Co-Founder of Pretty Fly Society
To the outside world, the fashion industry is exciting—full of glitz and glamor; accentuated by artistic individuality that comes with each garment shown.
Rarely, though, are people awarded an authentic perspective of the industry and creative process, sewing, selecting fabric, production, and all else that leads to the debut of a new season of fashion. Franck Mille, co-founder of Pretty Fly Society and designer of Bovtiqve Fashion Week (BVFW), gives his perspective and talks about his experience in the industry.
Fashion vs style
The first thing Mille cares to illustrate is the difference between being “fashionable” and being a “stylist.”
“It’s innate. Being a stylist comes from within, while being fashionable is somebody who follows suit to what’s trending or seen on mannequins,” Mille said. “The way I wear my clothes and the expression that comes behind it makes me unique, and it allows me to stand out in the crowd because of it.”
Mille points to the current trend of “thrifting,” (i.e. purchasing from second-hand stores) in discussing the changes the fashion world has made as people are trending towards individuality over being fashionable.
“People visit places like Goodwill or antique stores to find garments and clothes from previous eras and style them together to show off on social media and at fashion shows,” he said. “People’s character and personality are embraced to its fullest extent at some of these fashion events, and it wasn’t like that two decades ago.”
In the early to late 2000s, there was a culture shift within the fashion industry as designers and brands focused more on teen stars rather than adults, which led to the term Y2K and an explosion of colors. Stars like Paris Hilton, Jenifier Lopez, Raven-Symoné, and the Knowles sisters were the inspiration behind kids developing their fashion taste with brands like Juicy Couture, Von Dutch, Ed Hardy, and Rocawear as these companies took full advantage of the change in the industry. But while early 21st Century fashion was bold and innovative at that time, the market was over-saturated, and with everybody following the same format, this led to an era of fashion that designers see as one of the worst to happen in recent history.
During this time, Mille was in his college dorm, creating his brand with his friends. While it began as a mere hobby to express their creativity, things quickly changed once the brand began to take off.
“We would just host events to promote the brand, but things took off really quick, which made us start a magazine and eventually a marketing company,” Mille said. “When I got to my senior year in 2008, my basketball career was coming to a close. I decided I wanted to take the brand to another level, and that’s when I transitioned into becoming an influencer on Instagram.”
Mille’s opportunities quickly appeared as he became an influencer for GQ Magazine. He used his time at GQ to build his knowledge of the fashion industry and build partnerships with brands such as Steven Adams and Paul Simon.
Mille spent the next 12 years experiencing the fashion industry from a different lens and was afforded the opportunity to gain experience in multiple roles. Various roles included: tour production, event production, stylist, and designer. He also viewed fashion shows from a fan’s perspective as he traveled across the United States for inspiration. While on his journey, Mille noticed some things about the industry that needed to be discussed.
“When I would walk into certain rooms or get certain positions at jobs, I was the only Black person there, and it felt a little disingenuous, especially with companies wanting to be inclusive just for the sake of it,” he said. Mille highlighted that while the industry was making strides to be more inclusive to Black people in higher positions, the inclusivity stopped once the quota was fulfilled.
“I’m in a room giving my opinion on style and fashion to people who could not relate to my experiences and perspective, which led to a lot of pushback and negative feedback.” Mille described his time as a creative director for a few companies he worked with. “I experienced frequent doubts from people I was doing business with because of the color of my skin or because they thought their opinion mattered over mine, and it pushed me to always stand on my ideas and perspective no matter who disagreed with me.”
Mille’s experience in the industry made him understand that a change to his approach was needed. He wanted to get away from the “popularity contest” and the “gatekeeping” that was happening and create a space for a conglomerate of people–no matter their ethnic background, experience, or amount of followers on social media–to come together and collaborate as a family. But he needed to build a foundation first for this newfound family.
“I created BVFW to expand the fashion part of Pretty Fly Society and create a platform for me and my partners to share our creativity with the world,” Mille said. “In the industry, we talk about collaboration, but it’s not happening for real, and we are cutting off our hand by not working together. The fashion industry is not a lucrative business, and by not collaborating, we are only shorting our options.”
Bovtiqve Fashion Week is in its seventh installment and made its debut in Los Angeles last week at Paper Tiger in Hollywood featuring 60 models of all body types as well as nine designers from all over the country under the theme of Hollywood Dreaming.
“I want to show the world what happens when the uniqueness of everybody is embraced and not boxed in,” Mille said. “The message behind BVFW is ‘pursue your dreams’ because dreaming has always been a part of the brand, as it all started with my dream of what this could become. The theme is to inspire guests to dress like their favorite Hollywood dream character at each event.”
Take your time
Mille wants to advise future creatives in the fashion industry to research, and then go above and beyond their knowledge because they never know what rooms they might be in, the more you know, he stressed, the better it will serve you in the future. He also wants people to be patient when embarking on their journey.
“People get caught up in wanting to be paid immediately for their work, and the industry doesn’t work like that,” Mille said. “People with this mindset always end up cutting themselves short, while the success stories and legendary creatives in the game got their big break by doing stuff for free. If you love this industry, do it because of that, because if you’re doing it for the love of money, that love will run out.”