BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO SAY, ‘SCREW IT’ AND GET OVER IT…
Hi love bugs!
I wanted to get very candid with you all on this post because a lot of things have been going on behind the scenes for the past 4 years, good and bad, and I wanted to take time to really try and connect with you all on an honest, bullshit free level. I’ve done some heavy soul searching the past few days and I wanted to take some time to write this post because I feel all too often in the world today, everyone wants to make every bit of their lives seem so perfect, successful and fun…which can lead you to kind of, well…secretly feeling like crap sometimes or that something is missing. How often do you see people posting social photos of their breakouts, breakups, shitty days at work, or that perfect little pocket dog crapping on their carpet? Right, that would be NEVER. The “Keeping up with the Jones'” crap has never been for me; my parents didn’t raise me that way. It’s almost like being human isn’t acceptable anymore. Instead all we see is perfectly edited photos worthy of a magazine cover, perfect bodies that got there by drinking a tea detox (if I see one more post about getting a healthy body by drinking tea, I’m going to lose it), perfect relationships that rival Will and Kate, some serious job envy where it seems like everyone is succeeding without any hiccups. Well, I don’t know about you, but I like my bullshit served half and half, half truth half bullshit that is. Because sometimes the bullshit is necessary. Its nice to live in the BS fairytale world where everything is perfect, but sometimes my bullshit meter runneth over. Plus, I’ve just always been a fan of REAL.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am pretty blunt, sometimes probably too blunt. Sometimes I like to be just as surprised at the things that come out of my mouth as you are, I’m laid back almost to a fault and I’m loyal beyond measure. Some things I could be better at: I’m not a second chance person, i’ll forgive but I don’t forget. I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, life comes with hardships that are out of your control, that you don’t need to surround yourself with people who bring you down. Work and relationships are hard anyways, so I don’t choose difficult relationships anymore or let them stick around me. When I have free time, I want to feel like its free time an not like I’m still working because it’s so much effort to be around difficult people. I wish I was better at keeping in touch with my friends and making plans with them. I have a tendency to be a bit of a recluse and just hang at home with my dogs and watch movies while I work to the middle of the night (it’s easy to do with my fiancé on the other side of the country). I wish I was better at turning off work and taking time for myself. I’ve caught myself at dinners with my family answering emails and not being engaged or present at all. It has even gotten to the point to where I couldn’t tell you one thing they discussed because I was so checked out. I don’t let people in easily anymore either, I feel like my job has made me very ‘hard’ in a lot of ways. The fashion industry for me has been difficult to navigate and make genuine friendships. There always seems to be some secret agenda or judging someone on whether they’re worthy of your friendship based on Instagram followers (kid you not, I know a girl who will not be friends with anyone under 30K followers).
Don’t get me wrong, i’ve met some amazing people and made a few close friends who have been supportive since the beginning, but this is a hard industry, which to be honest I think it is just the world now. This whole notion of only showing the “perfect” moments out there drives me a bit batty. What makes someone or a brand great to me, is rolling with the punches and getting back up every time knowing eventually you’ll get hit again. THAT is what I admire.
From the outside, my social media accounts probably portray that everything is perfect, awesome and I never have bad days. After all, that’s what we’re suppose to let people think, right? Wrong. I have struggled tooth and nail to keep my company going and it’s not all glitz and glamour. Any photos you see of me dressed up took planning – A LOT OF PLANNING. When I say a lot, I mean it’s on the calendar from my manager for me to shower. If you know me you know I live in workout clothes or jeans and a muscle tee. I don’t love showering and I don’t go to the grocery store looking like a Cosmo Cover Girl. Homeless would be a more accurate description. It’s bad enough that every time I leave my building dressed up my doorman does a double take and says he didn’t recognize me, “So fancy.” Don’t get me wrong, I love to play dress up every now and then, but by no means am I prancing around town gussied up 24/7. It’s just not my personality and thats fine. The point is, I don’t show you my homelessness on social Only on SnapChat! 🙂 You can see how pretty my skin issues and I are on there, all followers welcome (@Blaine_Bowen)!
So remember, all the companies and people you see on social are going through normal things, because we are all normal people. Some share their stories and some don’t. For me, I love it when someone gives me a glimpse into who they are and what is going on in their life. Hardships make them, make all of us, real people and I like that. We all have problems being thrown at us on a daily basis. I became compelled to write this post after my experience at Swim Fashion Week last weekend. An event that ultimately led me to doing some major soul searching and really made me think what I want out of life and for my company.
