Unfortunately, the business of designing and making clothes is about as far from those four things as possible. Designers struggle from the get-go to establish their name, find resources to create samples, show the right stores and editors their collections, and hope that everything resonates with consumers (and this is a simplified version). Now imagine doing this without the support of family and without much fashion education or experience?
"Dressed" is a documentary that traces the steps of designer Nary Manivong through exactly this process. The kicker, though, is that Manivong was abandoned by his parents when he was 14 and was forced, with his brothers and sister, to fend for himself while growing up homeless on the wrong side of the tracks in Columbus, Ohio.
The film follows Manivong as he struggles to pull together his first Fashion Week presentation by working two jobs and relying on the generosity of his network of friends.
"Dressed" also examines the struggles young designers in general go through and features interviews with such fashion types as Paper magazine's Mickey Boardman, Simon Collins from Parsons the New School for Design, Barneys New York's Simon Doonan, fashion consultant George Furlan, "The Fashion Designer Survival Guide" author Mary Gehlar, designer Nanette Lepore, consultant Fern Mallis, Robert Verdi and more.
At a screening of the film at New York's Soho House hosted by Tommy Hilfiger (his daughter Ally is starting a contemporary fashion business with Manivong called Nahm), Manivong admitted the process of making the film was challenging.
"I didn't know how to open up," he told StyleList. "I realized this film was like therapy to me. It took me a while to open up." But once he does, his sheer will and determination to succeed are plainly obvious, as is his pain in trying to overcome his past.
"This shows that you can be a self-taught designer and succeed," Tommy Hilfiger, also self-taught, mused to StyleList.
"Dressed," directed and produced by David Swajeski and executive produced by Maryanne Grisz, will be released Feb. 4 in New York City, Feb. 18 in Philadelphia, and Feb. 25 in Columbus, Ohio.