Fashion design is my diary. I always can mark a collection around a devastating or exciting time in my life. Designing helps me express my feelings and emotions all while telling a story. – Bishme R. Cromartie
Feelings and emotions, YES, but Bishme goes beyond that. Wow, is what I can say in talking to Bishme R. Cromartie immediately after his debut LA Fashion Week runway show. The high, the excitement, and the adrenaline is what he experiences each time he presents his collection. He said, “I was happy earlier [pre-show] and now I’m really happy”. Bishme talked about how he wanted this collection to shock people, like “a punch in the face, a surprise, a wow factor”. He opened up the catwalk with a fuchsia colored capsule and ended the collection with a silver toned group. Did he accomplish that? You be the judge, but the cheers from the crowd said it all [watch runway finale below].
Bishme R. Cromartie, Bč, from Baltimore, Maryland, is a self taught designer who successfully showcased his first collection at 16 and ten years later has never looked back. Bishme says his aunt taught him how to sew at 9 years old, she gave him the tools to sew, but now she says, “I didn’t teach you this stuff”. It takes more that just the tools to sew in creating fashion and Bishme has that combination of talent – vision, innovative detail, and element of surprise. He is passionate, humbled, and thankful for his gift and success. He says his family is surprised, amazed, and, of course, very supportive. His first grade teacher follows him on Facebook. “It’s just amazing to see you doing this because you talked about this as a little kid”, said Bishme of his teacher. “It’s people like that that will help me remember where I came from.”
This collection is themed, Butterfly. Bishme talks about how we admire the beauty of the butterfly. “It’s not just the symbol but the story of the process of the butterfly becoming itself”, said Bishme. “For the longest I felt like I was trapped in a cocoon. I feel like a butterfly now.”
Bishme is busy with clients, celebrity clients, and most importantly setting up his website, for online purchase [to be complete by February 2018]. He says he gets a lot of emails, “can I get this, can I get that”. One well known celebrity is the recipient of the butterfly earrings worn in the show. Bishme said he sent 2 pairs to Beyoncé, “when she does wear them, I want to be ready so it’s not a problem for everybody to get in contact with me to get them”.
Bishme, besides your aunt teaching you how to sew, how did you start on this journey?
I always knew at a young age that I wanted to deal with fashion in some sort of way. The idea of being able to make garments out of fabric and your imagination, made me extremely excited. I found that designing was a way for me to vent and express myself.
For my 16th birthday I told my mom, my sister, and all of my family and friends that I was going to put on a fashion show. Little did I know the planning and all of the chaos would ignite something inside of me. I wanted more! I kept participating in fashion shows, photoshoots and fashion related events to get my name out there. I’ve always said I was at the right place at the right time, mainly because I’ve learned so much at a young age and knew what type of designer I wanted to be. Being self-taught made me want to prove to myself even more that I am able to accomplish my dreams if I just stick with it.
Your designs are artistic, dramatic, and architectural in structure. Asking a painter how and why he paints is hmm. . . not always a good question, so I won’t ask you that. But I will ask you what’s at the core of why you design fashion? What motivates and moves you?
Fashion design is my diary. I always can mark a collection around a devastating or exciting time in my life. Designing helps me express my feelings and emotions all while telling a story. All of my collections tell a story. Some stories are dark, other times they’re about a journey. But the most important thing I like to make sure all of my collections have is a confident woman. I love confidence in females. Nothing excites me more than to see a woman walk down the street with her head held high and just owning her beauty.
Aside from a confident woman, I am also a huge fan of art. I love how you can sit and look at a painting and feel an emotion or reminisce about something connected to it. I actually consider myself an artist rather than a designer. Art, architectural shapes, and life are the main things that motivate me. Being able to create garments always moves me. I’m thankful to have the people I have around me who are forever motivating and inspiring me to reach the next level.
Culture helps me a lot with my design process. I want to incorporate my first-hand experience of their culture into my collection.
Fashion design is both a direct influence and contributes to what defines culture – designers draw inspiration from their upbringing, heritage, local and international culture, etc.? How does culture impact your design process?