The gist: I was asked by a major swimwear designer to design the jewelry for her runway show during Swim Fashion Week…needless to say…I was beyond honored and completely stoked. This was my Super Bowl. I began working on this project about mid-April. I spent a majority of my work week for 2 months creating 150+ designs for the runway for 21 models. My manager was working away facilitating the relationship and design requests from the swimwear designer and then creating my linesheets, doing our photography etc.
Since we signed on in April, the designer changed her mind on what look she was going for several times. We went from creating a collection of boho-chic, to dismantling those pieces to create a 1920s Art Deco collection. Fast forward a couple of weeks, to an email telling us the ideas had completely changed, again. What I had been working on for months, was now garbage and I had to regroup and start again. Truth be told I was getting frustrated, but remained grateful for the opportunity and still really excited. You can imagine as a small company it’s challenging and very costly to purchase materials for a specific look and then have it change a month later. In the end, I created a collection that balanced both what the designer wanted and what Blaine Bowen represents. Sadly, I had to cancel going to a childhood friend’s Bachelorette party to go to the show. Again, disappointing, but at the end of the day you make a lot sacrifices for work, anyone with a job does. However, when you own a company, you seem to miss out on a lot more because it’s a 24/7 gig.
End of June came and I submitted my photos of my designs a week before the show for review and was told the designer, “Loved them.” PHEW! Great! We’re in the homestretch and it’s 12 hours before my flight leaves, I, on a whim, decide to email and see how the fittings went. Result: They ask me to design more necklaces and make new earrings to go with the existing collection. Naturally, my response, “OH GREAT! YEA SURE! NO PROBLEM!” Inside I was panicking, “What the f***?”and, “How am I going to do this?” Step one, no sleep. Step two, suck it up and get to work. I managed to get it all done and I was really pleased with the pieces. One is actually the pretty necklace from the header photo in this post and I’m obsessed with it.
My manager, Katie, and I arrived in Miami, anxiously awaiting the events ahead. We had a great dinner together and discussed our photoshoot for the next day. We were so enthralled with excitement and planning, we hardly noticed it was midnight, we’d finished a bottle of wine and had to be up in six hours. We were like little kids on Christmas. Sunday mornings arrives quickly and we rise with the sun at 5:30 a.m. to make it in time for a golden hour photoshoot. We shoot for about 2 hours then head to the Wynnwood Walls. Here’s a major learning lesson for anyone in fashion who goes off and takes photos: DO YOUR RESEARCH ON WHERE YOU’RE GOING. Our Uber dropped us off at Wynnwood and without a single thought we hop out, only to realize we are being screamed at by a man whose anger only increased with each scream. We take two seconds to look around and realize we are not in a good area for two young girls to be alone. I felt stupid because I’m responsible for my team, and here I’ve put us in a bad situation. The man is much larger than us, (not to be offensive-just being realistic), there is no way he wasn’t under the influence of something. That something was bad and he was aggressive. He was getting more and more upset with us for ignoring him and started banging on a trash can in anger that we wont give him money for breakfast. All of a sudden, a man in his car almost slams on his breaks in the middle of the street (cars behind him, kid you not) rolls down his window and yells to us “Girls, you need to watch where your walking!” and looks at us like we are the dumbest people alive. Immediately, we knew being there was a bad idea. It’s very clear by our company on the street that we are out of place. We know it and they know it. We were drawing too much attention to ourselves simply by how we were dressed and with the equipment we were carrying. Thankfully we get another Uber to get us and head back to the hotel. The point is working in fashion, you’re always looking for the coolest locations to shoot. Just because a location looks perfect online, doesn’t mean its a safe place for you to be. That was a reality check for me and i’ll never go on location again without researching the area. I don’t scare easily, but I will tell you this, we got lucky to get out of the area we were in with the amount of trouble we were given. All I could think in the car was, “I’M SUCH AN IDIOT! And I put us a risk for a PHOTO!” BEYOND. STUPID. NEVER AGAIN.
Back at the hotel, we took some much needed R&R before our big night ahead. Katie and I go to a great dinner and have a blast together, our nerves going, knots in our stomachs, excitement and fear all at once. As a jewelry designer, no matter how confident you are, you have doubts. I kept having nightmares something would break and fall off. It’s natural. Arriving at the show, we could already tell things are a bit chaotic. We checked in and I noticed that there are some really young volunteers wearing a lot of my pieces I made for the show. I mention the jewelry to them and they have no idea who made it, but they were given it to wear. To me, this was unexpected, weird and not what I signed on for. I assumed they must have had a lot left over, so I didn’t give it another thought.
