Yesterday evening, I was invited to see the DC documentary premiere of “Dressed” at Bethesda Row’s Landmark Theater. The story is about a young designer, by the name of Nary Manivong, who in just two years has gone from homeless to up-and-coming super star.
His history wasn’t this simple. Nary was homeless at 14 – he, his two brothers and one sister were abandoned by his parents and thus began a huge life struggle for him. He put himself through high school, slept at a donut shop every night for a year, moved to New York City with $200 in his pocket and took odd jobs to save enough money to not just live, but also sustain his dream: creating a collection for New York Fashion Week. He got by with the help of friends, teachers and investors. For about $11,000, he created his first collection and it debuted at SS10 fashion week.
It wasn’t until he ran into Ally Hilfiger at a dinner party that things changed. She became his creative director before turning to her father to encourage him to call Nary and get his business up and running. Thus, NAHM (Nary Ally Hilfiger Manivong) was born – a joint venture between Ally and Nary.
The Business of Fashion
Throughout this documentary, you learn a lot about the underbelly of fashion – a world that proves almost everyone starts out as a “starving artist”. They say that 60% of young designers fail within the first year and 80% within the second. And according to Fern Mallis, one of the biggest expenses that bankrupts them is getting the designs made at the Garment District. With strict rules about paying cash before the designs are released, most designers don’t have the money to get their full collections released. (An average small collection costs around $10,000 and there is no guarantee that the collection will be done on-time and on-budget.)
Several hundred designers show their lines at fashion week – in any space they can get. Back in the day, young designers would hold their shows right outside of tents, with the hopes of being discovered. These days, designers are taking any space they can get and because of the sheer excitement around fashion week, even the “housewife” is showing up to take in any show they can, thus creating packed shows, no matter how big or small the designer.
Want to hold a show of your own? The average show costs $250,000. However, young designers are proving their business sense by tirelessly pounding the phones to get location donations, model donations, hair and makeup donations, etc. to help put their show together.
So what’s the next step – how do you make money? Sales come from appointments that are set after fashion week concludes. Reviews help a lot in this case. The better the review, the higher chance of product being sold.
After the documentary concluded, it was Q&A time with Nary and his Videographer David. They offered the following advice for both budding videographers and designers:
- We all have stories to tell – the tech is out there to make your story a reality. Find something unique that is special to you and go for it.
- Learn the business of fashion – intern and network, as it opens a lot of doors. Have patience.
- There are no guarantees with a contract for samples, etc. It’s all about relationships. If something falls out, you need back ups. You need to not be afraid to ask for that help – it could be everything.
- Don’t choose fabrics or embellishments that are limited edition. It will be really hard to fulfill orders for garments when the fabric no longer exists or those were “the last buttons”.
About the Documentary and Where You Can Learn More/Shop His Collection
The entire documentary was made with volunteers – even the soundtrack were songs, donated from Indie artists who believe in supporting up-and-coming artists. You can download the songs and the money will go straight back to the artists. All DVD and apparel sales will go to homeless organizations.
Nary’s collection has debuted in stores in New York, Japan, London, Dubai and Turkey, with an expansion due to hit L.A., South Carolina, Dallas and a few other cities and states.
The price point for dresses is $495 – $1200.
A group photo can be found below.
Many thanks to Chilli Amar for inviting me! It was also great to see Susan Bernstein (W by Worth), Lynda Erkiletian (T.H.E. Artist Agency), Ebong Eka, Eileen Nelson (W by Worth), Jayne Sandman (BrandLink Communications) and Yulia Mikhalchuk.