INTERVIEW by MILES EHAN, IN HIS OWN WORDS | BR!NK PHOTOGRAPHY by ZACK DeZON
My name is Miles Ehan and I am a twenty-year-old up-and-coming fashion designer in New York City. I spent most of my life in a small town outside of Houston called Bay City, Texas. I attended Parsons the New School for Design — which has been attended by several design greats: Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang… Now I am currently pursuing my dreams in this big city all on my own.
I think my passion for the arts started when I was a kid, picking fabrics and doing arts and crafts with my mom and looking through my sister’s magazines. I was so curious about the different textures of fabrics, the colors, the shapes they created, and the graphic elements throughout the magazine. I would sit there and look at Elle, Vogue, and just see these women wearing beautiful clothes and so sure of themselves at the same time, a whole new world. I wondered, “What if one day I could give someone that power by creating something unique, with my vision?” I knew I had to set a goal, make a plan, and work toward it.
I wanted to create something different and inspire others to inspire. So I generated the first fashion club at my school which started discussions with people genuinely passionate about the arts. It made me feel like I was making a difference. At the end of my senior year in high school, I assisted in organizing a fashion show in Houston that really was a fundraiser for the National Breast Cancer Awareness Pink Ribbons Project; a bunch of young designers had put together a five- to six-piece collection. After selling tickets at the auction, we raised over $10,000 for breast cancer. It was a great feeling and inspiring, especially coming from south Texas where fashion doesn’t mean much and my town was all about football, but we used fashion to motivate. From this I knew there was only one place to pursue my dreams, the Big Apple.
Two weeks after graduating from high school, I moved to New York City, and I started a fashion internship at Cosmopolitan Magazine. It was amazing because it allowed interns to be part of a mentor program, which paired us with people who played an important part in the production of the magazine. I was fortunate enough to have Fashion Director Michelle McCool, who took me under her wing. I got to attend photo shoots on my off-days, including one with 90210’s Anna Lynne Mccord, Twilight’s Kellan Lutz, and Gossip Girl’s Jessica Szohr at some of the best locations around New York City. At my last photo shoot, the prop stylist didn’t show up. Michelle told me, “this is your chance.” I ended up playing a major role in the shoot, picking things from flowers to dog leashes to assisting on set. We ended up having a great time, and she brought me into her office the very next day and asked what I wanted to do next. When I told her design was my dream, she suggested a design internship with someone more established within the industry and mentioned Isaac Mizrahi (fashion designer and creative director of Liz Clairborne); Cosmo had run a story on him shortly before, so she called and got me an interview.
Lobby of Cosmopolitan Magazine
Design internships were a little trickier to land. Much more was required for the interview; a portfolio with sketches, flats, and inspiration. It forced you to show what you had to offer and how you could contribute. I researched Isaac for weeks; he is truly an inspiration. He started from basically nothing in Brooklyn and made his way to the top, as he would say, coming to the Emerald City. Going to Parsons and getting Chanel to purchase his brand, and being the first designer to create a collection at Target and starting his own empire. The people I interviewed with took a chance on me, and that’s when everything started making sense in my life, well, in design at least. I got to see all sides of the fashion industry I had never seen before: from fittings with Isaac to working with embroidery, to understanding how a brand truly works. It got me thinking about: who is my client, and what does she do? The internship also taught me the importance of history, researching past designers and getting acquainted with the past improves your knowledge and plays a huge part in your own designs and the future. Being a more established brand and learning the trials and tribulations of what Isaac went through taught me the importance of branding and brand image.
