polo Fashions”, many of the heavy hitters in fashion were already established. 

Hermès, 1837 France - 131 years before Polo

Louis Vuitton, 1854 France - 114 years before Polo

Burberry, 1856 UK - 112 years before Polo

Levi Strauss & Co, 1873 US - 95 years before Polo

Ermenegildo Zegna, 1910 Italy - 58 years before Polo

Gucci, Italy 1921 - 47 years before Polo

Lacoste, 1933 France - 35 years before Polo

Coach, 1941 US - 27 years before Polo

I could have mentioned many more popular and successful brands but, I wanted to use only brands that were making clothing in the markets that Ralph was entering (i.e. mens ready to were, leather goods, suits, polo/tennis shirts and jeans). All of these product categories already had “gatekeepers”. The tie company he worked for did not want to let him design his wide ties. He later quit that company to start his own. When Lauren started he soon thought about quitting. People who didn’t believe in his vision began to copy it. We don’t even know him for the wide ties he so painstakingly started out with. Originally, American upscale department store Bloomingdale’s did not even want to carry these ties with the name Polo on them.

Ralph Lauren didn’t make excuses like Kanye West. Ralph was not apart of “the club”. He did not graduate from Parsons New York. He did not come from Italian, French, or English fashion royalty. American designers were not respected in Europe as they are now. No American designers like Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton (1997-2013) or Tom Ford for Gucci and YSL (1994-2004) could ever be a head designer at said billion dollar international brands when Ralph was starting, his own. He didn’t grow up sewing with his mom or grandmother. He was not a fashion prodigy. Somehow he managed to achieve his dreams and success in an always cutthroat industry. Sure he managed to get a loan for $50,000, in 1968 that would be equivalent to $343,730.09 in 2014 dollars, but what is that to someone who is worth over $100 million with many international contacts and fans in the internet age? Think about that for a second. Ralph had no email, Facebook, twitter, or instagram when he started!

Kanye has had a successful career in music.True, if you are a heavy hitter in one industry it will not always translate to another. It still makes me consider American designer Vera Wang. How’d she do it? She was a figure skater who competed at the 1968 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. She did not make the Olympics team and decided to enter fashion. She became a senior fashion editor at Vogue in 1970. Im sure they weren’t handing out those positions for free. She also did not study fashion (she had a degree in art history from Sarah Lawrence College).  She left the magazine after being turned down for the editor-in-chief position and joined, of all companies, Ralph Lauren as a design director for 2 years. She later went on to design wedding dresses for many popular celebrities. She did not wait to be accepted by the Chanels and the Pradas of the world.

But it aint Ralph though!!” This was the second line made famous after West threw a temper tantrum on the “Sway in the Morning” radio show (the first being “you aint got the answers Sway!”). The line was in reference to Sway saying that Kanye could start his own line. Sway later makes mention of previously starting a clothing line and Kanye replies with the now famous “It aint Ralph though!” line. Kanye is suggesting that “sure you started a clothing company but it is not of the caliber of Ralph Lauren. His theme is that the “gatekeepers” , such as the heads of Kerring (company that owns Gucci) and LVMH (company that owns Louis Vuitton) won’t “let” a black person succeed in the upper echelons of fashion. I, as a black designer, feel this is ludicrous! For the record, none of the people he claims to be (Walt disney, Steve Jobs, etc) waited on anyone to back them or let them in.

