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Thank you for tuning in to episode 90 of the podcast! Today’s podcast is another interview – we’ve done a few of them back to back now – and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to speak with such amazing people and share these conversations with you.
In this episode I had the pleasure of speaking with Jag Beckford, who is the founder of Rainbow Fashion Week, in addition to their own clothing line, Jag & Co. We talked a lot about the evolution of going from an entertainment attorney into creating a fashion line, and launching Rainbow Fashion Week. The goal of Rainbow Fashion Week and Jag & Co. are really to make us a more sustainable planet and it’s great to see that weaved in through LGBT. Have a listen to find out more about this and Jag’s incredible story.
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Jenn T Grace: You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 90.
Introduction: Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You’ll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You’ll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven’t yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn – with two N’s – T Grace.
Jenn T Grace: Well hello and welcome to episode 90 of the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and again I have another interview for you. So we are definitely on a roll full steam ahead with a lot of interviews over the last couple of months, and I just keep getting the opportunity to connect with awesome and interesting people, and if you’re listening to this and you think that you would be a good guest on the show, please feel free to reach out at any time. If you go to www.JennTGrace.com and go through the Contact Us page, you can certainly send us a note through there.
So we have another interview today as I just mentioned, and Jag Beckford- so E. Jag Beckford is a guest that was recommended to me from Mona Elyafi who was a podcast guest herself quite some time ago, and she is a PR agent and she works with a lot of LGBT clientele. So it’s been really amazing to get Mona sending me more people that are really interesting to talk to.
So today we’re talking to Jag, and their business is Rainbow Fashion Week as well as Jag & Co. And those are two businesses; one being a fashion week that happens in New York City every June for Pride, and also a clothing line. So on today’s show we talk a lot about just how the evolution of going from an entertainment attorney into launching a fashion line, and launching Rainbow Fashion Week, and all that great stuff. You will note that this is airing and we’re in August, and we were making references to Rainbow Fashion Week coming up because we did record this in the beginning of June. So if you’re listening to this now, you have already missed this year’s Rainbow Fashion Week, however it will be going into its fourth year next year, so I would highly, highly recommend getting on Jag’s radar now while you can, so that way you can keep up to date with all the stuff that’s going on. But I highly recommend just staying tuned, and listening to Jag’s story because it’s really interesting, and the incredible amount of purpose-driven and mission-driven nature of this business is incredible. The goal of Rainbow Fashion Week and Jag & Co. are really to make us a more sustainable planet, which is pretty cool to see that kind of weaved in through LGBT.
So it’s going to be great, I assure you of this. So if you want to get links that were mentioned in today’s episode, if you go to www.JennTGrace.com/90 that is for episode 90, you can get access to the transcript, and the stuff that we talked about in today’s episode. And without further ado, here is my interview with Jag.
So this podcast is the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, and I think that’s why Mona thought it would be great for us to connect. So today I would love if you can start off by giving the listeners kind of a broad overview of who you are and what you do, and then my method is to just start asking you questions based on what you said to just kind of talk about your brand, and what you do, and how you’re putting yourself out there to the world.
Jaguar Beckford: No problem. Okay so my name is E. Jaguar Beckford. I am the Executive Producer of an annual event in New York called Rainbow Fashion Week. I’m also the CEO of Jaguar & Company Clothier, short Jag & Co. which is pretty much what it’s known by. I just design clothing for more gender fluid women, women who are more male identified, but gender fluid women because pretty much it’s about everyone enjoys wearing clothing that fits well, looks well, et cetera. And my background is I’ve been an entertainment attorney for about fifteen years, but ironically I put myself through law school designing clothing, so it’s not a far stretch. So that’s pretty much who I am, and hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to tell you a little bit more about Rainbow Fashion Week, which is coming up in two weeks.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah, that’s what I was going to ask you. In looking at your bio, and seeing that you came from an entertainment attorney background, and then now you have Rainbow Fashion Week; how did that idea hit you that this was something you should do, and can you just give kind of a broad overview of what Rainbow Fashion Week is, how many people come, what the purpose is, and all those great details?
