Interview: Vashtie Gives Up the Goods On G-Shock Collab, Being Original and Developing Entrepreneurship

You guys know Vashtie. We know Vashtie. Everyone knows (and loves!) Vashtie Kola. Thankfully, she was just as sweet when we ran into the multitalented businesswoman holding it down for the ladies during the recent press preview for her new collaborative GMAS110VK-9A watch with G-Shock. From the all-gold-everything exterior to the appropriately placed VIOLETTE logo (which represents her personal apparel brand, launched back in 2008) this thing is fresh from every angle.

Allow VA$H Money to school you guys on the ways of young entrepreneurship, which includes being original, making those hard-to-make gut decisions, and knowing every detail of your company. Peep game from the queen.

To get us started, can you give everybody a rundown of your past year in fashion, and how that lead to the G-Shock collaboration?
Vashtie: Sure. For the past year, I’ve been really [building my fashion cred], even though my lane has been directing music videos. I’ve sort of worked my way into the fashion world through my brand, VIOLETTE. I’ve been doing some creative direction work for other brands. I worked with Tommy Hilfiger on a couple of projects. For my brand, I’ve done collaborations with graffiti artist Kunle Martins, aka Earsnot, Baron Von Fancy, and in a couple of months I’ll be revealing a collaboration that I did with a big apparel footwear brand. I’ve just been regrouping and getting into the fashion design of my world.

We recently spoke to Marc Ecko, and he spoke to us about 10 tips that new designers should learn. VIOLETTE is the epitome of an emerging brand, progressively getting better and more dope since you launched in 2008. What was the process like of getting it together, and how did you gain the confidence to even start your own brand?
V: It’s funny, because everything that I’m doing now is stuff that I did as a kid. I couldn’t afford anything cool or trendy, so I’d go to Salvation Army, grab pieces, and repurpose them by cutting them up. I made them so that they fit certain trends. From that, I always felt a connection to fashion—I just didn’t know how to go about it. I was also in love with film though, especially with making videos. When it came time in high school to decide which direction to take, I definitely chose film since it included theory and the production side. I always knew fashion was something I’d get into.

After I graduated school, I was directing music videos, but then I got a job at Def Jam. A lot of people might know this story, but I was there for a year, learned a lot, but also realized that it wasn’t my cup of tea. Finding out what happens behind big, corporate labels wasn’t something that was creatively fulfilling to me. After deciding to leave that job, I panicked and thought, "Oh man! How am I gonna do everything I ever wanted to do without a paycheck coming in?" In that moment I got confidence. I had no choice [but to succeed] after kicking myself out of the “nest.” I feel like a lot of the time we’re afraid to make those choices. Once you have no other choice though, you make it with a more assured sense of confidence. When I started [VIOLETTE], I wanted it to be everything that represented me. I felt like, through my years of work, I would meet a lot of girls online and in-person they’d say, “I’m just like you! All my friends make fun of me for only wearing sneakers and being a tomboy.” From there I knew there was a market for it. Of all the female brands, I didn’t really identify with any. It inspired me to make something that spoke to me, my style, and my aesthetic. I wanted something that spoke to other girls and guys like me. I’ve been taking my time with it because it’s really small, and I want to slowly work it into the public sphere. I want it to be very right.

For me, it’s all about knowing every aspect [of the company]. I’ve shipped packages, done sales, researched the right packaging—I’m just very hands-on. I needed to learn all those things on my own before I could grow the company and pass it off to someone else. I definitely know what it takes now, so if somebody says they don’t have an option for me, I’m just like, “No, yeah, you do. I can tell you what to do.”

Jumping back to the Marc Ecko interview real quick, one thing he said that stood out was to never feel like you’re above anything when it comes to your brand, from the lowest part of the job to the biggest. To hear you reaffirm that is really cool.
V: Puff [Daddy] is the same way! He’s such an inspiring character. I was just having this conversation about how he’ll take a meeting in Buffalo [New York] to sell to distributors or whoever. He is not above and beyond anything. He and Marc Ecko are incredible.

"I wanted people to see that just because someone [is wearing] a sweatshirt it doesn’t mean that you’re not about business and entrepreneurship. People should know that this is the new face of business." — Vashtie

What would you say is your favorite collaboration thus far?
V: Honestly, all of my collaborations have been different and beautiful in their own right. [My new G-Shock collaboration] is the most exciting because it’s the newest and the most fresh. For me, to be able to create something I can wear everyday and speaks to my lifestyle, makes everything super exciting.

Let’s really get into this watch. How did this whole thing even come about? What kind of creative choices did you have in it?
V: I basically had full creative direction with it. About a year and a half ago, G-Shock approached me for a Baby-G commercial that featured an all-girl cast. After I created that commercial for them, we had a conversation about a watch. As a young entrepreneur and businessperson who’s also a creative, I wanted to create a watch that represented that. Among entrepreneurs in general, it’s all about the watch. As much as I like the luxury watches, they might not speak to or reflect me and my lifestyle. G-Shock is definitely a brand that speaks to that. I designed something that represented me and matches what I do on the daily.

It looks very similar to a luxury watch, and I was 100% inspired by that aesthetic. I wanted people to see that just because someone like you is wearing a sweatshirt [Editor’s Note: Our Deputy Editor, Keenan Higgins, was wearing a baggy Russell sweatshirt during this interview] it doesn’t mean that you’re not about business and entrepreneurship. People should know that this is the new face of business.

What’s the coolest piece of advice that you can give to those that associate with emerging culture? How can they keep their generation going with fresh ideas, innovative thinking, and establishing great interaction amongst each other?
V: I would personally say that we’re in an age where everyone sees other people doing stuff on the Internet, whether that’s Twitter or Tumblr, and they want to mimic it. While it’s easy to mimic since the template is online, whereas 10 or 15 years ago people were more original because they didn’t have a template, people like Ralph Lauren didn’t look at Calvin Klein and go, “I’m gonna be the next Calvin Klein!” He just did his own thing. Now, when I look around and see so many of the same people doing the same thing, it’s kind of a bummer. That mindset lessens originality. Not everyone can relate to 2 Chainz’s song “I’m Different” because a lot of them aren’t [Laughs]. In the same space though, a lot of people are doing cool, innovative things.

I would say to just be original. Everyone wants to be a designer or a rapper or whatever. There are so many markets out there that no one is thinking about. Think Martha Stewart: cook something! Maybe you’re good at baking. This is what I always say to young people: do what you’re good at. What I do looks cool, and it definitely is, but these are all things that I’m passionate about. When times are rough, I’m still happy. I’m not complaining, because this is what I like to do. It’s important to find what it is that you love to do and then do it relentlessly and passionately.

The G-Shock x Vashtie limited edition VIOLETTE GMAS110VK-9A watch is available right now for $160.00 at select Macy’s, Tourneau, and key fashion boutiques, including the G-Shock SoHo NYC store.

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