Could you imagine the hypothetical bigot gatekeepers of media, film, music, sports, and real estate sitting at the round table being scolding by the heads of their fashion counterpart? “You guys let in Oprah, Ice Cube, Tyler Perry, Spike Lee, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Donahue Peebles! High fashion is the last pure frontier! There is no way that we are letting black people take this from us!!” What a laugh right? OK. So I do know that some of it is true. There are problems of diversity among some leading fashion houses to use black models to showcase their clothes at the leading runway shows. I am totally for what supermodels Iman and Naomi Campbell are fighting for with there Balance Diversity initiative (really worth checking out). I do respect that. They are giving cold facts but what Kanye is talking about is something different. He wants the ultimate level of brand recognition without working for it, like those designers before and after him. He wants a co-sign by those houses saying he is a fashion genius. He is worthy of running their brands and being a head designer. If he feels this way he should just make his own brand. Personally if I headed LVMH I would not want to chance someone with a big ego with something I carefully built before he was born to then, in the best case scenario, maybe make a fad hit and then rap/brag about how great he is for it! It is distasteful and I feel that that is exactly what he would do. Do you think he could be humble and gracious about it? 

You know what? If the fashion industry is truly as racist in the manner that Kanye is arguing then great! Instead of Kanye whining he could put his head down, work hard, and become the Jackie Robinson of Pitti Uomo and New York Fashion Week! Why does he need someone to “let him in?” Earn your spot to be there. He has money and influence among many power brokers that did it their way (Diddy, Jay-Z, Russell Simmons etc) and many fans willing to buy whatever he produces. It all goes back to ego. Its like the once beloved and now undone story of the race horse California Crome to win the Triple Crown. When they got this amazing race horse for the cheap and won 2 out of 3 races they were feeling themselves. As soon as they lost the 3rd race everyone was a cheater and out to get them. 

What perplexes me the most is that Kanye West has had a successful career in the music industry, making music talking about breaking the ceiling or bypassing the gatekeepers! Remember this song? Now who’s the pessimist? If he was some lazy person only wishing and dreaming that he could make hit records and then win a CFDA award then I wouldn’t care. But since he is so well accomplished in the music industry it kind of gives pessimistic people fuel to say “well if Kanye West couldn’t gain success as a black man in high fashion then none can. 

Tom Ford entered the industry with a degree from Parsons yes, but not a degree in fashion design. Thom Browne, John Varvatos, Paul Smith and Giorgio Armani all had similar routes. They got a job at a fashion retailer and worked their way up while learning before starting their own brand. An aspiring actor, education major, a wannabe tour de france cyclist, and med major. No design degrees. No excuses then right? “But they are not black!” I hear Kanye shout. I know. I just wanted to dispel the belief that a few have about needing a degree in fashion to make it in fashion;) back to black success in fashion. 

How do we explain Ozwald Boateng? He is the youngest black guy on Savile Row? Would anyone doubt his success in fashion and the ceiling of British tailoring? Don’t let me forget to mention he was the Creative Director at Givenchy (2004-2007) an LVMH brand, some of the same people Kanye are saying won’t “let him in”. What about the designers behind Public School? 2 designers, one asian and one black. Both winners of multiple CFDA awards. Same thing with Carly Cushnie of Cushnie Et Ochs. If Kanye is right then great. That means there is space for someone to be the first. 

Could you imagine The current President saying they won’t let a black man in the presidency? President Obama’s career is way more unrealistic and harder than high fashion if you ask me. What about Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson in basketball and business? How about Tiger Woods in golf? But at the end of the day I guess, it aint Ralph though. and he’s right.

There was someone before Ralph Lauren and there will be someone after.

Plan your work…

"What’s your plan? What are you gonna do when you get there? I don’t know" I thought while trying to hold myself accountable. It was late December and I was planning on going to New York to visit some tradeshows and go to a fashion biz workshop. I was just in New York in November. I visited a few boutiques that the industry favored and was feeling like "yes, I should do this. I should make my mens line, expanding it past the buzz method of making a popular t shirt design into the full fledge traditional wholesale business model with a new line each season. But how? Why now? 