Jaguar Beckford: Okay so it wasn’t a great leap or far at all to go from the entertainment business into the fashion business. One, as I previously stated that I actually designed throughout law school, so I designed jeans, tee shirts, I made clothing, and I sold them in my off time from school. Rainbow Fashion Week was actually conceptualized probably a couple weeks after I launched Jag & Co. And I just recall when rolling out to take my final vow to- when the designer goes out and everything, I said, ‘Wow you know-‘ in that moment it’s just so clear. In that moment I realized that fashion events are not just about the designer, but are more about all of the creative talents that come together to make the designer’s vision- to bring it into fruition. And I said wouldn’t the audience love to see the art of fashion, and not just what a designer put on the runway, but more the artistry of hair, makeup, and style. And so in that moment I was committed to say, ‘I’d like to see an event where people can come and enjoy the artistry or the art of fashion as we call it. So it was conceptualized in 2013, and we got so many ways that we connected to our audiences; we did live streaming, casting, and so we reached over 20,000 viewers, attendees. We had about- I would say, I think our first year we had about maybe almost a million impressions just because social media was really buzzing about what was going on in this new type of fashion event. And so you know, we were just very committed to give new designers and existing designers, makeup artists, stylists a platform to be able to show the artistry of what they do. And so that’s more of what Rainbow Fashion Week is really about. It’s about the art of fashion.
Jenn T Grace: That’s awesome. And now is there anything in terms of just the fashion industry more broadly, other types of events that are doing it the way you’re doing it? Or is this kind of a completely new take on things?
Jaguar Beckford: We actually want to change how fashion is presented to the public. So the reason I say it that way, if you think about it, someone decided that women should wear high heels. Someone decided that women should put on rouge and makeup on their face. But men don’t do it. Men don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Oh I have to put on stockings, and I have to wear high heels,” et cetera, so if we really look at what the fashion industry has become, you know it was a male-dominated industry and pretty much we had designers putting things on women primarily because the women models were who really drove the fashion industry. So we had very, very creative souls who decided, ‘Well I’m going to create this fantastic so-and-so to put on this model’s head, these amazing shoes to put on this model that they could barely walk in,’ and so it was pretty much a very male-dominated society that was dressing us, almost like dolls. And it kind of just moved us over into how women were supposed to dress, and what they were supposed to wear, and so on and so forth. So if you actually look back in time, you’ll see when women finally said, ‘Hey, why do I have to dress like that? How come I can’t wear a man’s suit? Or come I can’t wear a man’s suit that’s tailored? That can look just as good and I can look as sexy.’ So it took someone to break that mold and to say, ‘You know, I don’t want to conform to that.’ And so when I looked at the fashion industry I said, ‘Well why do we have to conform? Why do we have continue to have size zero to two models walk the runway when they’re not part of our average taking on a daily basis?’ I don’t see size zero to two people on an average day. I don’t go into a department store and says, ‘Wow I want to wear that outfit because I want to look just like that person that I saw in Vogue magazine.’ It just wasn’t reflective of who I was, and who I knew our community was as a whole. And so I said to my team members, I said, “Guys, you know we have an opportunity to change the standard for the norms of what fashion events are. We can make this more fashion expose. We can make them more about fashion and experiences, and have people actually leave still getting the sense of what a runway show is, but at the same time have a total different type of presentation.” And so that’s where we came up with our commitment to Rainbow Fashion Week was.
Jenn T Grace: That sounds amazing. So where in this timeline did you launch Jag & Co.? So your actual clothing line? Where did that happen?
Jaguar Beckford: Jag & Co. was launched in 2013. And it was so funny because I actually said- I was like, “Wow I’m going to actually take a hit with Jag & Co. not really being able to brand and develop and put things into production in the window that I would want. You know we got very great, and we’ve had continued success coming at us before. Surprisingly people love Jag & Co. We get standing ovations at shows, people love our products, we do one-of-a-kind types of suspenders, and ties that we make from craft items, so that’s kind of a way of repurposing and things like that. So technically ideas came in where we said, ‘We don’t have to always go out and buy new rolls of fabric. We can look at some of the existing things and say well why can’t we create beautiful things from these products as well that people would love and enjoy?’ So Jag & Co. took a step back in 2013 to really go out in full production. And I said that we would have our natural evolution through Rainbow Fashion Week, and so I have a day which is called the Haus of Jag & Co. This year it’s June 18th which happens to be my birthday, it just kind of happened that way, and our theme this year is transition. From the time that I launched Jag & Co. I can say approximately nine to ten of my mottos have transition. And I’ve just been there fully supporting them, I always have very kind words because I’ve noticed that the community tends to begin to shun them, and their language begins to change as it relates to, ‘Well how do I now speak to this person?’ The same person that you knew and loved and that you embraced in the Facebook group, now all of a sudden your words are harsh because you don’t understand why the new posts of someone who just had their surgery, why that’s important to them to be able to present that to their community. And so I decided to do a show that pretty much honored what their struggles have been, and that’s the other thing that’s different about Rainbow Fashion Week. We have themed events with social responsibility causes that we tie into our shows. Not just a name and a pamphlet, but we actually tie them into the show thematically as we present it to the audience. So this is a whole other way of how we can present a plethora of things to an audience once we have their attention.
