Netflix’s Next in Fashion is not just another style competition, although it may seem that way. After all, there's a high-fashion supermodel (Gigi Hadid) paired with a wickedly-dressed stylist (Queer Eye’s Tan France) as hosts. The designer hopefuls are bent over sewing machines stitching their passions into garments that will later be judged by a panel of the who’s who in fashion. Add in a couple of touching personal narratives and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect reality series.
Of all the contestants on season two, menswear designer Desyrée Nicole was one of the favorites. Her brand, Todd Patrick, aims to give timeless, vintage-inspired looks a modern interpretation. Nicole says the focus for her brand is, “reflecting today's time, our past, and how it molds our future. It’s no longer the time to do what you’re told. It’s never been that time for that.” And viewers got to experience that first-hand while watching her easily navigate the challenges of the show without a traditional fashion school background. Though she did not reign victorious, her authentic approach to design and limitless creativity won over the hearts of fans everywhere.
Byrdie caught up with the Detroit native to talk trends, rising above the struggles of the fashion world, and what’s next in fashion for her and Todd Patrick.
How do you define yourself as a designer?
Desyrée Nicole: Innovative. I feel like I’m always reaching back to bring those vintage aspects into modern day. And always tailored. Those are the main things for me as far as defining my style as a designer.
You seem to have a rebellious approach to the traditional aspects of menswear, how do you and Todd Patrick fit into that space?
DN: I think for us, it’s about playing with different cuts, but when it comes to tapping into that rebellious side... I didn’t come into the game with a fashion school background. I wasn’t bound by the rules that the fashion world usually plays by, I was in the mindset of “I’m going to make what I think is fly and you can consume it or not,” and I think that translated into me being “rebellious." As far as from the outside looking in for the brand, it definitely started out as me catering to athletes and they have that rebel air to them, but I was still using bright purples and pinks. I was blending those lines before everyone moved to a more gender-fluid space.
Who have been your favorite people to wear Todd Patrick thus far?
DN: We’ve been really lucky to work with stylists who just put the brand on people organically. We’ve never paid someone to wear Todd Patrick, ever. I think that speaks volumes to the idea that the right people just automatically gravitate toward it. I would say someone who’s super quirky, for a big guy at that, is Cam Jordan. He wants to wear a gold jacket with a purple pant and a purple bucket and I’m always like, “We don’t have to wear everything together,” but he wants that. He’s someone who’s super out there and I love to see him in our stuff.
I grew up playing ball so seeing Sue Bird in it for the All-Star game was amazing. Shoutout to [stylist] Courtney [Mays] for that. I have a list of people who I hope organically see it and want to rock it. I am just checking off the list little by little.
Let’s talk about season 2 of Next in Fashion. What was the process like for you as a designer and what did you learn?
DN: One of the main things that I took away from the experience was that you don’t have to go to fashion school to be a designer. As much as that narrative gets pushed; there were a lot of designers on the show who went to FIDM or went to FIA, but there wasn’t a big gap between those of us who were self-taught and those who went to school. If you’re creative and have applied yourself, you can also compete in that space. Even if it's in the luxury space. Todd Patrick is definitely catered to a luxury audience but that’s a testament to the branding and marketing behind it.
I also learned that every designer has their own way of doing things. There are different thought processes and ways of conceptualizing—there’s not just one road. For myself, I would say, I learned that I can do anything. I went into it hesitant because I don’t have a sewing background and I was wondering if I’d be able to really compete with people with formal training. There’s nothing fake about the show; you really have to put those garments together. I bought a machine two weeks before we started filming and put myself through a boot camp so I could be ready. And I did it. I’m so proud of myself for that.
What were your must-have products for filming?
DN: This is going to sound simple but Vaseline for my lips. You’re doing so much talking and sometimes I’d catch my lips in the mirror and it’s like “Oh nah, I can’t be ashy.” So, that was something that was a holy grail thing for me. I also did my own makeup every day.
DN: Yeah, everyone had their own makeup artist but I just felt more comfortable doing it myself. The first time I got it done, it didn’t feel like me. I would just do it in the bathroom. I’m a L’Oreal True Match girl. It has a pump now, which makes it super easy to use without getting it everywhere. I’d definitely say that my True Match was a must-have. They drained us on that show so I was also getting in there with some Maybelline concealer so you couldn’t see those 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. days under my eyes.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the fashion world about how Black designers and stylists have a more arduous journey that can sometimes be disheartening. What would you say keeps you going and allows you to stay true to yourself?
DN: For me, you just have to stay the course. If I do my job, then whatever’s supposed to be will be. We’re all on our journey and you can’t pay attention to the politics. It’ll distract you. Don’t look for a seat. There are so many dope people that if we reach back and collaborate more, we can build our own tables and we don’t have to look for approval as much. I want to be part of the larger world of fashion but not at the detriment of anything I am doing or have already built for myself and my brand.
What’s next in fashion for you?
DN: Debuting in Paris is next for me. I’d love to debut Todd Patrick [on the] runway in Paris. And then being in those conversations with CFDA, LMVH. The way I’ve developed the brand over the last three to five years, I feel like I should be in those “emerging designer” conversations. For me, as a designer, continuing to be innovative and find new concepts. I definitely want to find that one piece that represents Todd Patrick. Every brand has that piece where you know exactly where it comes from. Dior has that curved saddlebag, Amiri has the denim sector and Balmain has the moto jean… I am looking for the thing that defines my brand.