   I came from the school of Johnny Cupcakes and Linty Fresh. Clothing companies like these believed in a more exclusive business model of not selling trade shows and wholesale but building a relationship directly with the consumer and maintaining absolute control over the perception of the brand by not accepting if at all few wholesale orders. This works great to build a cult following if you can build the buzz and keep up with the traction. If you see the Johnny Cupcakes story you’ll see that exactly what he managed to do, answering to no one and controlling distribution. This is one good way to run a clothing line but not the only successful. The traditional method of selling wholesale to boutiques can also be a viable one. I forgot this by thinking the way of the future was to solely sell directly to your customer. The flaw in this is that you may not have the popularity or exposure required to generate sales for your product. When you consider 1000 true fans you can build them one by one yourself or in our case using the avenue of retailers. Though you may not enjoy 100% of the profit as you would selling directly to one customer you would enjoy the notoriety and exposure that would garner more attention that would usually transform into more sales than selling one at a time yourself. Don’t get me wrong. I love what Johnny Cupcakes and others have been able to do almost by themselves but to be frank I have not yet built that following and I DO NOT plan on folding my cards. That is why I have chosen to adapt a hybrid wholesale method.

   It can be frustrating to finally start building something from scratch that friends and family told you they’d support you 200% with to then find out that they were not really behind you with. “Im going to buy like, everything you make twice!” and then the same person always has a “bill due” or “couldn’t you have made it in this color” or my favorite, “You know Im going to promote this for you so let me get it for free.” Ive gone through all of this and by the grace of God have managed through my day job and other blessing and encouragement to stay afloat. This is just a bit of the sour part of building a biz. Now I do know that there are many good willed people who do mean to support you but your product/services and their finances don’t align right now. Those people I still love and so should you. However love doesn’t pay the bills or make way to produce a better product. How will I build a business without losing love? I have to do some wholesale. I heard it said “its better to have half of something than all of nothing” or something like that. Its true. The same people who may not be ready to buy from you now will only walk into a clothing (or whatever type product) store when they are ready to buy. This makes wholesale a viable method. The people your product gets in front of are truly potential customers. The retailer or store buyer is not going to order something from you that they don’t think is a product that will sell. They won’t try to appease you like the do good friends and family. Anything thy order from you they have to believe they can sell. This is good because over time you learn what kind of things really sell and are not blinded by just your art. Now of course there will be times when the retailer is wrong on not picking up something from you that can be a hit but thats at least for me is part of the hybrid method. You can hold that bit back and try to sell it your self. After breaking even selling to the stores. Now instead of you being your only salesperson you have people who have to keep a store running. They will hopefully be your biggest promoter. When someone enters the store they’ll ask “Have you heard about this new fresh…? You have to buy some!”

   Of course, this is me thinking hypothetically. I plan to do this this year with Mikhail McLean. Late November of last year(2013) I was getting ready to go back to Florida. A cousin of mine told me that I should come back in January and check out the trade shows. I almost dismissed it thinking “Im here right now. How can I go back to Florida to turn around and come back to NY again. Thes tickets aren’t the price of flying on the Concorde but they’re not exactly paying just to ride the subway either. I thought about it some more. All the usual mantras of a risk taking, you-only-live-once, entrepreneur came to my mind. If you don’t do it now you may never do it. If it scares you then you should try it. If your dreams don’t scare you then they’re not big enough. I also concluded that since I plan on moving out and finding uncertain employment there might not be an opportunity in the near future for me to visit a tradeshow. I believe in learning to lay brick from the bricklayers. Im going to New York. Again. Decision made whilst still in New York.