As the jewelry designer for the show we were guaranteed backstage access before the show. I wanted to make sure the jewelry was going to go on properly because I made a few pieces that needed some explanation and designer specific adjusting. I specifically asked if they needed help with some of the trickier earrings and bracelets. I was assured they had everything under control. Well, this is just the beginning of them not having it under control.
As the jewelry designer for the show we were also guaranteed prime seating in order to get photos of the jewelry. Not the case. We were taken to seats and told we can choose any seat in the very back row. Whoa, whoa, what? I wasn’t able to get my photos from there, let alone even see the jewels. Side note as to why this was a big deal: To get photos through Getty Images you can get charged as much as $1,000 for rights to an image. Needless to say we got in touch with our contact and all was thankfully made right. My nerves peak as the lights dim and the music starts.
The first girl makes her way down the runway, my eyes scanning the models entire body for my designs. Nothing. Next model walks out, scan again. Nothing, and again, scan, search, nothing. (Might I add, that while no jewelry was on one model, she rocked her hair tie all the way down that cat walk…). A few girls eventually came down with a ring on here and there, and one cuff design. They looked great, but nothing too special for all the work I did and the look I thought they were going for, but c’est la vie, it was there. I see a hex nut bracelet on maybe three models and they’re being worn wrong and not in a flattering way. I was not surprised. I suck it up and wait for the rest. I kept holding my breath, heart beating out of my chest and waited for the next look. The most amazing look of the night for me comes down. The model rocked an awesome ear cuff I made, with a fringe cuff and ring. My heart was bursting through my chest with excitement. Unfortunately, that would be the moment it all changed and went uphill from there – after-all we were only on about the ninth model to come down of 21, and each would have 2-3 looks each. Little did I know, that would be my big entrance and grand finale.
One of my favorite models ever, Rocky Barnes, strutted down the runway and I am on the edge of my seat dying to see what pieces are on her. Heartbreak ensues, she didn’t have a single piece of jewelry on her. NOT. A. THING. Next came Joy Corrigan, another favorite of mine, I saw something shiny in her hand from the distance and my face turned bright red with excitement, because she was wearing something I designed. As she got closer I couldn’t figure out what piece she had on, it wasn’t familiar to me at all. Wait for it…Wait for it…it’s mine, but it’s not mine. This is the beginning of the end for me.
What do I mean, ‘Mine but not mine’ you ask? Here’s what I mean: The swimwear designer and her team ripped my designs apart to use my materials to make their own makeshift designs What Joy was carrying, was a bunch of loose chain in her hand that had been torn from one of my necklace designs. I felt my heart rapidly beating barley able to keep count between beats. I could hardly breath as my eyes welled up. I am not an emotional person. I’m sarcastic, strong and rarely let anyone see me upset. But this… this was absolutely devastating. It was gut-wrenching but, I had to hold it together in front of Katie and everyone else.
The next look came, another design I didn’t recognize. Again it was a bunch of ripped up chain from another necklace I made that they have knotted around the models wrist. Can I say, “KO, GAME OVER, DEFEATED, UNCLE, MERCY RULE, WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL IT. I’M CRUSHED. TAP ME OUT, I’M DONE.” That was only the beginning of “customized, [sloppy] looks.” I could barely watch the rest of the show. I hardly remember certain looks and moments because I was so focused on keeping myself composed.
“Just don’t cry. Not here, not now. Breathe, just breathe”.
The models round out their final walk and I am utterly defeated, and I can tell Katie is too. We’d been looking forward to this moment for months and put insane amount of work into this project. I had turned down other projects that could have been great, lucrative opportunities, but I didn’t want to spread us too thin. What I didn’t know was that God was going to give me a ray of light in the storm.
I headed toward backstage to pick up the jewelry and head back to the hotel, when I ran into model, Kyra Santoro. I had the pleasure of meeting Kyra earlier this year in LA at a Coachella event and I cannot rave enough about what a great soul she is. She has the brightest light and gives any and everyone the time of day – she is truly a kind human being. We made eye contact and I’m legit shocked she even recognizes me. We talked and exchanged numbers. For a split second she took my mind off the horror that just occurred. Reconnecting with her brought me back to center and see that you have to look for the gems in the dirt. For that night, Kyra was my gem. We said our goodbyes and I continued to backstage.
