Five years ago, one of my homies planted a seed. He took a trip to New York to attend the Capsule and PROJECT menswear trade shows and came back home with trinkets and literature galore. It all seemed so simple, take a few of my hard-earned dollars, ride a bus to Manhattan and I can be among my favorite brands. The next year, I took my things and headed to that little warehouse on Houston Street and got lost for a day. I met a lot of amazing people my first go-round, but I still didn't understand the impact of what I was creating. I had this way of engaging people that made them emerge from the comforts of their own pretentiousness and really forced them to break down the nuances of their own creations. I may be onto something here. What exactly is that something? At this particular point, I wasn't quite sure, my goals as a creative were different and I had some learning to do but it would all make sense over time.
I had an impressive first year, but I returned humbly to my small town, waiting tables and wanting more from life. I began venturing out to DC and frequenting my old college stomping grounds of Richmond, because staying within the confines of Fredericksburg simply wasn't enough anymore. I would think back and remember the impressions I left in New York that January in 2012. “Go places, meet people”, said the voice in my head, so that's what I did. It didn't matter the circumstances, I could go alone if I had to. In fact, it was better that way, unfamiliar surroundings would force me to be social. Every event I went to I made sure to engage with the organizers, humbly thank them for the event and introduce myself. The Rolodex was expanding, but conquering DC wasn't really all that satisfying especially when you grew up attending these cultural events in the Blackburn at Howard University with your parents since you were a youngster. I had to go back to NY. And that I did.
For the next few years after, I started to get it. Maybe approaching this with a team would be more efficient. Maybe applying to all 4 trade shows and see what happens would work. Project, Liberty Fairs and Capsule welcomed us all with open arms. Nice, 3 out of 4, not bad. But due to time constraints, Liberty was not to be. PROJECT and Capsule were a good time though. Upon arriving at the Javits Center for PROJECT, the first table we approached was Cruyff Classics, a luxury footwear brand from The Netherlands named after world class soccer player Johan Cruyff. This led to a conversation about his legacy to the game of soccer, by its conclusion, the brand reps gave me a brand book meant for buyers and I could tell I left a distinct impression. After that, I caught up with a few other companies and then eventually made my way to Capsule. A breath of fresh air, there is always a certain warmth in the Capsule's atmosphere that you can't describe. Everyone is eager to connect and listen to what you had to say. As I briefly chatted with Fred Perry and RicherPoorer about their heritage, design aesthetic, and influences it struck me like an epiphany, within the next year, I have to seize the moment and make use of this unique opportunity, connect with different people and share my light with the world.
Fast forward to 2016, I finally started to really understand my impact. Late last month right after the blizzard pummeled the East Coast, I dug myself out of my cabin fever and set out to attack this year ambitiously. I got with one of my favorite photographers from Richmond, Mercizdope of VillainShotYa and seized the opportunity. We arrived on Monday and hustled our way to the Piers--where the tradeshows were being held--each day. We would wake up, forego breakfast and socialize our lives away with. I'm still trying to figure out how I survived the whole week with $30 to my name. I guess when you want something that bad, you'll just figure out a way to make things work. In my head, this was nothing but a job fair on steroids, I had to get myself right, dress well and explain to these people why I would be a great advocate for their brand. I couldn't fathom trying to meet everybody, I had to interact with the brands that caught my eye and I would feel comfortable building professional relationships with. Companies like Stutterheim, Hercules Beard Co. and NAU to name a few all fell into my hands.
Overall, my intention with this blog, is to write about and work with brands that I like and can grow to enjoy so those who are reading these articles can sense the love and passion that I have for these products and entities. I tried to find a certain enthusiasm in the folks I interacted with at these tradeshows, if we can talk for hours about material construction, or the heritage of huarache slippers then it will be easy for my passion to transfer onto and be projected to my audience. I found all that and more during my time in New York and in the coming weeks and months, we at Karmalifee will be doing our diligence to create new and exciting content.