Jenn T Grace: Wow that’s incredible to have such a social good component to things, and I obviously don’t have to tell you this but you were just saying how a lot of times people within our own community get ostracized, and the fact that you’re finding a way to embrace their transitions, I feel like is such an incredible gift that you’re providing to not just the models that you’re working with but to the community at large.
Jaguar Beckford: Yeah and what motivates me is I receive letters from people all over the world. And when I say ‘all over the world’ I mean all over the world.
Jenn T Grace: That’s awesome.
Jaguar Beckford: I received notices this year from a young lady who was in a play called ‘The Little Prince’ in the UK, and she just reached out and she said, “Oh my God, I love what Rainbow Fashion Week is about. I would love to be able to walk in something like it.” One, the person didn’t see the day would be able to do something like that because you know we have Eight Days of Queer so it’s not just like one event that happens one time, and you can’t get there during a specific day of the week, so on and so forth, so it just gives people more opportunities to plan to come. But just the mere fact that we would be accepting that she’s 5’2″ and last year I did an event at the Brooklyn Museum and my shortest model was 4’11”. After just training her how to walk and show her the type of confidence I wanted her and what she was wearing to present Jag & Co., she killed it. I mean 4’11”. And so we wanted people to see that it’s not about your size because that person has to go out and shop for things just as the 5’11” 5’10” model that’s a size zero has to as well. And I received another email from a police officer in Camden, New Jersey. She’s actually going to be in my show this year. And she said, “Jag, I’m in my thirties,” she said, “I feel like I’m in my best body, my best frame of mind.” She was like, “I would just love to walk in your show.” And you know, everybody can’t walk in my show but it was her story; her story motivated me about what was going on in her life. And just to be able to give someone like that an opportunity to do that is all of what Rainbow Fashion Week is about. Another came from a woman in Norway, her name is Siri, and same thing. She was like, “I will come to the United States just for an opportunity to have this experience.” And you know, that’s pretty much what it is. We want to be able to just show people that you, the average person, have a right to hit a runway. And so we try to actually create shows and experiences for all of our community. So we have a pet show- Rainbow Pet Fashion Show, our social cause this year is dog waste composting. And people are like, “Jag isn’t that a stretch?” I said, “Why should it be a stretch? We have an audience, we have an opportunity in having our pet lovers within our queer community to be able to help us, help the city of New York, clean up the city. Why not take advantage of it?” And so that’s what we kind of look out; how can we take advantage of utilizing our audience and our voice and having accomplished. And that’s what’s important to us, so that’s what’s different about Rainbow Fashion Week and that’s why our tagline is ‘Not your average fashion week.’
Jenn T Grace: Yeah I feel like the way that you’re incorporating such an inclusive message seems to be so obvious. Like so as you were talking I opened up your website, www.JagAndCo.com for anyone who wants to go check it out, and just looking at the different gender expressions of everybody that you’re using for models who are modeling your clothing line, I feel like it’s incredible because I feel like anybody who goes there and is looking, they’re going to find somebody that they resonate with that they’re not used to seeing as a model for clothing.
Jaguar Beckford: Right, exactly.
Jenn T Grace: So in terms of how the clothing side works, are you manufacturing all of that stuff yourself? And is it any type of on demand, or do you have to purchase a lot of stuff in advance? Is it tailored? How does all that work?
Jaguar Beckford: For Jag and Co. specifically?
Jenn T Grace: Yeah.