We’re stopped by a power hungry security guard, who wouldn’t let us back. She asks a tall man who I am and he legit looks at me with disgust, flings his hand towards me like he’s shooing a dog and yells to this entire group of people, “Ummm Hello! Does anyone know this girl!? Who is she?! Who is this girl!? I mean who are you?! Why are you here?!” His tone was so demeaning, I thought I was going to burst into tears again out of sheer humiliation. All eyes were on me. A smaller woman to his left looks at me, rolls her eyes and says, “Sweetie…who are you and what do you want?” with a condescending tone and snarky glare. I explained I designed the jewelry and I was supposed to pick it up so I could leave. She automatically bursts into her clearly kinder and more fake personality screaming, with each syllable elongated, “Oh My God! Blaine Bowen!” She just so happened to be the swimwear designer’s assistant.
After publicly debating whether it would be okay to let me back there or not, we are allowed back. I felt like a sweater in her closet from last season being decided upon whether to keep or throw out. Remember, it was in our contract that we were allowed backstage and there was an agreement for me to pick up the jewelry immediately following the show. We calmly ask out of curiosity if there was a problem with the jewelry and that’s why it wasn’t really used/altered. I mean heck, as a designer I want honest feedback because I want to grow and learn. She came back with a snippy response that the swimwear designer wanted ‘dainty’ and I didn’t perform to her expectations. Flashback to emails and mood boards from months ago. Nowhere throughout the creative process and in the inspiration photos or requests was the word ‘dainty.’ DAINTY is MY THING! I LOVE DAINTY! If she’d asked for ‘dainty’ I could’ve done the line in my sleep. Not to mention, we had emails from their team less than 48 hours before where they all said they, “loved” the line and asked me to design more. I hold my breath, smile and we let her know that is not what we were told, but basically apologize for the disappointment. Katie, in the mean time, asks Regina George (aka designers assistant) about the mass amount of safety pin earrings they had me make the night before I left, and asks if something happened since weren’t used and were specifically requested last minute. Again Regina, in her uber bitch mode now, says they weren’t functional, a design error, and wouldn’t ‘lay right’ (again, remember when I mentioned earlier how I asked them multiple times if I could show them how to put them on, and they brushed me off like a bad date? You guessed it, they were putting them on wrong). Katie asked if they were putting them on from behind the lobe only to be given an answer she already knew, “Well no, but I think the show was still really nice,” and rolls her eyes. Well, Regina, that is what I like to call ‘user error’, not design error, especially when I offered my assistance and it was declined.
Just when I think my night can’t get any worse, I’m approached by different people in all directions who want to talk about it. One being my PR Agency, I appreciated their concern but I didn’t want to be pressed to talk about it. I was still trying to keep the wells in my eyes from becoming actual tears. After all, I was really disappointed and put so much work, time and money into this and it all blew up in my face. So of course I’m sad, I’m beyond sad. I’m catastrophically, epically disappointed and crushed. My Super Bowl of fashion and I lost the big game. They kept pressing me to talk, as I moved away with each word spoken into a dark corner. I begged, “Can we not do this now,? It’s not the time or the place.” Now it’s a full court press from everyone…I burst into tears.
DAMNIT BLAINE. DAMNIT. DAMNIT.
As they talked about things, I couldn’t get a word out (I’m actually in the middle of writing my mom an email who is in Ireland six hours ahead and I know she’ll be awake soon to talk me through things and make me feel better. She worked in high role in fashion for years and was the head buyer for all of Macy’s and would travel to international fashion weeks, etc. Basically, she was a boss and I strive to be just as successful as she was). My hands shook and I cried as they tried to talk to me. Low and behold I get another kick in my metaphorical balls. My sweet little iPhone6 tumbled out of my shaking hands, hit the ground and the screen shattered. Shattered in every sense of the word, it looked like Charlotte wove her web across the screen. My poor manager Katie is staring at me in disbelief like I’m a stray dog in the middle of the road she wants to rescue. At this point, I needed rescuing. Thankfully I’d moved far away from the backstage madness to a secluded dark area under some empty production tents, so only Katie and my publicist witnessed the mess that I was.
Katie packed up the jewelry that was used, noting items that she saw on the runway are missing. At the same time remembering all the volunteers who were wearing a majority of my jewelry. We hunt them down to politely ask for the jewelry to pack up. With the wildest look of disbelief, the teeny bopper looks me dead in the eye and says, “I don’t get to keep this? I was told I get to keep this.” Whoa whoa whoa Hannah Montana, pump the brakes! About to channel Britney with her Umbrella circa 2007, I slow my roll, grit my teeth, smile and say, “I’m so sorry, no. Thank you.” She pulls the jewelry off, shrugging in disgust, as if I’ve just told her Santa isn’t real and plops the jewels back in my hands.
