The Reality of the Emerging Designer | EDGE Talks to Herbert Victoria

Learn the industry hands on as much as you can before going out there, because school won’t teach you the reality of it . . . create your own route, everything will not work for everyone.  Some will be successful and some won’t. I mention this because this is the reality of fashion, and it’s so easy to get discouraged because it’s such a fragile industry.

– Herbert of Herbert Victoria

The reality of the fashion industry is that innovative fashion at retail has shrunk over the past few decades.  We are drowning in a sea of sameness, excessiveness, and lack of quality.  Herbert Victoria is one of the many underrepresented voices [emerging brands] out there that play a significant role in today’s industry.

This interview with Herbert, the creative force behind Herbert Victoria, is both candid and forthcoming.  He has intuitive vision, passion, and determination.  A true artistic designer understands the responsibility to communicate how their work is relevant in the context of today’s global cultural society – these are all EDGE attributes.  Herbert’s latest collection, #DROID, is relevant in sustainable practices and influenced by tech culture and the digital age.

EDGE hopes this interview inspires both emerging and established brands.  Herbert Victoria has been around for only a few years but is clearly on the right road to success.  He is learning what is right for his brand and has a real sense of focus to connect in the industry.

Enjoy this informative read to the end. . .

Herbert Victoria IMG_20150308_163740
photo: courtesy of Herbert Victoria

RPHillTell us about your beginnings in the fashion industry?

HV:  My start with the fashion industry was relatively 3 years ago doing my first runway show working along commercial designers here in San Francisco.  I was designing before but I was only a few years out of college doing mainly apprentice work, and designing for fun.

I like your philosophy of connecting culture and fashion. What are some of the influences of culture, art, and education that set your collection apart from other brands?

Great question! The idea of connecting culture and fashion is basically an aspect of who I am.  I have a passion of exploring and learning new things.  Picking my brain and showing me something different (rather from culture or art) really stimulate me creatively; thus, I want to apply that attribute to the brand.  Of course it’s on a very small scale just starting off, but with growth, I see myself creating things going beyond trends eventually.

What sets my collection apart is how it personally connects to the world bit by bit. For example, my prior collection of African WEST was an influence of West African textile infused with western contemporary design.  It wasn’t “African clothing.”  It was me taking a tiny aspect of West African culture but making it modern to appeal to everyone. 

However, now my latest collection has steered to something totally different.  The design philosophy not only has to connect to the world, but again, it has to be something that’s unique to me.  If it’s something I’ve never experienced, not only does it inspire but challenges me.  I have the opportunity to learn  something and grow. Thus, overall, I become more interested and later excited to share the story through fashion.

What well known person(s) would you say fit(s) the profile of the audience you design for?

If I was that popular I would say people like FKA twigs, Yaya DaCosta, Rosario Dawson, Nicki Minaj just to name a few. Why these celebrities?  Because of their exoctic appeal. These are people that are multicultural, have a range of talents, and can play different roles in society.  Really anyone that’s eclectic and bold with their style because obviously I don’t design to fit the modern persona.  You have to be abstract.

I see that you are very busy getting your line exposed to the industry and public. Recently you were part of Phoenix Fashion Week.  Web and social media exposure is a must today as Herbert Victoria is very prominent, but what other venues do you find productive in selling your line through to retail – trade shows, fashion markets, and/or direct to the retail/buyer?

TRUNK SHOWS! I think that’s the best way for any upcoming designer to start.  If you noticed I haven’t done any big fashion shows yet this year because I want to focus getting my brand off the ground financially.  To me I think fashion shows only work if you have a substantial following, people that will come to your event, and you’re ready to take large accounts from retailers.  But when you’re starting off, to me it hurts you more because it’s too glamorous.  It takes away from your whole story to you connecting with your market because it’s just a quick 10 minute feature (depends how many looks you’re showing) and after it’s over, let’s move on to the next designer.  They’ll forget who you are by the end of the night! But, with trunk shows, you get to personally engage with your customer. You learn your market from who walks to your booth and looks at your stuff.  It gives you the opportunity to practice selling your brand, develop a strong sense of customer service, and make a lasting impression throughout the event because you were able to make that connection!  Of all honesty, I’ve made more money doing trunk shows than anywhere else, and plan on continue that way until I find most of my clothes in stores.

I like the excitement you’ve created around your SS 2015 collection, #DROID, and what appear to be its pop-cultural relevance. Tell us about this collection, what inspired you, and the process in getting it developed and marketed?

