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Interview with Mike Vensel of CONCEPT

By P. AvionFacebookTwitter
Editor, IndieFashionDaily

CONCEPT is already one of the most anticipated events at NY / LA Fashion Week.

In 2011, it will be held at Ace Gallery, which in its 40+ year history has featured the legendary Andy Warhol, among others.

IFDaily: You recently showcased some of your own designs in NY, in a collection intriguingly called “Mies Maasai,” combining some of the the rigid structural sensibility of Mid-Century Modern Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with the colorful simplicity of the African Maasai.

I got a chance to visit with the Maasai on my trip to Kenya for SPIN last year. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist sharing this video of the Maasai drinking blood, which is NOT for the squeamish.) I love their open spirit, easy humor and bold colors.

In choosing featured designers for CONCEPT, is this freeform creativity, this juxtaposition of disparate-yet-congruent looks and styles something you look for? If not this precisely, what do you look for?

MV: We look for brands that have a strong signature, lines that come more from a place of love and creativity than from a place of financial opportunity. Our  designers tend to be a bit more dark and edgy but its not necessarily what we look for; it’s what tends to come our way.

IFDaily: A bit of background on CONCEPT. When and how did it come about? What’s its goal? What was / is the need?

MV: I have been producing fashion shows since 2004; it was never my intention to become a show producer, but after IMG and Smashbox came to a halt I felt someone had to step in and do something for the amazing designers of LA. I wanted a great place to show and I wanted to create a place for other designers that I love and respect, so I partnered up with Brady Westwater in 2010 and CONCEPT was born.

IFDaily: Tell us about this week’s partnership with Ace Gallery, a 40-year institution who have featured Andy Warhol, among others. What do you look forward to in the new venue?

MV: I have always been toying with the idea of CONCEPT being someplace more neutral for downtown and the west side, some place that would give CONCEPT more prestige and elevate the shows to another level. My good friend Henry Duarte mentioned that ACE Gallery was interested in getting more involved in fashion. We set up a meeting and it all fell into place.

IFDaily: How did New York go? Forgetting relative size, what elements make the NY fashion scene different from the LA scene?

MV: The shows we did in NYC at the Audi Forum were amazing! It’s hard to leave the comfort of your home to try something new in a bigger tougher city. The goal was to get our feet wet and get involved in the mix and that’s exactly what we did. NYFW has a history and tradition of showing that’s quite different than LA, you have to be part of the “inside crowd” to get major coverage; you have to court the right people. In LA we have been able to do what we want in a much looser way and still get strong attendance. Because of the freedom we have here we can explore collaborations with art galleries and do things in new ways. It’s exciting to be showing with the big guns in NYC but its also exciting to be creating a new format here in LA.

IFDaily: Tell us about the upcoming events, and anything else you’d like us to know.

MV: This season we will have many new surprises, new designers, new ways of showing, new collaborations, we are working with Paul Young Video Projects and will be featuring video art throughout the shows and gallery space. We will also be doing collaborations between artists and designers in an exciting new way. There is also a music element that we will be announcing soon as well. All in all the event will be a delight for the senses.

IFDaily: Anything fun coming up personally; trips, etc.? Or anything else you’d like to tell us?

MV: I made a resolution this year to be more involved in the arts, and since that resolution I’ve been going to amazing art openings and meeting great people. Before I was involved in fashion I was working as an artist. I will be showing some of my art at ACE with my clothing and working on many new projects this year which showcase my artistic side.

IFDaily: Thanks!


This year’s CONCEPT will feature:

SKINGRAFT – skingraftdesigns.com
martinMARTIN – martinmartin.net
Mike Vensel – mikevensel.com
The Battalion – thebattalion.us
Fremont – fremontapparelco.com
B:Scott – bscottdesign.com
Valerj Pobega – valerjpobega.com
Jen Awad – jenawad.com
Curly-V – curlyv.com
ISM Mode – ismmode.com
KITTENHAWK – kittinhawk.com
LAVUK – mylavuk.com
Chemline – chemlineapparel.com
Thai Nuyen – thainguyencouture.com
L’une – lunecollection.com

… and others TBA

Mike Vensel:
Mike Vensel Art | @mikevensel on twitter

Concept Fashion Week@conceptfw on twitter


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