Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Interview With Designer Wilbur Pack, The "Black Fashion Dude"


I have mentioned the amazingly talented up and coming designer Wilbur Pack Jr. several times in this blog-thing, and there’s a reason. His clothes are absolutely beautiful: sexy, intricate with couture-level details in unusual fabrics, such as denim and men’s shirting.

In fact, Mr. Pack is creating a dress for moi to wear at Fashion Week Fall 2010. The sketches I have seen so far have made me squeal with delight.

The tall, handsome designer consented to an interview. His blog-thing, “I Am Fabulous: A Black Fashion Dude’s Odyssey” is one of your faithful correspondent’s must-reads. It opens a door on a little-known aspect of the fashion business: the inside details of creating a line, financing it, and all of the other unglamorous details Project Runway leaves out.

In your blog bio, you say you grew up loving the drama of theater and movies. Why become a fashion designer? Why not a costume designer?

I love the theatre. My parents took me to see my first Broadway show when I was 11 years old. It was The Wiz starring Stephanie Mills and it was magical. And the story of Dorothy trying to find her way home still resonates for me after all these years. When I decided to pursue fashion design as a career, I felt like I had found my way home.

Designing fashion is like creating costumes for real life. Every day, through our fashion choices,we have the opportunity to become whatever character we want to be.

Do you think, because you are an African-American male, that makes your struggle harder or easier? Or neither?

I definitely think that it is more difficult being black in the fashion industry. We are almost always undercapitalized and the same opportunities are not usually afforded us as our non-black counterparts.

How do you separate home life from work life?

I am not very successful at it. I am almost ALWAYS working. Luckily, I have someone who understands me and supports my endeavors.

What makes you happy?

My work gives me a lot of joy. I am very dedicated to my family and friends and they definitely make life worth living. A good movie, a good story, New York City, great music, and good theatre all inspire me and make me happy.

Why do you make couture-level clothes, even though it may drive up your price point?

When I started in this business 11 years ago, I didn't know much about seam finishes and I didn't always use the finest fabrics. But as I grew in fashion, my tastes evolved and over the years my aesthetic became more & more sophisticated. I am at the point now where I am creating clothes at a higher taste level. And I am really pleased with my progress. For Fall 2010, my team and I are looking to see if we can find a way to offer the well made dress at a price point that is not so exclusive. Because I think that every woman should have access to that.

Who would be the ultimate celebrity for you to dress?

I am more interested in dressing real women. In New York City, I see plenty of ladies who do not have stylists or entourages or ever have the opportunity to walk red carpets. Yet, they are still chic. Those are the women I want to see wearing my clothes. But I do have a soft spot for Hillary Swank. And we are working tirelessly to connect with "Precious" film star Gabourey Sidibe. She just has an incredible story and a wonderful disposition.

Who is your favorite current designer?

I don't have a favorite designer. I admire the work of so many of my colleagues. I love the luxuriousness & color usage of Oscar De La Renta. Tomas Meier's work for the Bottega Veneta line is fabulous. I also really appreciate the marketing brilliance of Ralph Lauren.

What is your fashion philosophy?

Tailoring and color are the two most important foundations for a well dressed woman. Something that fits well can make you look thinner and taller. And color can put a bounce in your step and make you stand out in the crowd. I apply these two principles whenever I design - whether it is a t-shirt or a fierce cocktail dress.

What has been the peak experience for you as a designer?

I haven't yet reached my peak. But when I staged the fashion show on the sidewalk outside of the Bryant Park tents during NY Fashion Week in 2000 with "Sex and the City" as my inspiration, that was pretty awesome.

Your blog has chronicled the struggles and hard times more than the triumphs. Why?

Earlier this year, my business partners convinced me to write a blog. They felt that my followers and supporters really wanted to know more about the man behind the seams. So I went into the project thinking that it was a great way to connect with the people who are interested in my aesthetic.

But I've always spoken from the heart and always with honesty. When we read success stories, we never hear about the obstacles and the setbacks. I wanted my readers to know that success takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I offer them the reality of the business. Yet, I remain fabulously dedicated to my goals.

I hope the blog inspires people. I want my readers to know that finding your purpose and following your dreams is very important. And remaining true to them is essential to living your fullest life. If I die tomorrow, I know I’ve had no regrets and I did what I wanted to.

There is a link to Mr. Pack's blog on the right, and I strongly suggest you bookmark it. (The blog, not the link.) And here is the link to his design site:

Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog

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