Well I’m most excited because it was something that was self invested.  I was able to create a support system and do something very unique with the help of a small set of extraordinary people.  But overall, it something I kept organic throughout.  The fabric is hemp, cotton sustainable, the pieces are hand dyed to minimize water waste, and the collection was designed and made here in San Francisco (USA).  Again, it’s from what I mention before, connecting with the world and me personally.  I’m definitely environmentally conscious and I wanted to do this in the most Eco efficient way that I could afford for myself.  It was a little over ambitious, still, I was able to do it!  But for the consumer it’s something to proud to buy and wear because they can see it all from start to finish.  You know where your money is going towards, which is the creativity and craftsmanship of the brand.

#DROID – Fashion in the digital age – is tapping into the tech culture.  It was an artistic approach of using the color palette (RGB-CMY) from digital and print devices as the color story in the collection. The looks are simple and sleek because it personifies the idea of a dress being a device.  The inspiration comes from the ubiquity of phones, computers, scanners, and other electronic devices.  Virtually every second in our lives we’re looking at a digital image or a printed page.  Thus, it’s not a collection with me just using bright colors but it’s meaning behind it.

Photography by Warren Difranco / ModaCine
Photography by Warren Difranco / ModaCine
Photography by Warren Difranco / ModaCine
Photography by Warren Difranco / ModaCine
Photography by Warren Difranco / ModaCine
Photography by Warren Difranco / ModaCine
Photography by Warren Difranco / ModaCine
Photography by Warren Difranco / ModaCine

To take the idea even further, the idea came last year with a job I had working at home sitting in front a computer 30 hours in a week doing computer advertisement.  It was convenient because I stayed home but it was mind clogging because I was drone to the the computer. I felt like a droid (robot) so relatively that’s how I thought of the title.  But applying it to fashion I had to tweak it as being a droid to fashion.

With fashion today, we’re brand commodity slaves. It’s not about wearing something unique or long lasting but it’s about what’s hot, what celebrity wore this, or can I get it at H&M. It’s horrible the way people appeal to fashion nowadays not seeing how the quality has diminished, things are overpriced not because of quality but over consumption of marketing, and to me it’s relativity from the increase ads online, social media, and bias magazines… so I created a risky satire collection inspired on that to why it’s so different and “droid” like. But overall it’s “tech and ads inspired” fashion.  The use of color, however, was me just applying art to the collection.

What are some of the difficulties or challenges you face in building your brand and how do you find ways to overcome them?

My struggle are people not noticing me. Funny because a friend and I were just talking about this but for me I’m such a regular guy it’s not even funny.  I just so happen to enjoy making clothes but at the level I want to design  I don’t fit that market.  I want to create designer, high end clothing but I guess strangely I don’t give that persona.  I consider myself a vigilante in the industry.  With that said I just don’t follow the rules.  I create clothing because I have a pure enjoyment out of it whether I sell or not.  But the whole idea of “you have to do it like this or you have to know this person” I just don’t play that game. I feel because of it I go unnoticed, but I’m ok with that. I believe in staying true to who you are and what you create, as long as it’s not bad work.  People are naturally going to gravitate towards that eventually.   So for me to overcome it all is simply not to give up.
I want to create a brand that could change and inspire lives for some (of course not everyone)…if I get that opportunity to do it on a larger scale than I can quit and have someone else run the business.  When I was younger it was all about being popular and making money, but being a little older my values has changed. I feel that drive for money is what put our society in these catastrophic situations we’re dealing with today and I don’t want to be part of that. Let the money sustain my business, but I don’t want to grow so big that my brand can’t touch the small people.

For those recent fashion industry graduates or emerging designers just starting out, what business tip would you share that has served you well?

Learn the industry hands on as much as you can before going out there, because school won’t teach you the reality of it.  Starting off it’s all about budgeting and maintaining because the industry comes with a price.  Set realistic goals for yourself and don’t mimic anyone else because things will automatically work different for everyone.  You have people that made millions from designing something as simple as socks because they may have had the financial backing to generate the business.  On the other hand, you have designers that can create beyond belief but because they don’t have the money or right resources, they go unnoticed. That’s why you have to create your own route, everything will not work for everyone.  Some will be successful and some won’t. I mention this because this is the reality of fashion, and it’s so easy to get discouraged because it’s such a fragile industry.  But if you have a pure passion, no matter the circumstance you’ll figure out your own success.  Again learn the industry hands on rather internship, apprenticeship etc. and learn the financial part so you’ll know how to budget when you’re ready to launch.  It’s much more to it, but to me it’s only learned from experience, something that can’t be told verbatim.

©Herbert Victoria IMG_20150505_220926
photo: courtesy of Herbert Victoria

One word to describe today’s fashion industry?


EDGE congratulates Herbert Victoria on the journey so far and extends continued success for the future!

Rhonda P. Hill

Founder, Publishing Editor