OUT! FASHION VANGUARD 2017 WINNER: DASHAUN HIGHTOWER
Tell us a little bit about your story in a nutshell. Who is DaShaun Hightower?
Lol the best answer to that is a mischievous optimist.
Where are you based now? Why did you choose that city?
At the moment I’m based out of Chicago. I chose this city because I felt like it would be a good environment for me to develop my aesthetic. Chicago has a very distinct streetwear culture and I wanted to learn more about it. The more I spent in Chicago the more I integrated the streetwear culture into my aesthetic.
What inspired you to be a designer? When did designing first manifest in your life?
What inspired me to be a designer was the idea of being able to make wearable art. I got a clear example of this in Viktor & Rolf’s 2011 A/W RTW collection. That collection was theatric, architectural, and out of the box. I decided I would expose myself to as much as I could. Designing started to first manifest itself in my life during my senior year of high school. Before then I had always seen myself either becoming a vet or a contemporary fine artist. My mother taught me how to sketch so that’s what I chose to develop. This paired with a gig as an intern for Nordstroms’s BP department. pretty much set foundation for what I wanted to do. I had been sketching all of my life it was just now about reapplying those skills in a different way.
When did you start pushing your brand Hightower.co to the world?
I started pushing my brand in April of 2016. It was around this time that I was going through a lot of changes in my life and I chose to turn to my work to express myself. I found that I wasn’t necessarily happy with the direction that my life was going in so I decided to start from scratch and turn myself into a brand.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
My aesthetic is a mix between streetwear and high fashion that focuses on textile manipulation and suggested movement. I usually don’t work with color but recently have found myself using a lot of blue in my work.
Who is your style icon?
My style icon is Grace Jones. I feel like her aesthetic really was experimental. This is someone that immersed herself in the creative world and carved out her own lane. I relate to this quality and apply that same mindset to my own life. I think a style icon is someone that has their own beat and never compromises it and to me this is Grace Jones.
How do you think your designs and art in general can shape or influence the current status quo of the society?
I think via my work I will hopefully be able to inspire more people to invest in themselves and go for their dream. I think there is a general consensus that the world is sad. The purpose of fashion is to create an escape for people. If I can provide a temporary escape for people that inspires them then I did my job.
What do you think sets you apart from other designers around the world?
I think what sets me a partfrom other designers in the world is that my garments are imbedded with my life experiences. I think this quality gives the garments a genuineness that people find attractive.
Tell us more about OUT! Fashion Vanguard Awards. How was it after your big win?
The Vanguard Awards was an all around good experience. I met some really talented people and got to show my work on a large platform. I found that winning the competition was an affirmation that I was going in the right direction. With this in mind I chose to invest in myself and produce my next collection independently. I found that after the win it was more so about what you did with the win not so much what it can do for you.
If you can give a message to one designer that you admire, living or dead, what would it be and why?
If I could give a message to one designer it would be Vivienne Westwood. I would thank her for carving out a lane for the youth and being the mother of punk. The reason I would say this is because I relate to the punk movement and there are elements of it in my designs today.
What is your proudest moment in your career so far?
My proudest moment would have to be getting my first magazine cover. It was for the cover of Giuseppina Magazine’s 35thissue . I was really pumped because it was my first cover and it had been worn by Laura Kirkpatrick. I ordered a copy and still have it to this day. As cheesy as it may sound getting that cover showed me that I could make it as a designer if I applied myself. I feel like this experience attributed to putting me on the path I am on today.
My dream project would be to create a visual that involved setting a portion of a garment on fire on a model. I think the idea of incorporating natural elements in an abstract way is a constant in my projects. I’m still working out the kinks on the flame but stay tuned it’ll be on its way soon.
Top 3 music from your playlist right now.
Jay-Z - Story of OJ
CMT - Back Talk
Abra - Vegas
Name a book that you are currently reading.
In Focus: Modern Photography by Jackie Higgins
If you’re going to have a book, what title would it be?
If I was going to have a book I would title it Hightower. I feel the name is strong enough to stand on it own.
What is the big goal for Hightower.co?
The big goal for Hightower.co is to build a brand that is original and has longevity. I understand that today’s society is all about instant gratification but I don’t want that. I want a career that allows me to grow as an artist and express myself freely.
Any message for all the upcoming designers out there.
A message that I would give to upcoming designers is to really be themselves that’s the one thing no one can take from you.
If you will be given the chance and opportunity to help a specific charity, what would it be and why?
A charity that I would help is the Children’s First Fund: The Chicago Public Schools Foundation. I know that there have been shortages in the public education system and I feel as though that needs attention. I feel like above all else the only thing a child should worry about when going to school is learning.