Philadelphia, PA: October 19th through the 22nd marked the first annual Forbes Under 30 Summit. The Summit gathered young, influential individuals from technology, finance, law, medicine, culinary arts, social entrepreneurship, and fashion. In an exclusive backstage interview with SJ Chronicle’s editor-in-chief Semant Jain, the show’s creative director and designers shared their vision leading up to the fashion show. We also caught up with other fashion notables invited by Forbes.
JOSEPH DEACETIS: FORBES’S CREATIVE DIRECTOR
With twenty-five years in the fashion industry, from working at Vogue Paris, Esquire Magazine, Playboy and now Forbes, Joseph DeAcetis, Style Director for Forbes Media, directed this year’s fashion show. DeAcetis explained how the evolving business of fashion impacts the use of technology, “We all felt at Forbes that fashion plays a vital role in the 30 under 30: revolutionizing style and using revolutionary fabrics.”
With retailers creating mobile apps, social media promoting sales, QR codes linked to mobile magazines, and wearable technology like 3-D prints and the Apple Watch, technology is empowering fashion. DeAcetis stated, “Technology has infiltrated the world of apparel. Fashion’s exciting! So who doesn’t want a fashion show here at a technical event?”
Changes in Fashion: Technology and Comfort
Over the years we have seen fashion go from conservative to free-spirited and formal to casual. With our busy lifestyles, fashion has changed; it has taken a turn to comfort while still being modern and trendy. To create comfort in clothing, designers are using fabrics with more elasticity and flexibility. DeAcetis said, “You have more stretch and more comfort. Now, when you can jump off a plane, the resiliency of the fabric picks right back up and you’re not a big wrinkled mess.”
The Three Featured Designers
Three fashion designers were chosen to show their collections at the Summit:
- Stephen Mikhail, a twenty-five year old Hollywood designer
- Chanwong Kang, a South Korean men’s wear designer, and
- Dom Streater, Project Runway’s Season 12 winner
DeAcetis explained, “Even though this was a global search, out of the fifty designers that we considered, each one of the three chosen had a specialty: Stephen’s style has the modern feel geared toward celebrity and Hollywood. Chan was chosen because I truly feel that he will be one of the most prominent men’s wear designers in the near future. It’s his use of luxury Italian fabrics, and he has a gothic style. Dom Streater was chosen as she works with prints.”
“I think these three individuals are going to showcase something interesting and captivating for this audience.”- Joseph DeAcetis
The Judges: Rapper and Model
Alongside the designers, rapper Wiz Khalifa and model Petra Nemcova provided commentary during the runway shows. Both have worked with DeAcetis, “Petra’s an inspiration: she has a great charity [Happy Hearts Fund] and is one of the biggest models in the industry. Wiz certainly has a style aesthetic.”
Goal for Forbes
DeAcetis’s stated his goal for “these visionary young designers is to capture this [diverse] audience of venture capitalists, tech entrepreneurs, and international press because there’s a thirst for new fashion out there and it’s different.”
STEPHEN MIKHAIL: 25 YEAR OLD, HOLLYWOOD DESIGNER
Getting Started: Diane von Furstenberg and Alexander McQueen
While Stephen Mikhail debuted his first collection during his stint at Parsons, interning with Diane von Furstenberg and Alexander McQueen really lay the foundation of his career. “Working at Diane von Furstenberg was one of the best experiences in my entire life. It’s also what made me realize I wanted to start my own label,” Mikhail observed. To him, von Furstenberg is jet set and easy to wear, while McQueen is edgy and conceptual. Combining those two style aesthetics with his own, he said, “I can mesh this crazy, insane artistry with this easy to wear, take it out of your suitcase and throw it on [style].”
Classic style with a contemporary twist
An important aspect in Mikhail’s designs is the way the clothes will transition for years to come. Mikhail added, “Everything will read classic. You’re never going to look back at a picture and say that was super trendy, but it never looks dated either.”
