Not many people can say that they had a fashion line at age 12...the Olsen twins can though. Their first encounter with the fashion industry occurred when they teamed up with Wal-Mart in 1998. In conversation with Anne Slowey for Interview Magazine, Ashley explains, 'We started off working with Wal-Mart on our first clothing line as an extension of our personal brand...This was the initial insight into a fashion market place.'
Fast forward to 2004 and the the terrific twosome were on a monstrous mission to produce the perfect white tee. After many alterations they succeeded and slowly their brand grew, adding more and more fashion pieces until it became The Row, (named as a dedication to the perfect cuts of Savile Row itself) that we know today. Advancing from celebrity actresses to serious fashion designers is no mean feat-but these two have done it with great aplomb, winning respect in one of the harshest of industries.
Another designer who opted for a career change is Raf Simons. Simons began as an industrial design student in Genk, Belgium. During his fourth year of study Simons was required to complete an internship. He became interested in completing one within the fashion industry. As he explains to Interview magazine, 'I went to Walter Van Beirendonck. I knocked on his door, and I was super scared-because I had nothing to do with fashion. But he was interested.' Beirendonck had a presentation in Paris that required the making of industrial objects. Simons accompanied him and witnessed his first fashion show, a Maison Martin Margiela.
It was a show where half the audience cried, including myself. I was just like, "What! This is fashion?" Only at that point did I understand what fashion could be or what it could mean to people. It was the "white" show, where all the models wore dresses in white and transparent plastic,' he explained to Interview.
Since that show Simons has gone from creating teenage angst-ridden skinny suits for men, to minimal looks for Jil Sander to couture for Dior. It's incredible to think that all these mind blowing achievements can be traced back to a single, inspiring moment during a fashion show.
On a more playful note...the essence of cool that is Acne studios started out with an Andy Warhol atmosphere and a name that once stood for a cursed adolescent skin condition-indeed a strange recipe for success!
Acne studios, stood for 'Ambition to Create Novel Expression,' and began in 1996 with four partners who wanted to have a creative consultancy for multidisciplinary digital film-design. The idea of launching a fashion product soon followed in 1997, when they manufactured their first pair of jeans. "We did 100 pairs...The strategy was to get somebody cool to wear it in front of my colleagues." Jonny Johansson, creative director told the Wall Street Journal. Fortunately their 5 pocket red-stitched designs were an instant hit with the cool kids of Stockholm. The brand was quick to move into other garments and market segmentations, but their playful, cool kid vibe has always remained at the heart of Acne.
As Acne took on a taboo name, Tome took on a taboo number. While some avoid the número 13 like the plague, designers Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin took it as a sign to start a label. The pair met at age 19 in design school in Sydney, where they became good friends. They stayed in contact for 13 years after graduating. Throughout this time both gained their own broad knowledge and experience within the fashion industry.
The creation of a label had always been on the horizon, the idea was to wait until they had refined and matured their individual taste. ‘We knew it would be best to launch something when our aesthetic, ideals, taste levels and design eyes were more sophisticated and not as raw. Young people in fashion have this rawness, which can be amazing, but we just wanted to approach it in a well-rounded, mature way.’ Lobo told Anna Deutsch in an interview with Fashionista. And the wait has definitely paid off. After launching in 2010 the pair have already had numerous shows in New York and recently showed at Australian Fashion Week to strong reviews.
Whether it's a contract with Wal-Mart, a magical Margiela Show, a shocking name or a cursed number everyone has to start somewhere-and I truly believe the fashion industry has some of the most interesting start-up stories out there!