Culture helps me a lot with my design process. Certain collections consist of certain things that helps bring the vision to life. For instance, my fall collection that I am working on has some inspiration from my trip to Iceland. They have a traditional Icelandic sweater that they wear there. In showing my appreciation, I want to incorporate my first-hand experience of their culture into my collection. When I incorporate other cultures into my designs, I want to make sure it’s tasteful and not disrespectful.
How much emphasis do you place on branding and what do you do in knowing your consumer and building long-term goals in terms of a brand?
I would have to say I put a lot of emphasis on branding. For starters, I’ve had my logo since the beginning and it took me two years to come up with it. I’m the type of person who wants to make sure everything is cohesive, timeless and is planned out well. I love for things to connect and make sense.
Because I am a designer who started off making custom made, it helped me realize how important it is to make sure customers/clients are happy and stylish. The one thing I noticed about my customers is that they’re true fashion girls and do not want to follow trends, they would rather start their own. With me I try to step out of the box as a designer and provide my clients with garments they won’t be able to get anywhere else. I think that is what my customers keep coming back; they know they’re getting something fresh and new with my designs.
I see that you have placed your product on a few celebrities [and Beyoncé]. Congratulations! How do you feel about influencers when it comes to professional collaborations and/or product placement?
Thank you so much, I appreciate it. I feel that influencers are a great thing. They’re able to show their followers how they style pieces and in return it brings new clients my way. I’m a person who loves to make sure things click naturally. I would love to collaborate with an influencer who embodies the Bč girl’s confidence. I do feel the right person will come and be a part of that movement.
How does the business side of the brand affect how you think about the creative side?
When it comes to the business side I acknowledge this is not the fun part. It tends to get frustrating sometimes because I am a natural creative. I love doing creative things and using my imagination. So having to realize that it’s all facts and no imagination makes me feel a bit closed in. In the long run, I know that taking that time out to be serious about the business is just as important as designing the collection.
Designers/brands invest thousands of dollars to participate in a fashion week runway show. Do you feel that this 10-20 minute catwalk gives you a return on your investment, and how so, if it does?
It does, it helps show what’s in our mind for a quick second. We are able to showcase our collections to a larger crowd, reach other potential clients, stylists and buyers. I love the show aspect because it helps remind me why I love designing. On top of that it allows me to catch everyone’s attention and view my story.
There are other avenues of getting exposure to build commercial success. How effective is the digital community – internet, social media?
The digital community is that constant advertisement. What makes it so great is that people are able to showcase your work even when you’re not there to do it in person. Having a following online allows constant word of mouth and an audience that is there to help push and inform you on the items and garments that are appealing to them. Not to mention I am everywhere at one time. I have people from all over the world that contact me informing me how they love my collection. Without social media, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have someone view all of my work from another country at one time. There is my website, but it’s not as up close and personal as my social media outlets.
I see that you do Pop-Up shops. Many emerging designers find Pop-Up shops and trunk shows bring a lot of value. What are you finding that works?
Pop-up shops are like mini presentations. I get a chance to showcase the garments up close and personal with familiar and new clients. I find it great because they are able to ask me questions about my inspiration behind the garments. I find them asking suggestions on how the garment should be worn. I’m a people person so meeting my customer is a great way for me to understand their everyday lives – what occasion they are buying the garments for and what colors they find more appealing. Pop-up shops allow me to keep the exclusivity that my clients love so much.
What artist and/or designers do you admire?
One of my fav artist is Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and my all-time favorite fashion designer is Alexander McQueen.
What do you want the consumer to ultimately experience and express while wearing your designs?
I want them to experience that extra touch of confidence. When you wear a Bč garment you’re automatically the center of attention. One thing about my garments is that I love for them to be versatile and a piece that enhances your wardrobe.
In the Finale runway, the crowd roars, “outstanding”. Indeed Bč is. EDGE congratulates you and wishes you continued success, Bishme.
Photo credit: Wayne D. Fleshman – Flesh Photo, LA Fashion Week.
For more on Bč designs, click here.
Read more “EDGE Talks” at EDGE Radar.