We starting off this week with Kenya Jametta, the founder/CEO of LA Emerging Designers and the head designer behind her own fashion label Tokio Fever. Kenya James is an accomplished woman and her work is one of the reasons why I wanted to highlight her endeavors: showcasing the work of emerging designers onto the LA fashion scene and to the world of fashion. I had the honor to ask her a few questions that any aspiring designers or brands need to know to take their business to the next level.
SM. Hi Kenya, can you tell us about the LA Emerging Designers and how the idea came about to launch it?
KJ-LAED came about quite unexpected actually. With me being a new comer to LA, as well as an emerging self-taught Fashion Designer, I had no idea where to begin as far as showcasing my designs. First, I did some research on presenting my collection as an emerging designer with some of LA’s premier and most popular Fashion Week venues, and found them to be way out of my budget range as an emerging designer. Secondly, I knew that presenting my collection for the first time, in a new place, and where I was unknown, could mean a huge possibility that the showcase would be unsuccessful. Then I began to think bigger…. “Why not produce a showcase during LA Fashion Week that showcases ONLY Emerging Designers and Artists. And so I did.
SM. In trying to establish the LA Emerging Designers, how were you able to get sponsors to work with you and secure funds for it?
KJ – This was a huge challenge. As LAED was new, and had no financial backing, I first looked to build a team around me for additional support. I was able to find two individuals that totally backed my vision and shared the same interests in highlighting unknown talent, who were both from the LA area. My team consisted of myself, my publicist Ms.JGray of Image is Everything PR and Zella of Zella Blogs. With them having already established relationships with many emerging designers, bloggers, media and possible sponsors and supporters, they completed most of the footwork. The two of them were able to secure sponsors willing to donate product in which many of them were used as gift bag sponsors. I was able to secure a venue at a minimal cost, which allowed me the ability to offer showcasing with us very affordable to truly Emerging Designers. I am hoping that this year we will be able to secure an event larger venue, as well as securing additional sponsors.
SM.Most designers, especially emerging ones expect some big returns when they sign up for any fashion related events. At the beginning stages, how were you able to find these designers and convince them to work with you?
KJ -This is very true. First, I stuck to searching for true emerging talent. This meant fresh new designers, willing to invest in building their own brand. Majority of the designers that we worked with last year were establishing their brands and wanting to present a collection, maybe even their first go around. While some emerging designers are expecting some sort of recognition on a large-scale, most emerging designers just want their work and talents to be seen, recognized and acknowledged…. and those where the designers that I wanted to work with. My team and I utilized social media, as well as the LEAD website in order to promote and recruit, and surprisingly they found us!
SM. An event cannot be complete without media coverage. How were you as well able at the beginning stages to convince them to work with you?
KJ Finding media outlets can be challenging, however our Public Relations Coordinator was able to secure media outlets that wanted to view fresh designers. We were able to secure a host of respectable bloggers, photographers, fashion writers, local radio stations, boutiques, socialites and tastemakers of fashion to attend the show and interview the designers, as well as cover red carpet.
SM. What would you say were the biggest challenges that you faced along the way?
KJ- The biggest challenges were initially securing media, and managing and maintaining the actual budgeting for the production. We needed to be sure that everything was planned accordingly and was feasible in order to keep costs low for the designers as well as LA Emerging Designers.
SM. What would you say was your biggest accomplishment so far?
KJ- I would have to say my biggest accomplishment was successfully completing the production, while staying true to what I intended LAED to be. A full runway production showcasing only raw emerging designers and artists.
SM. Why should any emerging designers work with you?
KJ- Well, for starters we have built a strong foundation and network for the emerging designers that have worked with us. We take value in creating an online presence as well as promoting and working with our designers year round. Most importantly, we offer a valuable platform that highlights emerging designers during LA Fashion Week at a cost efficient affordable price to emerging designers.
SM. What criteria do emerging designers need to meet in order to work with you?
KJ- We have a very specific process in which we select designers that we would like to showcase with us. First, a designer must complete and submit a full application along with recent photos of their work. All applications are submitted directly to me, and I review each application with a fine eye. I look for detail oriented designers with a strong point of view, construction is extremely important, as well as the ability to produce a complete cohesive collection for viewing.
SM. LA Fashion Week is a great platform for designers to showcase their work; can you tell us how the collaboration between you and them started?
KJ– Well LA has a pretty diverse and free-flowing market. There are a variety of LA Fashion Week show productions and producers that showcase throughout the weeks of LAFW both March and October. We look forward to possibly partnering up with one of the larger production venues in the near future.
SM. By that I mean how did the LA emerging designers showcase come about during LA Fashion Week?
KJ- While formulating my plans for this showcase, I wanted to keep in mind creating a significant platform for emerging designers. I thought “What better opportunity than to showcase during LA Fashion Week?” I selected a date and began planning.
SM. My blog is about showcasing emerging designers and letting them know about the resources available to them. Where can emerging designers get the help they need to get their line off the ground?
KJ- Research, research, and more research! An emerging designer can always benefit from beefing up on and utilizing some really great online resources for emerging fashion designers, such as www.startupfashion.com and www.thefashionpotential.com. In addition, learning the process of production, sales and merchandising is extremely important for every designer and entrepreneur to know. As the Founder of LA Emerging Designers, I wanted to create a platform that made LA a place that embraces emerging designers and artists. We partner with emerging designers who desire to build and broaden their establishing brands. Our premium services offer affordable studio design & meeting space, in addition to premium services that will allow designers to serve their growing clientele. Our member services include: Showroom Services & access to leading Stylists, Private Showcase Production, Photo Shoot Production, Linkage to PR Services, as well as Tailored Online Services. All of which can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the designer.
SM. I often hear from many of them that securing funds is one of the biggest challenges they are faced with. Do you have any advice (business wise) for them when money is an issue?
KJ- Yes. Funding is always a major concern with emerging designers. My advice would be to move at a steady, feasible pace. Knowing your financial limits, and being sure you are fully prepared to take on your journey as a designer and entrepreneur. Being prepared, planning and budgeting are extremely important.
SM. Besides helping emerging designers, you are also the designer behind the fashion brand Tokio Fever. Can you tell us about your latest collection and where is it available?
KJ- My latest and very first complete collection to date is entitled “Mod Meets Japan”. I was very inspired by the Mod era so I drew inspiration from Super Model Twiggy, as well as two of my favorite Japanese Designers: Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto. I used that inspiration to blend the aesthetics of classical Japanese flare adding a twist of 60’s Mod era bold colors and textures. I really had fun creating this collection! You can visit www.tokiofever.com to shop the collection.
SM. Last but not least, how can anyone interested in working with you get in touch with you?
KJ- For LA Emerging Designers you can reach us by visiting www.laemergingdesigners.com or sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
For Tokio Fever inquires you can visit www.tokiofever.com or email email@example.com
Photos Tokio Fever by Nam Ngo