Interview with Todd Fisher, the man who created Ariana's Grande fabulous fur coat
Before starting your own fashion label you were a professional athlete. That’s an unusual evolution. Can you tell us more about your career path so far ?
I wasn’t a professional athlete, I just really really wanted to run track forever. I was a junior in college when I tore my hamstring. I didn’t compete for an entire year and things didn’t look like they were going to get any better (I rehabbed my hamstring everyday but it wasn’t healing properly). I decided that I wasn’t going to run track anymore. I also decided that I didn’t want to be in college either (because the only reason I was in college was to run track) so I dropped out and moved to NYC the summer of 2008. But, my dedication to track was a stepping stone to my dedication for design. I always approached running with a strong work ethic and desire to succeed and that has carried over into my design career. My dedication, motivation and belief that I can/will succeed was the same for running as it is for designing.
Do you have a fashion background ?
My mother taught me to sew by hand at an early age. I’d sew buttons on and she taught me how to hem pants/skirts by hand. I would always sneak into her sewing supplies and alter the clothes on her Barbie dolls. She never got upset and she actually encouraged me to do so after she found out. Later in life (20, 21 years old) while running track in Kansas, I started altering my own clothes. My teammates saw me doing so and they began asking me to do the same for them. They would also encourage me to pursue a career in fashion. After completing two years at Barton County Community College, I transferred to the University of Akron in Ohio (that’s where I’m originally from). I studied fashion merchandising but ultimately, I knew I wanted to be a designer. I took one sewing class and a textiles class in the year I was enrolled – the rest were fashion business classes. I continued to sew on a daily basis, more than the class required. After dropping out and moving to NYC, the majority of my education has been through independent studies – I’m mostly self-taught. I’ve ordered hundreds of books from the Internet (tailoring, pattern cutting, draping, fabric manipulation, couture sewing techniques, how to sew fur etc) and I built my own home sewing studio where I basically put everything I was learning into practice. I built an 8'x4’ cutting table, a pressing table etc and I made it my experimental laboratory. I also later enrolled in the Ladies Tailoring program at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) here in NYC. I only did two semesters though. I would say I have a very extensive knowledge of technical design – I am a pattern maker. I make all of my own patterns and I know how to sew everything as well (although, some of it I give to my factory to sew).
What is the story behind Ariana Grande’s beautiful faux fur coat she wore during the Radio Disney Music Awards ?
I recently completed my first collection. After everything was finished, my press rep sent out emails to stylists and editors. Ariana’s stylist responded with great enthusiasm. She wanted to have a faux fur coat for Ariana and I was the designer she asked to do so. I made the pattern and cut the fabrics myself. That coat took roughly 25-30 hours to make.
How does it feel to see your creation worn by a super star on TV ?
It’s surreal. But at the same time, it’s so much hard work. Designing has literally been my entire life for the last 10 years (more so now than it was 10 years ago but this is literally all I ever think about). I had a plan and a strong focus. It seems like things are happening overnight but really, it’s been 10 years in the making – my entire life even. I’m not a designer because I want to be famous or friends with celebrities. I’m a designer because this is what I want to dedicate my life to. I’m a nerd at heart. I’m in love with learning how a garment is cut and how it’s sewn together. Most people see a finished garment, I see seams and patterns and construction techniques etc. so, while it’s surreal to see Ariana wearing pieces that I’ve made for her, my mind is more focused on how well the garment looks. Does it hang right? Is there anything I can improve upon? That sort of thing, you know…
You seem to have strong convictions. How do you see fashion today ?
Honestly, my journey has been a series of ups and downs. I went vegan 3 years ago and I honestly believe that it changed my entire life in more ways than one. I was becoming bored with fashion. I saw myself going through the motions at one point. Once I decided to go vegan, I got the brilliant idea to build a vegan luxury brand. Everything is 100% vegan. I source luxury synthetics and plant-based textiles only. As far as fashion today, I think the industry is shit. I think there a lot of HUGE egos doing it for fame and money. My ego is in check – I don’t want to be a celebrity. I just want to design clothes that women want to wear and do so without harming animals. I think fashion is a reflection of the times. I also think that the world is changing. Humans evolve so quickly and, in my opinion, it’s boring as fuck to see these conventional luxury designers continue to use animals skins and silk or wool or feathers. I don’t feel like they’re challenging themselves. I’ve stepped out of what was once my comfort zone and made it my mission to think outside the box. After all, I was a designer long before I went vegan. I don’t think animals need to be harmed to make clothes. Animals have been used for fashion since the beginning of time but if we always stuck to tradition, we’d still be living in caves and using fire instead of electricity. I guess what I’m saying is, I wish more people could put themselves in the animal(s) position. They don’t want to be a handbag or a coat – they want to live and love and thrive just as much as you and I. I wish fashion evolved as rapidly as technology has.
Where do you source the material for each season ?
Mostly in the garment district here in NYC. I’d like to eventually design and manufacture my own textiles. One step at a time though.