After nine months at Isaac, I got to thinking of younger designers: how to start a company and seeing the components from the beginning; it doesn’t happen overnight. I reached out to Christian Siriano, whom I had watched on Project Runway. Really, I went to his website, clicked on contact info, and sent my resume asking if they needed interns. Two days later, I got a response and went in for an interview. I thought I would be meeting with an assistant designer, but sure enough… there was Christian, fierceness and all! I didn’t know what to do, I was so stunned. He was very kind, looked through everything in my portfolio, and asked what my availability was. Before I knew it I was sewing beads on neck pieces and tacking chiffon petals on a wedding dress. It was finally happening: hands-on experience, things I only dreamed of, behind the scenes of what was in the magazines. You know, he taught me so much and became an inspiration and a friend much more than just a boss. Seeing Isaac and Christian making things was motivation to work towards something and do something big. Which lead me to my recent stunt with Will Cotton and Katy Perry…
I made one of my first wacky dresses for a friend that was going to a party for Ryan McGinness’ 50 Parties. The skirt was made out of woven caution tape that went in and out, the black and yellow graphics from the tape created an awesome graphic pattern, with a yellow lining underneath. The top had a similar structure but I cut the yellow gaps between the words caution and pinched them together to make organic yellow flowers — caution couture, you could say. My friend tried on the dress, which looked great on her. She asked me to come the party, and from there I was introduced to a lot of important artists who complimented the dress. It was an amazing feeling — people admiring my work. Not just people, established artists.
Miles and friend (wearing his caution tape dress) at Ryan McGiness’ 50 Parties
Will Cotton, the artist who did Katy Perry’s album cover, asked about my work as a designer; he said that he wanted his work (which involves portraiture with candy elements) to incorporate elements of fashion and gave me his email address to stay in touch. A few days and emails later, I was showing him sketches that involved candy wrappers, cotton candy, and anything sweet I could throw in! We went back and forth and collaborated for weeks. Everything I learned was finally coming into play, I knew I had to keep true to Will’s image but still have my own. I finally ended up making two dresses: the first a cotton candy dress with a rock candy bodice, and the second, a dress made entirely out of cupcake papers. It was an experience trying to find a way to make unconventional material incorporate into the fashion world. The skirt was made of dyed pink cotton batting and the rock candy had a reisen coat for durability. Will added these paintings to his Los Angeles showing at Michael Kohn Gallery. He invited me to come with him to the opening this past January, and that’s when Katy Perry showed up to the gallery. She stopped in front of the cotton candy dress and fell in love with it. Will introduced me and said, “My good friend Miles did this.” Katy complimented my work and continued looking at Will’s pieces.
I hated myself for not reaching out more! But I knew I had to speak to her before she left. As she was heading toward the door, I put my things down and went up to her. I thanked her for the compliments, told her how much I loved her work, and she said that since she was going on tour soon all over the world, she was looking for designers for tour costumes. She said to reach out to her stylist and that we’d be in touch! I was on cloud nine, was this really happening? I wrote to him and presented him a few sketches; and before I knew it the costumes for the tour were inspired by Will’s paintings which featured MY very own dresses. I was honored and this was a huge success, I knew I had to keep working.
Will Cotton and Katy Perry at Michael Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles
I’ve been lucky in the amount of experiences I’ve had in such a short time in New York quickly approaching two years. My good friends who own a cosmetics company in New York, called Three Custom Color, and I worked together to create a capsule make-up collection called The Sweetest Thing. A trio that would go with the trio collaboration of Will Cotton, Katy Perry, and Miles Ehan: Icing on the Cupcake Eye Shadow, Candy Cloud 9 Lip Gloss (based on the fact that I felt like I was on Cloud 9 after working with Will and meeting Katy) and Lollipop Lip & Cheek Stain. My work with Will and his paintings definitely inspired this project, and I became involved on all fronts.
This leads me to where I am now! I’m working on a mini-collection/presentation with accessories to be presented at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2012. I think people will like it a lot. The girl I design for is a very successful woman in a big city: either an architect, writer, or art curator. She has a very important role in what she does and is always respected, and aware of what’s going on not only in fashion but also in the world. I like to think that she is the person I would be if I were a girl: very driven, and doesn’t take s**t from anyone. When looking to my work I want people to notice not just a strong design background but also a strong artistic vision. My aesthetic is focused on clothes that embody and empower a woman by using graphic elements in my designs. These elements not only convey a story but also encompass my aesthetic, a bold woman. The final and most interesting element of my work is the use of unconventional materials or the idea of an unconventional object enhancing my overall vision and brand.
In two to three years, I hope to have an established design company with many clients. Most importantly, I hope to be making a difference in someone’s life: making girls comfortable in their own skin is what matters to me. Giving women the inspiration and courage I saw so many years ago in the magazines. Daily BR!NK readers can contribute to my success by either investing in my brand, inspiring me, or simply mentioning my name. It takes courage to be different, but it takes ME to be bold.