One year ago today I closed my design company after 23 amazing years. Today a year ago I had an incredible piece in the NY Times written by Eric Wilson that basically gave me a new chapter, a second act. At the time all I could see was a vast plain of darkness. My fears for my future and what legacy I might have left behind was very simply bleak. The work involved in winding down the business and making as graceful an exit was one of the toughest things I've ever done. This blog weighed heavily on my mind knowing that I would let go of my anonymity and face what I was sure would be snipers on every rooftop on the Avenue. I wasn't ashamed of my views and didn't regret sharing them, but there was a comfort in knowing that up until that day I was unknown. Beyond making great clothes (I've been told) I personally was registering on the outer edges of the fashion radar. I didn't promote my name , I let the clothes do the talking. That is in itself the kiss of death in the way the game is played but I was old school in my thinking. I am more of a brand now (Fluff, more specifically and this cozy little blog) than i ever was in the 23 years I made the collection. So ironic. Whatever....
My best day on the blog before the story appeared was 320 visitors on one day. The day the story appeared I had 35,000 visitors. It's amazing the power of the New York Times. It's also a testament to the blog and my willingness to climb out on a very short and tenuous limb. Life after Seventh Avenue is very different with highs and lows, but I would do it all again given the chance. The idea that I closed due to purely economic conditions is partly true, but it also has a great deal to do with the fact that I'm a good and competent designer. My work bears that out. What I wasn't accomplished at was running a business. I'm just not a numbers guy. That is the bottom line of my closing. I wish I'd been better because I loved my work and miss it every day. If ever I climb back on that saddle the scenario will be very different. It's taken a full year to even be able to feel that let alone voice it.
Writing has been a fantastic creative outlet as has looking closely and critically at fashion and the culture that surrounds it. The blog started as a treat and has developed into a passion. It gives me insight into the world around me, something I paid little attention to when I was working. It has also shown me that I'm not alone in my thinking. The pay off, as this brings me not one penny, is the loyal and growing audience who often weigh in on what I've written. The disagreements and agreements are hugely satisfying. The whole point has always been to create a dialogue and make people think about what we all too often take as the gospel. I'm pleased to say that in some way I've been able to do that. I feared that I would lose my voice once I was known. Second guessing myself and being afraid to let it rip was the greatest challenge. I got over that too. It hasn't always done wonders for my reputation, but I've learned that that really has little to do with me.
The freedom I've achieved and the many different projects I'm able to work on are all wonderful surprises. I do get up in the morning, get dressed and keep busy. I even shave on occasion. Most of all I'm grateful for all the amazing experiences and work I had the good fortune to devote the last 30 years, in total to. One of the greatest gifts has been the loyalty of all of my clients over all of those years and each of you who check in regularly to see what the cat has spit up and especially some of you who push me to write more when I slack off. I hate writing when there seems to be nothing interesting to say. I can't hit Publish unless it feels right. I've discovered that there is no such thing as a perfectly clear and accurate mirror. They are all fractured and our reflection is a series of broken planes. Each of them shows a different angle but all are truths, nevertheless. I'm getting more comfortable with this view and things are a lot more interesting as a result.
So thanks for your continued interest and support, both positive and negative. All of it has made me a better critic and writer. Playing alone is not nearly as fun as playing with a gang of friends. I'm a very lucky guy and Fluff is too!
*all images are from my studio, days before closing, my Sales Director, Naji Batanian (the best of the best), my desk in the woods and my home office where I do my work, now....and a killer mirror that is a metaphor in physical form. *both looks from final collection courtesy of Udo Spreitzenbarth Photography
* see more at EricGaskins.com
Bow Down to Benton Performance.
4 hours ago