Jaguar Beckford: For Jag and Co. products we purchase our materials, we have our patterns, and we kind of make maybe two pieces of a kind. We’re not in production so a lot of times it may be one piece that’s for show just to get an idea. We’re still feeling through what it is that we think people want. It’s so funny because in 2013 I came out with the paperboy and that came from my grandfather. So you know I had like an old black and white picture, and I just fell in love with the forties and fifties style, and I said wouldn’t it be great that we could present this style to our young and older aggressive females and show them very hip, swanky and sophisticated. And the reason I say swanky is because I’ll tell this to bring the craziest socks. I don’t care if it’s Mickey Mouse or whatever, and I said, “I’m going to show you how to dress up and dress down.” And so sometimes we create pieces just for the runway because we’re still trying to get a sense of what it is that our market is looking for. We’re actually going to be going into production soon which we’re going to be doing a crowd on a campaign and it’s basically going to be a suit that takes you from casual play to formal. And so yeah, that’s pretty much what our next step is going to. We were looking for a place to do our production and we had an opportunity to work with a goodwill ambassador in Honduras and she has been over there doing textile study and she said, “While this would be a great opportunity, I think we can actually get a space for you guys.” She’s actually found a 20,000 foot- it’s a raw space and I said, “Yeah but how do we get things going there?” And she said, “Well the mayor is willing to give you guys a space.” And so I decided that through Rainbow Fashion Dream Academy, we would- which we will be launching this year as well, we are going to start their first Women’s Economic Empowerment Program. So technically it sounds like a lot but it really isn’t. We’re committing sewing machines, solar generator, and sewing kits, and so we’re going to start the women off on their own small businesses. And then they’ll be back into the system to start the next. And we’re actually going to create a consortium of producers producing our production, not just for Jag & Co. but for some of these new designers who are coming through Rainbow Fashion Week. And so the Dream Academy is going to give some of these makeup people, designers an opportunity to go to Honduras and see what it’s like starting a production, and we’ll pretty much be starting everything raw. So they’ll be building, they’ll be donating their time, they’ll be sitting down with seamstresses, and so on and so forth, and that’s a new venture but that’s how we’re going to take Jag & Co. as well as some of our other designers into production and some of the others that are coming through Rainbow Fashion Week, we say, “If you give us a certain number of hours we will open other opportunities and doors for you globally.” We’ve also been invited to come to Nepal to do a Rainbow Fashion Week event. We’ve also been invited to Johannesburg, South Africa. So there are other opportunities for the people who work within the Rainbow Fashion Week team, because we’re building a team, we probably have now about sixty or so team members on various productions for each show. And so now we want them to be able to grow with us, and now seek other opportunities that they never even had within the fashion world as it exists here because the existing fashion world and present model is very elitist so the average person can’t just walk in and explore the opportunities that exist. So yeah we have a model and we really try to build on this model, and we’re trying to show people that the old model is not the way. We need to work towards a new model that includes our community in greater perspective.
Jenn T Grace: Wow, your mission and purpose in life, and everything that you do seems so incredibly huge and so powerful and impactful. And I know that we are running up against you having another interview right after this, but to kind of close us out if you were to think what Rainbow Fashion Week is going to look like in five years, or what Jag & Co. or just your brand as yourself will look like in five years, what do you think that’s going to be? What is your vision for five years from now?
Jaguar Beckford: Our vision for five years is we will have set the standard for the new fashion week from the standpoint of what our social responsibility is globally, what it is we’re doing to our planet. We will have set the standard that more brain trust attention goes into the planning of an event. I just finished doing an article and I said we’re David up against the Goliath of the fashion industry. So I know that we’re going to make a lot of change within the industry, I know that we’re going to catch the attention. A lot of the big corporate giants that are going to want to become a part of and reach our audience from a variety of perspectives. So I know that we are going to create the new model for fashion. I strongly feel that, most of the people that work with us, they strongly feel it as well. We are going to cause the fashion industry to take a look at how they produce these events, how wasteful they are, the products that they purchase, how they purchase them, how they’re disposed. So from the standpoint of being a solar- the first solar neutral event, we are going to attempt to reduce our carbon footprint by at least one third, just in energy- electric energy consumption alone. And some people said, “Why is this large fashion event sold out and sets up tents where you have all of the sun, and no one is sourcing solar energy? Why are they using nine, ten, eleven, twelve thousand diesel fuel generators, noise pollution, carbon pollution? So we know that we’re going to begin to shape this industry. And it’s not from the standpoint that we’re something that’s- we just want people to stand up and pay attention, and we think that we are going to be the organization that is just going to have people stop and re-evaluate when they’re doing a production, how to do a production that reduces our carbon footprints because truly our planet matters, and everything that we’re doing we want to consider what that means.
Jenn T Grace: Wow, such an incredible mission. Thank you so much for taking the time to connect with me today. For anyone who wants to get in touch with you, how would you recommend that they do that?
Jaguar Beckford: Well you can send us information on our website, www.RainbowFashionWeek.com. There’s a contact form and it comes straight through to firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also go to our website. And Jag & Co. you can probably reach me, JagAndCo, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, you can find me on any of those and inbox me. I always try to respond to everyone no matter how busy I am. So definitely thank you for your time, and I appreciate you guys helping us get this message out as well.
Jenn T Grace: Absolutely. Thank you so much and have a great day. Appreciate it.
Jaguar Beckford: Thank you, bye bye.
Jenn T Grace: Bye bye.
Thank you for listening to today’s podcast. If there are any links from today’s show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.