Achievers: Meet Rachel Roy, Fashion Designer/Humanitarian {Exclusive Interview}

 

Images by Travis Levius.  All Rights Reserved.
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“What would truly make me think ‘Wow, perhaps I’m starting to accomplish what God has intended for me to accomplish’ is when I truly give back to others and help others have freedom…that’s when I’ll start to think that maybe I’ve started to accomplish something truly great.” -Rachel Roy

My personal experience with lightning-speed success doesn’t hold a candle to the accomplishments of fashion designer Rachel Roy who- in just 5 years- has become a definitive figure in the critical, competitive fashion world.  Enamored with vintage film belles as a youth, she carried her passion into several divisions of Rocawear as an intern, and soon became creative director of its women’s and children’s divisions.  Her decision to launch her own line in 2005, however, was when she struck goldmine.

Ever since, fashion’s “it” girl has seen her vintage-inspired garments adorned on the likes of Oprah, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michelle Obama, Tyra Banks, Jennifer Gardner, and Ivanka Trump and can be seen in every major fashion magazine over the globe.  Her greatness, however, is not only found in her fashion career but in her valiant efforts to change the world through humanitarian work (this year she’s partnered with Fairwinds Trading Co. to actively create craft-based jobs for women in Rwanda and Tanzania).  I had the honor to sit down with the remarkably humble and stunning Rachel Roy before her RRNY runway show to discuss her journey and wonderful ways that she is inspiring the world.

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travis levius mister levius

ML.com: You went from: impulsively wanting to dress your mom, dad, and brother in your youth (she giggles) to…[Michelle] Obama.

Oh my goodness!  And just last night again, I found out that she wore a piece from my pre-Fall collection for a speech in Mexico.

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ML.com: Wow.

Yeah, it’s probably the best feeling that I could have in the business of dressing women

“…because if you’re not making people feel good about themselves, you’re not doing your job.”

So when someone that I’m inspired by wears it- especially in this point in her career where what she is wearing is so scrutinized that she can’t just throw something on, that means I am starting to do my job in a sense of making women feel good and strong and confident. And I was absolutely over the moon (giggles).

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ML.com: It’s evident that your clothes have elements of vintage Hollywood.  Why does that era inspire you?

Growing up I couldn’t watch TV, but my family had all the channels that you get when you don’t pay for cable (laughs).  So one of those was Turner Classic, and Continue reading

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Excursions: Kelly Wearstler Resort 2013 Collection

All images by Travis Levius.  All rights reserved.

Last week, I had the pleasure to attend Kelly Wearstler’s Exclusive Blogger Cocktail Event in Chelsea, celebrating the L.A.-based designer’s new Resort 2013 Collection.  Before being debriefed on the collection’s inspiration, my initial thoughts were “chaos, busy, bold”…later realizing that this was the designer’s intended reaction.

Designer Kelly Wearstler pictured above (center).

Kelly’s work is a colorful, frolicking exploration of essence vs. abstract: reserved for the fearless, forbidden for the faint of heart.  Though the rack of graphic, vibrant separates whetted my appetite, the live model demonstration truly tapped me into Kelly’s genius vision.

Inspired by the clothes and the amazing balcony view of Midtown, I took the models outdoors for an impromptu shoot.  Putting the clothes in context with the urban jungle was exhilarating, and it is clear that multi-talented  Kelly Wearstler (who is also a jewelry and modern furniture designer) is truly one to watch.

Special thanks to the lovely models and to HL Group for the event invite.

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Photo of the Day {“Vertigo:Toronto”}

Here’s an art-chitecture shot of mine of Toronto’s famed CN Tower from last summer; complete with my signature reflective technique (I only apply it when it makes sense).  Cool innit?

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Stuff Successful People Like: “Rich Like Them” by Ryan D’Agostino

Pursuing success, for some, does not particularly require pursuing wealth.  For those that do desire to acquire wealth (such as myself), it is always good practice to research the profiles of people who became wealthy and understand their lifestyle practice.

 Ryan D’Agostino’s book “Rich Like Them” is a fascinating read on the lives and lessons of the rich for two distinct reasons.  For starters, the former senior editor of Money data-gathering method in the book is nothing short of amusing and ballsy- literally going door-to-door unsolicited amongst America’s priciest zip codes to interview wealthy people.  The other reason lies in the insightful responses and inspiring stories of the willing subjects (many of which were self-made millionaires), and if we were to diligent apply the principles and advice given in the book, we would all be closer to our dreams of financial abundance.

 

A highly-recommended entertaining and informative read.

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Excursions: Fire on 14th Street

Images by Travis Levius.  All Rights Reserved.