I may have forgotten to mention that even though I kinda like New York, have many good friends and family there, and was even born in a snow storm early Januar of 1988 at Albert Einstein Hospital BX NY I am NOT a fan of cold weather! Hence my affinity to Miami and the beach. The last time I came to New York in the winter was the record breaking snow storm in 2011. I got sick Really sick. Im a plant based diet dude that prides himself on his healthiness so this was not fun. I verbally vowed to everyone I knew in NY and Fl that I would never come back to NY during the winter accept for 2 occassions. I rich (and could therefore afford the warmest travel and stay accmodations with shuffled pavement and heated sidewalks in Manhattan;) or a funeral. Never say never. Fortunately I heard about Carol Davis’ Sportwear before she closed and was able to order the ultimate thermal underwear. Through and through New Yorkers were looking like tourists beside me in the difference in their bundling up to my dress. Bless her. She had to close the company down due to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Ok. So Im physically ready to go to NY but back to the opening. Whats my game plan? Mark Twain said it best. “I have never have let my schooling interfere with my education.” Im going to NY to learn. I can get into these trade shows and learn from the mouth of people who are doing exactly what I want to do! I have to make this worth my money. I can’t go there, tap a wealth of knowledge, only to forget it or not document it all. Im buying a voice recorder. You’d be surprised what you catch when you play back an interview you’ve recorded or what you write down. Treat this with some legitimacy! I signed up to a practical fashion biz workshop. I am glad to say I have learned so much and will be applying what I learned. In my next post I will  upload the first interview I conducted. I hope you will learn a lot as I have. 

(Source: mikhl.com)

”_____” years a SLAVE.

 The morning dawn was just breaking. Most of you were still sleeping. I was running late for work, driving an old Corolla like a 911 Porsche Turbo. For the rest of you who were on the road forgive me if I cut you off. I was speeding to the refined sounds of NPR on the radio. A story came over the air that slapped me with irony. It was the first time I heard about this movie coming out in October called “12 Years a Slave”. I was intrigued. I turned it up and listened intently while still whipping the wheel and being generous on the gas pedal like a precision performance driver.

The narrator detailed the true life story of Solomon Northup, a refined free black man, in the 1840s, who was an accomplished violin player with a family living free among his fellow white contemporaries in New York. Some white showmen convinced him to come with them to Washington D.C. to perform at their shows. At a dinner celebrating theirs and Solomon’s future success the men drugged him. He later wakes up in in chains kidnapped and then sold into slavery in Georgia. For the next 12 years he fights while trying to keep his dignity, his identity, the hope of one day seeing his family again.

Imagine, being free and doing what you actually love and then waking up a “thing” belonging to another. Disposable, Dispensable. Someones personal property. Property they didnt care about, like say their pet, but instead a commodity, easily replaceable like something you could get for cheap at Wal-Mart. After that remind yourself that you’re human, though they’ll whip and abuse you into believing that you’re not. 

I do think of this past of mines from time to time. It will always be apart of me. I don’t hold it against my white friends, coworkers, and daily acquaintances. After all none of them were there… This topic has so many nuances that I cant even begin to pull back the layers of that bitter onion. I’ll leave it be for now.

What I will touch on though is that bruise that was left by irony I mentioned earlier. Im a free man, speeding to a job I do not want to do for the rest of my life (thats saying it kindly, trust me). I do appreciate that I can pay my bills and save towards the future I in-vision for myself (thank God! ) but still… I guess sometimes you have to do things that will teach you what you dont want to do for the rest of your life. Many of of the slaves around Solomon wanted him to keep his head down and survive. “I dont want to survive! I want to live”! That line is exactly how I feel. Many people you know or work with will try to coax you into conforming with the status quo. “Just be lucky you have a “good” safe job with ben-i-fits” some say. I truly hate that word, benefits. Ughh. Others will tell you that your dreams are not worth chasing or that you should become a doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer, or (insert whatever other supposedly secure and prestigious career here) first then maybe worry about your dreams later. A higher level but the same conformity. If any of the careers mentioned is your genuine dream (not your parent, friend’s, or spouses) then Im not talking to you concerning that. I dont want to survive! I dont want to be comfortable! I want to be alive and that only comes through exercising freedom. I rather be free eating PBJ and sipping tap water than enslaved and dinning on the finest 5 star delicacies! I will die when I die and no time before that. I always tell people, you will not starve to death in America. We seem to exercise the attitude that if we fail at being free we will starve. No! Your pride might take a beating but so what. You dont need anyone elses validation for living “your” life. Do right by God only. Are you being all that you were made to be? Are you being “beyoutoful”? I hope so. If not then start today. How many year will you choose to be a slave?

