To kick off Banana’s partnership with Prep Curry, the team got a chance to sit down with him and discuss how he went from homelessness to emerging designer with his exclusive dual-gender capsule collection featuring bold patterns, signature florals, and statement pieces. Here we speak with the Los Angeles-based designer to discuss his journey in the world of fashion, including his self-taught beginnings and a chance trip to New York City that changed everything.
As part of Banana Republic’s ongoing efforts to support emerging designers and highlight creatives worldwide, we invite you to meet the Los Angeles-based designer who mixes streetwear with bold florals and dual-gender style.
Q: Describe how the capsule collection came about? What made you want to collaborate with Banana Republic?
A: The capsule collection came about with me having a wonderful opportunity to do New York Fashion Week. Brandice Daniels [founder of Harlem's Fashion Row] gave me the opportunity to come out to New York. I wasn't going to do it; the price [of flying to New York] wasn't looking right. One of my cousins told me to put the opportunity on social media, and after that, so many people flooded my cash app and PayPal accounts. People poured [support] into me, which was what gave me the opportunity to travel.
[It's] a funny story. We were about to miss the luncheon after the show, and we sat down in the first two seats in the front. Mark Breitbard (who I didn't know who he was at the time) was talking, and when he sat down, he says, "Hey, you're Prep Curry." I was like, "I didn't think people knew who I was." He said, "I'm Mark with Banana Republic," I immediately stuck my hand out, and I went for it. I was like, "Man, I wish there was a way that I can do a collection with you guys, a collaboration." I just went out on a limb and said something to him. It basically happened that way with the collection, and they flew me out to San Fran. I was blown away that they gave me the opportunity to come out to see their facility. It was just a mind-blowing opportunity to see their collection. I've always wanted to do something with Banana because no other company has the type of feel that Banana has when you put on their clothing. Personally, I feel like it's the best fit for me to do a collaboration with Banana, based of the structure and design of their clothing.
You are known for such bold prints and your use of florals. Where did your signature come from and why are florals so important to you?
Florals are important to me because I want to show people the difference of masculinity as well as the softness of prints. You can have the best of both worlds, and they can collide. Before I came on the scene, when I was seeing prints, a lot of people were really against it because they said you couldn't really wear it [in a] masculine way. For me, I always want to show people that you can be very masculine and have bold prints. I've always wanted to do something different and have something that makes people say, "Oh well, hey, wow." Everything that I make is somewhat unisex.
What’s the most exciting piece in the collection?
The bomber jacket. It’s the best of every world. You have subtle pieces, you have solid colors, and you have the bold prints. The details of the pockets. The richness of the lining.
You refer to yourself as a self-taught designer. Tell us how you learned to become a designer and the challenges — and rewards — you faced along the way.
I didn't go to school for fashion; I went to "YouTube University." I pretty much watched nothing but YouTube. The challenge behind that is no one is in front of you; no one is telling you when you're doing something wrong — you have to learn it on your own. But that's a reward as well. You're learning at your own pace; you can teach yourself; you have no one limiting you on what they're teaching you. If you go to school and they make you sew maybe two hours, you're only going to sew those two hours. If you're self-taught, you will put 24 hours towards that [learning] and just try your best to keep going because no one is telling you to stop. To make it to that level of pure bliss, knowing that you didn't quit. That's the reward. At this point, to get something with Banana Republic, this is the reward! Almost 11 years later!
Speaking of the challenges you faced: Your journey began as a fashion designer when you left Memphis and moved to LA with just $6 in your account. What gave you the confidence and courage to take on such a challenge?
I would say that it really was just me saying, “I want to leave Memphis and do something better.” Knowing that for me to become a designer, I had to go somewhere where you can get real fabrics; you can see the real garment district, you can see real fashion shows, celebrities, and be on sets. I felt like in order to put yourself out in the real field of business, you have to leap. To this day, I’m surprised I’ve allowed myself to struggle like this. In the course of five years, I’ve moved 31 times and was even homeless at one time. It wasn’t easy, and I didn’t have a safety net.
There’s often talk about lack of Black designers and, more importantly, lack of support for the ones who are in the marketplace. What are your thoughts on this?
Black culture has a lot of influence on fashion, on music, on everything. What will help is more collaborations and more companies willing to put Black designers at the forefront and not just take their designs anymore. Corporations need to put more Black businesses in the forefront and not just when it’s [a] Black Lives Matters movement.
Your tagline is “It’s beyond the stitch.” Explain what you mean by that.
It’s about my story with my clothing line in general. It’s beyond clothing. It’s beyond me stitching my clothing. It’s the purpose of change. It’s deeper than clothing.
There is a casualization of fashion that has happened in the last few years. What are your thoughts on where fashion is and where it is headed?
It’s fashion-forward. Everyone is more comfortable. Nobody is really worried about gender. Freedom of expression is where I feel like fashion is moving towards. My clothing makes you feel good about yourself because someone is going to say something to you every time you walk in the door. They’re going to say, “Oh my God, that’s nice,” and you are going to smile. We need more people that actually make you feel good. Clothing shows moods.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is very unique. I’m in your face. I’ve always been different. I’ve never wanted to be like anyone else. I can’t do uniforms. My personal style is different. It will go down in history books as a world of its own.
If you could describe your brand in one word, what would it be?