I was lucky enough to sit down with Justin Saint-Clair an LA-based designer and owner of the Twenty-Four Carat label while he is in New Zealand for Fashion Week.
Two years ago at the young age of 25, he launched the label and his very first piece of clothing he sold was to Chris Brown. His label is worn by many young, influential A-list celebrities including Joe Jonas, P.Diddy, Busta Rhymes, Big Sean and Fergie just to name a few.
What led you to become a fashion designer?
Music, I was a musican when I was 17 and I started doing merchandise like t.shirt and hats for my albums that would come out. I would have fun designing the merchandise, setting it up and selling it and I was basically making more money with that than the music. Everyone always liked my designs and wanting me to make more so from there I decided I might as well have my own clothing line. I thought I would do the clothing line for a little bit and then go back to music but the clothing line took off.
Where did the name Twenty-Four Carat come from?
I wanted something that symbolised high quality and 24 carat of diamond is really high quality so that’s what it’s based off of. Everything is hand made and made in the USA. Everything is hand sewn, hand painted so the quality is really high so I just wanted a name that reflected that.
Are you self taught or did you study fashion and design?
Self taught. I taught myself how to sew. I’m actually in college / university now full time. I know I’m creative and have ideas but I wasn’t sure if I knew how to handle the business side. So I go to business school. It’s really intense and it’s hard but I’m making it work.
What inspires your designs, where did your signature Splatter design come from?
It was just an idea I had. I actually had a friend who had a clothing line and I told him that I had an idea for a design and I told him he should do it but he didn’t want to so I decided I would just give it a try. And when I did it, it sold right away.
I don’t have a certain creative process, I’m just random. I will get inspired to do things at certain times. With my company I don’t do seasons, when ever I’m inspired I just put something out.
Were you surprised at the rapid success of Twenty-Four Carat?
I knew it would take off, but it took off immediately. I was expecting a steady climb, I didn’t expect it to go so quick. Like I said I have a friend who is a designer and he started his brand 10 years earlier so I knew I had to start from the bottom and work, work, work. The day I put it out my first customer was Chris Brown.
Describe your typical day. What is it like running your own business?
I wake up and check and answer emails. I check my orders from the day before, then I usually just make it and ship it out. I usually work out of coffee shops all the time. I have a home office but I find it better to work out of a coffee shop for the vibe and I can focus more. If I’m not working I go to class. I work all day. I go home and rest for a second then get back on the computer and work.
What’s your favourite part about being a fashion designer?
Seeing people in my stuff, without expecting it. Like going to the mall and seeing someone walking around in the label. Or I will get people sending me pictures saying ‘I’m at the grocery store and look someone is wearing your hat’ type of thing. Of course the celebrities wearing my label is always a good thing but it’s about just knowing that people appreciate it and knowing they like it. I have some people who really support the brand. They buy everything, in every colour.
What advice would you give any one considering becoming a designer?
Do it, just start, just jump into it. If you try and wait until everything is perfect, it’s never going to happen because nothing is ever going to be perfect. Like the timing is never going to be perfect so you just have to do it. I have designs that I was confident about and I’ve put it out and it hasn’t done so well and then I’ve had other designs which I wasn’t sure about and then people really love it. So you can’t talk yourself out of doing it, you just gotta go for it and don’t wait.
Where to next for Twenty-Four Carat?
The stuff I have put out for the first 2 years was my first collection which was the Splatter design and a few other pieces but when I get back to the USA I’m going to drop a second collection which I’ve been working on for about a year. I’ve got about 20 new items. The new collection is still a play on art but it’s not Splatter.
What’s your dream for Twenty-Four Carat?
I want to establish the brand like Ralph Lauren, Lacrosse type of thing, where I have stores and you walk into the store and you will see my signature piece the Splatter design. There will always be a section of the Splatter design with the basics in every colour that you can buy and I want to do more higher end pieces that I can sell that will be done by season. I want to build it into something like that.
(Just a few of the items that can be found and bought on the website http://www.shoptwentyfourcarat.com/)
I walked away from the interview thinking what a lovely, genuine person Justin is. He has such an inspiring story – a guy who believed in his idea and just went for it. He has worked hard to achieve the success he has and something tells me that this is just the beginning. After spending an hour with him, and getting to know him a little bit, he is such a nice guy, the type of person who you really wish all the best to. So much so that I went on to his website (http://www.shoptwentyfourcarat.com/) and ordered a women’s crop top Splatter Tee (will post a photo of me wearing it when I get it). If you want a piece of clothing that no body else has you have to check out http://www.shoptwentyfourcarat.com/. Each piece is hand made and or hand painted with it’s own unique design making every item a one-of-one.
I have got a lot of exciting interviews lined up so make sure you subscribe (scroll right down to the bottom of this page) to receive a notification when the next blog post is up. xxxB