Mikhail finds inspiration in people’s energies and how they will all mesh and transcribe into one collection: “I’ve worked with clients with personalities ranging from huge to meek: There are so many people that can find themselves in my collections. It’s all about styling and the way you carry yourself.” For this particular collection, Mikhail’s initial inspiration stemmed from a black and white French film, Qui êtes-vous Polly Maggoo, but spun off into various directions.
This collection combined classic black and white with modern and edgy metallic statement skirts and jackets. A memorable flowing white a-line skirt matched with a button-up blouse, black scarf, and an ageless black blazer – a combination that would look perfect on the streets of Paris. A timeless black and white wrap dress looked comfortable and chic. The metallic pieces in silver and gold added spunk to the traditional flowing skirts, shorts, and tuxedo jacket.
Forbes and the Future
Being chosen for the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit has been such a proud moment for Stephen Mikhail. “That basically validates my presence in the industry for the rest of my life. It really is a life changing moment,” Mikhail stated.
“I’m so amazingly overwhelmed right now. I really plan on making the most of this.”- Stephen Mikhail
As for future plans, Mikhail remarked, “I’d love to do a diffusion line, to collaborate with Target or Walmart, and to open a hotel or restaurant. I want to build a lifestyle brand where loyal clients can enjoy every aspect of my vision.”
CHANWONG KANG: SOUTH KOREAN MEN’S WEAR DESIGNER
Twenty nine year old designer Chanwong Kang comes from a talented South Korean family which has already made a mark in the fashion industry back home. All the same, his love of Italian style and residency in New York is what further shaped him into a designer. Kang said, “Most people think the Italian tailored stuff is very classy but I just want to modernize it like the New York style.”
“Fashion is like air to me. And I can’t live without air.”- Chanwong Kang
Un Uomo in Gotica- A Gothic Man
Kang’s Gothic style men’s wear collection displayed traditional qualities with contemporary fabrics. It featured conventional styled clothing with trousers, a blazer, and vest, but modernized it with a pair of drop-crotch pants and diverse material.
Kang created a mysterious and antique collection for this show. He commented, “I saw a gothic church in the most pivotal fashion city: Milan, Italy. I was inspired by that Italian city’s atmosphere, the Italian people, and the Italian fabrics.”
“My collection is very structured and very tailored.”- Chanwong Kang
The Man Behind the Clothes
Kang’s combination of classic silhouettes is timeless and ideal for any man to wear. He remarked, “I don’t want men’s clothing to be too stylish. Most men can be stylish, but most men don’t care for it.”
“Some people say, ‘Oh, that’s cool, but I cannot wear it because it’s just too fashionable.'”- Chanwong Kang
Kang was proud to be a part of the Forbes 30 Under 30. He said, “This is a world famous magazine and lot of people want to show their work here.”
DOM STREATER: PROJECT RUNWAY’S SEASON-12 WINNER
Despite challenges in using patterns, Dom Streater executes her original design patterns into stunning silhouettes. At a young age Streater realized her love for clothing and fashion. She observed, “I’ve always been really creative and artistic, so, I fell into fashion.”
Winning Project Runway was an incredible experience for the young designer. Streater loved every moment of her time learning and building relationships with the judges and other contestants. “It changed my life, helped me grow creatively, and launched my career,” Streater exuded.
“I was happy I won because it was a nice affirmation of what I was meant to do.”- Dom Streater
East to West and Everything in Between
Streater’s signature patterned designs are bold, bright, and feminine which are configured on shapely silhouettes accentuating the hips and elongating legs. Reflecting on a plane ride from the west to the east coast, she noted, “For this collection, I was inspired by the changes in the landscape, the variations in the rivers, and the differences in the topography.”
The overall feel of Streater’s collection was a mix of 70’s vintage style with a modern technique. Bold printed long dresses in warm and cool tones looked futuristic with their exaggerated hip lines, while shorter dresses were more subtle and classic. A pair of flared trousers matched with a simple tank top was effortless, but unique in a psychedelic black and white print.
