By: Pavan Bahl
Full interview from LatinTRENDS Jan/Feb article
It’s about that time of year that we dig out our winter accessories in preparation for yet another stint of unforgiving snow-filled months. My first line of defense from blistering NYC winds…is a scarf. I’ve recycled the same two scarves for the past five years, with little to no need to vary from these staples. I mean, why should I? A scarf is…well, just a scarf. I like the prints, lengths, and materials of my scarves. Unless I lose them, why buy another?
Not enough design innovation has gone into this form of neckwear that would actually inspire me to make a switch. At least, not until I had recently come across Necklush! Immediately, drawn to the seemingly infinite ways in which you can style this scarf / necklace-ish thing, I began to dig deeper into this brand. This is what I’ve found:
Started by artists Stephano Diaz and Troy Hicks in Brooklyn, Necklush is a hand made hybrid accessory that doubles as a scarf and necklace. Not having any fashion design background, Stephano and Troy took the initiative to learn how to sew, pattern make, and prototype on their own. Their efforts were well received, and Necklush has experienced a remarkable amount of excitement from it’s very beginning in 2008.
After running a successful Etsy shop and receiving dozens of notable press features, Troy and Stephano are keeping quite busy. The two hand make every single piece in their Brooklyn studio and handle all aspects of business growth without any outside help.
I was very excited to pick their minds a bit, and share with you what I’ve learned about this dynamic artist duo. Be inspired.
Pavan Bahl: Both of you have creative backgrounds, however, no prior experience in the fashion space. What was the inspiration behind going to school, learning how to sew, silkscreen, and produce wearable items? Did you have a loose vision of Necklush prior to the hands on learning process?
Stephano & Troy: Well we really wanted to be artists and able to support ourselves. We are super creative but we spent most of our time in the clubs, less time making things. When we finally decided enough of the nightlife we were left with a decision – work for ‘the man’ or dig deep and find out what makes us happy. As artists at heart, we knew if we started something, anything and just saw it through, that it would take us somewhere good. So, we started with knitting scarves and using crazy color, and this led to the prototype for Necklush.
PB: As many young artisans do, you guys started out selling your wares along the streets and at local designer markets. For how long did you hustle in this fashion? Can you describe the good, the bad, and the ugly with that effort? Would you suggest others with a similar drive to follow suit?
S&T: Yes we started down in Soho at a market. It was such a big deal to us! We had no idea what to expect! We put out a few of our pieces, nervous that people were going to be like: ‘What is that?’… but instead it was more like ‘I WANT THAT!’ I guess the moment we were on to something was when the owner of the market came up to us and grabbed a bunch of Necklushes and said: ‘I want this and this and this, and you don’t pay today. Bring more tomorrow’… That was when we realized we had something different and interesting not just to us, but to experience fashion people as well.
As far as encouraging people to do markets – well yes, it’s a great way to get instant feedback and to see if you might have a future in selling the art you create.
PB:When I think of Museum stores, fashionable neck-wear isn’t the first item that comes to mind. Necklush is available for sale in several museums across the nation; can you explain how you guys were able to establish these partnerships? What was the thought process going into these spaces from a branding perspective (if any at all)? How are these relationships working out?
S&T: Well this all started because the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum chose Necklush to represent Etsy in the Design Triennial last year. This was pretty amazing; out of 200,000 sellers we had the honor of representing the site that really got the ball rolling for us. After being in the Smithsonian for half a year, we decided to approach some great establishments and have been really lucky with the response we have received! These relationships are wonderful! And we love the Art Institute of Chicago Museum Store… such nice people!!!
PB: What resources did you / do you leverage along your path of business development? (i.e. schools, agencies, consultants, books, friends, etc.)
S&T: Well to be honest, we do everything ourselves. We spent a lot of time learning about social media, marketing, photography, web design, etc… that way we are not really dependent on anyone. We have a really strong client base and a great relationship with people all over online. We are not sure if we could give any of that up yet as we really love the sort of person to person business style that we have created. As far as books, we dive deep into New Thought stuff like Wallace Wattles, Emerson, Charles Haanel… lots of law of attraction writings. We like to pump in only positive things to our brains; it keeps the possibilities wide open.
PB: A portion of sales of Necklush is donated to The Gerson Institute. What made you choose to assist this specific organization?
S&T: When we started, we decided we wanted to find some sort of charity or idea that we could give a portion to every month out of our profits. It was funny, because, finding the perfect place to give to was the hardest thing! So many charities seem so huge and bureaucratic, so we worried that our meager donation would get spent on mail-outs or something trivial. Then, one night we saw a documentary on Max and Charlotte Gerson on Netflix. When you learn about these two, what they have done and what the organization tries to do, you will probably understand why we chose this as the place to donate to. They are a great group of people dedicated to curing cancers and all sorts of disease by using all natural practices, like intense juicing and detoxification. Really amazing work!
PB: Though Necklush seems to be your current focus, you are both immersed in various projects. Please take a moment to highlight some of the other passions you focus your energy on.
S&T: Wow, thanks for the opportunity to share with your readers our other passions! We also make music, PAANO and also Zelium Quang. One is instrumental electronic music; the other is slightly psychedelic pop music.
We also like to find interesting artwork for our site, This Art Is Yours.
PB: As fans of non-fiction books, can you both suggest a book (or books) that are “must reads” for budding entrepreneurs?
S&T: Yes! Thank you for asking! We love recommending books! These can sort of have an antiquated language but once you get past that and follow what the core thoughts are we are sure any reader can gain only good things from the following titles:
The Master Key System by Charles Hannel The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles Thought Forms – C.W. Leadbeater An Iron Will – Orison Swett Marden Thoughts are Things – Prentice Mulford Your Word Is your Wand – Florence Scovel Shinn The Higher Powers of Mind – Ralph Waldo Trine
Believe it or not you can get each one for free on your Kindle! These are all part of the New Thought Movement from the early 1900s. If you read “The Secret” … then you read a book that got most of its ideas from these people. We highly recommend you reading all of these books.
Necklush recently celebrated their 5th year of business anniversary. Troy and Stephano continue to innovate, inspire, and create.