I had just finished photographing a Fashion Week presentation, and as I walked toward the subway to go home (I was exhausted), I noticed smoke and fire brimming from an apartment building.  All of the fatigue, moodiness, and exhaustion vanished completely when I advanced towards the scene; I was fully present in a way that astounded me.  I imagined myself as an noted news photographer commissioned to photograph the story (while not getting too close to the very real danger).  This recent experience reinvigorated my love for photojournalism and dedication to pursue it.  

See MORE of the Fire Scene after the jump

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Achievers: Meet Kithe Brewster, Stylist & Fashion Editor

“God gives that insight and desire to get to a better place and not be complacent and live a life of ‘going to work everyday.’   That was never my course….it just never would never be me.  I knew that as a child, I must do the things in my heart and my dreams.” — Kithe Brewster

The picture above features one of the most recognizable faces on Earth.  She has her head comfortably resting on a man who has fashioned the mega-watt star- and many like her- such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, Iman, Celine Dion, Julianne Moore, Usher, Outkast, Eva Mendes, Drew Barrymore, and Heidi Klum.

 Stylist and fashion editor Kithe Brewster’s career is as prominent as they come.  He has done editorials for magazines such as Vanity Fair and has styled red-carpet affairs for Hollywood’s elite- and the occasional chart-topping chanteuse.  During his reign he’s helped a few achieve “fashion icon” status along the way; Camilla Morton of British Vogue famously wrote, “Kithe Brewster is to the best dressed list, what Henry Ford was to the automobile.”

With a versatile resume too extensive to include in an already robust interview, one would expect a trembling experience if one would ever meet him.  One would be surprised that he is exceptionally warm…truly an anomaly in the fashion industry.  I had the privilege to meet Kithe and discuss his incredible story, his highly publicized weight-loss journey, and his mission to connect with people’s hearts and aspirations through his career.

MisterLevius.com: When did it all start?  When did your passion for fashion begin?

Kithe Brewster: I was obsessed with vintage clothing; as a little kid I liked going “thrifting” and finding old things. I’d buy stuff for a dollar and I was changing it and cutting it all off.  Mom would be shopping at a department store or mall and you can’t really go chop up the clothes.  But when you go to vintage stores and you buy something for $2 you can whack off the sleeves, so I was doing kooky, deconstructing things as a kid.

ML: You had other interests as a child before jumping into your fashion career, correct?

KB: I had a career as a child actor- and dancer…I studied under Katherine Dunham directly in East St. Louis.  I moved to New York when I was 16 to pursue my career as an actor, dancer, singer, “Broadway”…  I auditioned a lot but I also had a part-time job working in my uncle’s fashion showroom.  After a year I decided I wanted to be in the fashion industry- specifically a fashion editor.  I had met all of the top ones who worked at Vogue, [Harper’s] Bazaar and all because they frequented my uncle’s showroom.  I’d put clothes together for them in the showrooms- I’d be like “Oh, these shoes would look great with this” and then I’d see it come out in Vogue or [Harper’s] Bazaar.  They would listen and place exactly how I recommended.

ML: How old were you at the time?

KB: I was 17.

(famous Annie Leibovitz photograph for Vanity Fair with iconic black supermodels)

ML: What was your initial reaction from your family about your direction to styling?

KB: My entire family was opposed to it.  My father and uncle cut me off when I moved to Paris, but I learned everything I needed to know.

ML: That had to have been hard.  When did you move to Paris?

KB: I moved to Paris at 19 with $500 in my pocket.  I’d stayed with a girl model friend I knew who just got a model permit to live in Paris.  She was not supposed to have guests but she said I can stay for a week- but would have to find my own place.  I didn’t toot French, I had very little money, I didn’t have an agent.  I didn’t have anything set-up because I had dropped out of school and quit my uncle’s company, so he wouldn’t help me…so I had to do it all on my own.

It wasn’t easy getting an agent since I didn’t have published work, only tests, but I finally found an incredible agent who fast-tracked me to success.  Also, the agent’s husband was an entertainment lawyer with many top fashion designers as his clients, so the couple basically introduced me to society.  I was able to connect and meet with powerful people, which was a great way to move upward.  I got the opportunities through the social connections I’d made and I had learned that that is a really great way to get around any city.

READ THE REST OF KITHE’S AMAZING STORY AFTER THE JUMP!

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Photo of the Day: #Occupy, November 5th 2011

                                                                Image by Travis Levius.  All Rights Reserved.

I haven’t announced it, but I’ve been tracking and capturing the lively protests, rallys, and marches of Occupy Wall Street in New York City- including other worthy protests inspired by the global movement.  I plan to make the photographs I’m accumulating into a larger project, but until then, here’s a glimpse of the struggles and action seen in downtown Manhattan.

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