Discussing her creativity stimulants, she stated, “I get a lot of my ideas when I listen to music, sometimes even from the scent of a candle.” Streater considers her prints to be statement pieces, therefore a strong, confident woman will radiate in them. Men have perceived her designs as understated but sexy.
First Lady Fashion
Streater aspires to dress the First Lady, Michelle Obama in a custom print. She said, “In every major event she wears a print and people talk about it for weeks.” Streater believes Mrs. Obama epitomizes the customary style of a First Lady and envisions her in a printed A-line skirt with a cardigan.
“I don’t want to say she’s trendy and it’s weird to say the first lady is edgy, but she does take risks in what she dresses in and as a designer that’s something I appreciate.” – Dom Streater
Challenges and Future Plans
Working in the fashion industry is exciting but the biggest challenge for Streater has been to learn how to multitask. “It’s hard to focus on one particular project at a time, because this industry is all about trends and predicting what’s going to come,” she remarked. All the same, she looks forward to the future: “I’m really excited to get the brand into different areas, not just in fashion.”
MIA SILVERIO FROM PAUL LABRECQUE
Recognized as one of the top three stylists in the country by Vanity Fair, the Paul Labrecque hair salon was presented by the Leading Salons of the World to join the Forbes Summit. With three salons located in New York City and one recently opened in Philadelphia, Paul Labrecque is growing and expanding their entrepreneurial company. Mia Silverio joined the salon in 2010 and now serves as the Creative Director who opened the Philadelphia location.
Simple, Sexy, and Sophisticated
“Paul Labrecque’s signature look for hair is simple, sexy, and sophisticated.”- Mia Silverio
Silverio noted, “That’s how we want to be represented, whether it’s a fashion show or with a client.” Silverio explained how excited Paul Labrecque was about his salon being represented at the Summit: “He loves to get involved. He’s always about educating and getting all the younger people involved because we are the up and coming generation that will carry on the legacy.”
A Fashion Show isn’t Complete without Hair and Makeup
“There are three different designers, and it seems like the whole feel of it is old Hollywood; very glamorous and sophisticated,” Silverio remarked. For Stephen Mikhail and Dom Streater, Silverio kept the looks very similar with parted, long, and sleek hair paired up and a basic smokey eye for the makeup. To create the hair, L’Oreal hairspray and branded Paul Labrecque hair products were used. Silverio suggests Kevin Aucoin lipstick, which was used for the makeup, because the colors are bright and last for a while.
“Fashion is very important as everyone looks to it. Hair and makeup accentuate the entire look.”- Mia Silverio
As for the models, such as Mary Va’de Bon Coeur and Casey Clare, they are represented by JKR Management and Major Models New York respectively.
NICOLE KHAYAT: FOUNDER OF FANCY FACE COSMETICS
While coaching cheerleading at Columbia University, Nichole Khayat, founder of Fancy Face Cosmetics, was frustrated going from store to store to find a particular shade of eye shadow for each of the girls on the team. “It seems so minimal but the kids are judged heavily on their appearance” she said. She needed to find a solution and her idea sprouted from sunscreen. Khayat noted, “If sweat proof sunscreen is available, sweat proof cosmetics could be made.”
After about a year and a half and $535 later, Khayat was able to develop her cosmetic line which initially targeted the cheerleading and dance industry. Now five years later, Fancy Face has up to eighty-five products and also caters to ice skating, gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, pageantry, and an everyday collection.
“We really pride ourselves on having department store quality with drug store prices.”- Nichole Khayat
Stringent quality control
Khayat personally reads every e-mail of customer comments and her company is really passionate about customer feedback. “Being incredibly tuned with the wants and needs of our customer base sets us apart from our competitors.” Khayat remarked.
“In 5 years, we have never had one single return, and that is the true testament of the product.” – Nichole Khyat
Khayat truly believed in her product and considers herself lucky no one else has tapped into this market before. She would love to see her company expand with her customer base and to continue listening to what they want.