I was relieved that I did not get pulled over driving like that. I grabbed my work ID, ran through my burning rubber tire fumes into work, and clocked in late. 3 minutes late. Below is the trailer for the film “12 Years a Slave”.

FIRST TIME EXPLORING WHATS BEYOUTOFUL?

 Below I have compiled my blogposts that encompass my core thoughts on whats “beyoutoful”. Please take time to catch up and meet minds with me.  This is tumblr and I know I got carried away posting a lot of pics from my instagram. I didnt want you to have to search for the cream 

 This was my first post. Very Short and sweet with an accompanying song that sums up my process. the diplomatically incorrect diplomat

Dont Let me be misunderstood

This post is a video of me talking about the brand.

three questions, three answers - Mikhail McLean

below is another video I did for SlatenStylus

If I had a Clean Slate…

 beyoutoful… miami (a few post that touch on miami’s inspiration and “be-you-ty” in general)

Back at One

"Beyoutoful" is to Mikhail Mclean what "Just Do It" is to Nike

Miami, the beyoutoful 1

What is beyoutoful?

Made in Miami

As seen on TV!

Full Circle

what is true Beauty to you?

Miami the beyoutoful: mini vacays

A beyoutoful memorial… (recap)

Below are a few posts on design process and world class rants;)

So… Im dying! What gives?

Ladders! Ladders! What about the wings?

Wings, Ladders, and Money

no distractions

Its Professa’ Mario! Who says videogames dont make you smarter;)

Th-in.k

In the Garden of your mind… pt1

In the Garden of your mind… pt2 The blossoms

"Move" what you "Make"

07/10/12 Rant n Dream;)

A few posts on beyoutoful in my daily life

Growth through dance

A few of my Favorite thing

Another of my favorite things.

Just Keep Swimming

Will Smith’s Keys to Life

Running (Enduring)

The Push

Im long overdue for some new post I know. I will be more consistent starting this weekend. Stay tuned!

Ya boy @0ldsoulchild “got milk” ha ha. No place is safe #barbershop #barber #freshcut #haircut

Ya boy @0ldsoulchild “got milk” ha ha. No place is safe #barbershop #barber #freshcut #haircut

That man @legend5000 is a trip!! #growapair and #beyoutoful #miamifashion #tshirts store.mikhailmclean.com #streetwear #styleblogger

That man @legend5000 is a trip!! #growapair and #beyoutoful #miamifashion #tshirts store.mikhailmclean.com #streetwear #styleblogger

Oreos and those that live them! Thanks for the love boo @sadechristine88 #growapair and #beyoutoful #miamifashion #tshirts store.mikhailmclean.com #streetwear #styleblogger

Oreos and those that live them! Thanks for the love boo @sadechristine88 #growapair and #beyoutoful #miamifashion #tshirts store.mikhailmclean.com #streetwear #styleblogger

Long day it twas #elmini #woodtavern @ladytenor still haven’t loaded the real shots but there on the computer now #growapair and #beyoutoful #miamifashion #tshirts store.mikhailmclean.com #streetwear #styleblogger

Long day it twas #elmini #woodtavern @ladytenor still haven’t loaded the real shots but there on the computer now #growapair and #beyoutoful #miamifashion #tshirts store.mikhailmclean.com #streetwear #styleblogger

We were #praying that he wouldn’t fall. #growapair and #beyoutoful #miamifashion #tshirts store.mikhailmclean.com #streetwear #styleblogger #pfchangs

#pfchangs #miami #growapair and #beyoutoful #miamifashion #tshirts store.mikhailmclean.com

#pfchangs #miami #growapair and #beyoutoful #miamifashion #tshirts store.mikhailmclean.com