We went up to the hotel room that had all the unused swim looks, other unused products: nail polish line, Sunglasses, spray tan line, etc. Everyone’s products in one chaotic room. We find the area where our jewelry is laid, and as Katie and I started to pack, we realized, it’s almost all damaged and ripped apart. All my designs had been turned and chopped into bent silver and chain soup. They had literally butchered my collection.
At the time it felt like the final nail had been placed on my coffin. Katie and I packed up quickly and jetted back to our hotel in painful silence. Disappointment, anger, sadness you name the emotion, it was oozing from our pores. We part ways at the hotel only to meet again three hours later at 4:30 a.m. to leave for the airport. Clearly, neither of us had slept but were still hoping to wake from the nightmare. I spent my few hours balling to my fiancé via FaceTime and took photos of the damaged jewelry to forward to the designer’s team.
We landed in Dallas to an email telling us that we should be ‘okay’ with the damages, because a few of our items were used and the ones that were altered have great photos on Getty Images site. I am floored. Why do photos make what she did to the jewelry okay? Most of the jewelry, except for the one stellar look, weren’t my designs, they were ripped creations by their team with my materials. It was implied that I could use those photos anyways, which I rejected and said it would be a lie and they weren’t mine. MIND BLOWN…MY. MIND. BEYOND. BLOWN. The designer expressed her apologies but, still thought it was okay to alter the jewelry because she wanted to represent as much of ‘Blaine Bowen’ on the runway as possible. To my point and frustration, ripping apart my designs and creating your own IS NOT representing me.
My mind couldn’t even operate the first two days I was home. I didn’t want to talk about jewelry, think about it or even see it. More so the anxiety and epic disappointment that this big time designer cut up and destroyed my designs. I felt like a failure. I talked it out with friends and family, and realized that I didn’t need to give this situation anymore of my energy. I needed to buck up and move on. We started back to work on Wednesday and are back to our usual happy routine, a little bit stronger and whole lot wiser.
So if you’ve taken the time to read my post today, first thank you, but my point to everyone in talking about this is that nothing is perfect. We all have our own shit. You just have to grind through it. No matter how perfect things look online, we all have problems and you can’t expect everything to be glamorous and a breeze just because it looks that way for someone else. We’re companies and brands, of course we aren’t going to broadcast the bad, we are trying to inspire our followers! However, being the face of my brand I wanted to get really real with everyone and let you in. I want you all to feel like you know me and can relate to me. That’s what I want my whole brand to be about. A lot of my followers are aspiring business owners for many industries, so I think I would be doing you all (and myself) a disservice by pretending like getting to where I’m at has been easy and without speed bumps and some major cliffs. I wanted to share this to prove that you just have to keep grinding through bad times, and know that eventually good times are ahead, along with some more bad. That’s just life. I want to inspire you all to grind and not give up or listen to haters, you define where your future takes you. After-all I was faced with an entire backstage of haters who couldn’t look at me like a was a bigger nobody. All I have to say to them is, thank you. Because I’m a hell of a lot stronger than I was last week. I’m not going to let this experience define who I am as a designer or a person. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Clearly, I’m not perfect, my company isn’t perfect and it never will be. The end game is that I love what I do, I work hard and look out for my employees to the best of my ability and try to have as much fun in this life as possible along the way. Regardless of a little airbrush here and there, because let’s face it, none of you want to see social photos of me promoting my jewelry with my hormonal acne breakouts and my Melasma. So sometimes I need a little help, but I will never pretend like thats what I look like all the time or that it happens without warning. My life isn’t all traveling, friends, and events. Most of the time i’ll avoid a fashion event like the plague unless Katie forces me to go. At the end of the day, I do what I love and I work really hard to be a great designer not only for myself, but for you, my customers. I stress over social media posts for you guys, because your feedback lets me know I’m designing something you all like as well.
So the next time you look at an Instagram and think someone has the perfect life and things must be so easy….just think of me and a few of my stories and know that we’re all going through it. If you take anything from this post, I want you to walk away with the notion that no matter how much things seem to be going to shit, know that its okay to have crap going on, just KEEP GOING. Keep being you and keep your head up, you’ll get there.
Check out these empowering women who embody everything I respect in a human being. From their work ethic, honesty, fearlessness and dedication to their whit, creativity, brains and loyalty,thankfully, I’m so blessed to call them all friends, and you all should get to know them if you don’t already!