“ Now, we have this personal connection with so many people. I also see store fronts and the fashion world in our future.”- Nichole Khayat
JESSICA WILSON: FOUNDER OF STASHD
The youngest attendee who travelled all the way from Australia to attend the Summit was the twenty-two old Jessica Wilson – founder of one of the hottest fashion apps: Stashd. In just a few months after launch, this digital shopping app has been featured as one of Apple’s Best New Apps in eleven countries and has attracted users in eighty five countries.
Discussing her start in the fashion industry, Wilson said, “After a university career advisor told me I would never land a fashion internship, I dropped out of university and started working as the event coordinator for Fashion Palette in Australia and New York. This was followed by a stint at the powerhouse People’s Revolution during New York Fashion Week. As a freelancer, I also produced shows during Australia and Paris fashion weeks.” With so many designers and so many online stores, Wilson found keeping a track of items of interests on multiple lists frustrating and ripe for innovation.
“Inspired by the addictive swiping motion of Tinder, I applied it to online shopping and founded Stashd.” – Jessica Wilson
Working of Stashd
Wilson explained the functioning of the app as, “Users sign in with Facebook to enable Stashd to gather their gender, location and other statistics. They are presented with a single item which they can swipe left and ‘trash’, or swipe right and ‘stash’. Stashed items are then moved to a virtual wardrobe for inspiration and purchase. These items can also be shared with a friend.”
There is no categorization or limitation on what is presented to increase impulse purchasing online. However, being affiliated with global shipping stores like Net-a-porter, Mr. Porter, Ssense.com and Farfetch, the app offers over 100,000 items from over 3,000 brands in ready to wear collections, accessories, shoes, handbags and beauty products.
“It is all based around fashion discovery” – Jessica Wilson
Elaborating on her target audience, Wilson stated, “Stashd caters to men and women between 18 – 30 years. While Stashd currently has a luxury focus, it is adding products at more affordable range and some fast fashion stores. Also, we are adding more localized designers and retail stores in U.S., U.K., India, and other key countries.”
“From retailers such as Bloomingdales, to smaller ‘hidden gem’ boutique brands, Stashd leverages the brands off each other to create an online virtual mall.” – Jessica Wilson
Celebrating the 700,000th item moved into the virtual wardrobe at Stashd, Wilson ended the interview on a humorous note, “People generally love the app or love to hate it because it is ‘too addictive’.” Stashd is currently incubated in Fishburners – the largest tech co-working space in Australia – which sponsored her trip. Wilson is now seeking to raise half a million in seed funding to add a data scientist and an analytics CTO in her team. Check Stashd’s website for more information on the app and download Stashd for free on iPhone.
FEATURED SPEAKERS: SARA BLAKELY, JENNY FLEISS, HAYLEY BARNA
To inspire the next generation of game changing entrepreneurs, Forbes had invited the founders of Spanx (Sara Blakely), Rent The Runway (Jenny Fleiss), Birchbox (Hayley Barna), and Dannijo (Jodie Snyder) to not only share their journey of success in the fashion industry but also to discuss the sweeping change revolutionizing retail as 70% of online purchases worldwide are now affected by women.
Blakely’s innovation lay not only in recognizing that the women’s hosiery industry was ripe for a breakthrough but also in creating attractive packaging. Barna has taken these ideas further by having an element of surprise in the five pieces that are mailed to every BirchBox customer every month. With ‘BirchBox unveiling’ ripe to be shared as YouTube videos, the ensuing viral response also ensured a “long tailed” free publicity. Fleiss, on the other hand, recognizing the emerging trend of a shared economy solved the vexing problem of women who “have a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear”. In addition to posting their own content, these companies further boost their social media engagement through curating social media content generated by their customers.
Blakely summarized the message to all entrepreneurs thusly, “I did not have the most experience in the industry or the most money. But I cared the most.”
Article Editor: Semant Jain, Ph.D.
Fashion Writer: Michelle Dente