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Newstudent Series Episode 1: James Draudt Talks Cowboy Boots, Parisian Lifestyle and Online Presence
NCO 107

N: Hey James, it's good to have you here!  Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about your move from Texas to Paris to study at the Parsons School of Fashion? How did that transition happen?

J: Hey!  Thanks so much for having me.  So yeah, my name is James Draudt and I am a fashion designer and stylist from Texas. Beginning in early high school, I became increasingly interested in clothing, fabric textures, and ways to create interesting silhouettes while remaining true to my personal style.

I began creating clothing for myself at home and took some design coursework in high school. The process was so fulfilling and exciting to me that I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry.  

Since Paris is the fashion capital of the world, I set my sights on it! I felt it would be the best place to pursue my degree, establish myself, and be surrounded by fashion.  Not to forget, Paris is very centralized in Europe, I could increase my fluency in the French language, and I love the art, history, and architecture around the city.  My transition from Texas to Paris was definitely a huge one.  The way of life is very different, the conveniences of living are quite different (like smaller spaces, minimal air conditioning, and no big box stores), public transportation was new for me, and of course I didn't know anyone yet.  I made some great friends once school started, and after the first six months, I can say I was very comfortable getting around the city and meeting new people.  

Paris is honestly a wonderful place to live and work, and there is always something exciting going on.  

At times, I do miss the beauty of the rustic Texan countryside and aesthetic, but I wouldn’t trade this opportunity.  

N: Can you give us a glimpse into your life over the past month? Any fun projects you're currently working on?

J: Over the past month, I have begun a few exciting new projects that I am eager to show soon. My primary focus is on a five-look collection with a friend of mine, and we are exploring the bomber jacket archetype.  

The collection is built around the shape, texture, and print research of 1980s Soviet era Russia,  including the Chernobyl disaster and Russian grandma culture. 

Therefore, our looks have a focus on the hazmat suit, home aprons, and more surprises, all mixed in a contemporary style with bomber jacket detailing.  We are currently experimenting with prints and textile manipulations to use in our silhouettes, and it should take our collection to the next level.  

My other recent focus has been on both leather goods and tailoring.  I am practicing tailoring and pattern-making skills on suit jackets, and I have completed several projects in recycled leathers (a clutch, a belt, and a “puffed glove bag”).  I loved the leatherwork, so I plan to continue to experiment with leather and incorporate it more and more into my garments.

N: Some of your designs (like the "A Modern Texan Dance" look) or even the styling work you did for Enfants Riches Déprimés resonate with cowboy aesthetics and Texan culture. Can you tell us more about how your personal background shapes your stylistic choices?

J: Of course!  Growing up in Texas, I was surrounded by the cowboy aesthetic, so in high school I was never very eager to use it in my work or as inspiration.  However, after living in Paris now for almost three years, I’ve realized that this style has been lightly embedded into my identity, and I take pride in coming from Texas.  

My “A Modern Texan Dance” project was inspired by this Texan cowboy culture, and I wanted to focus on the archetypes and textures of where I’m from (animal furs, leather, rivets, and cowboy yokes), but in a way that used more sophisticated and haute couture materials such as black silk.  

I find the lifestyle that ranchers and cowboys choose to live very admirable, and the types of durable clothing and workwear they utilize possess so many interesting and important materials and details.

My styling work with Enfants Riches Deprimes went very well and flowed very smoothly for me.  Many of their inspirations and design choices come from vintage garments, destroyed and washed-out textures, and denims, and this made the silhouettes and compilation of pieces very easy-going and natural feeling for me.  I learned an invaluable amount working with stylist David Friend as he guided me through the experience of how to properly piece a look together while capturing a hint of the “cowboy” aesthetic.

N: I loved seeing Teezo Touchdown rocking one of your designs.  How did that collaboration come about? Considering you both hail from Texas, was there a prior connection?

J: The Teezo story is one of my favorites and is truly an experience that I will never forget.  Long story short, coming from Texas, I had been a fan of Teezo Touchdown for many years, well before he was a well-known name.  I discovered his music in early high school, as I was a fan of his music style.  I am from Dallas and he is from Beaumont, a small city that some of my relatives live in!  I was taking a knitwear summer course at Central Saint Martins in London, and as I was walking from class one day, I saw an individual dressed in black denim Telfar with a hairstyle full of nails.

Immediately I was struck thinking, “No way, is that Teezo?”  I walked up to him to say “hi” and to let him know that I was a fellow Texan and a fan of his music and artistic choices.  

I showed him the knitwear project I was working on at the time, and the rest is history!  We linked up throughout the week and even shot several video clips throughout London, in which one part he wears my knit dress, culminating in a music video.  The video hasn’t come out yet, and potentially never will, but nonetheless the experience was one that I am extremely grateful for.  Being behind the scenes and seeing how much work goes into a video shoot and project was incredibly eye opening.  Teezo is such an inspiring and incredible artistic creator, and he was a great person to be around.  I feel lucky to have connected with him, and I would love to work with him again.  

He was incredibly supportive of me, and I’d say that our interaction further solidified why I continue to pursue my dream of having my own brand one day.

N: Many fashion design students only post their designs on social media, with some even opting to share nothing, keeping their works private until their last semester before the graduation show. Your account, on the other hand, has a much more personal touch, and it looks like you're also having fun building a personal brand that goes beyond your designs. With this in mind, what's your take on fashion education today? Do you think there should be an emphasis on students building a more personal digital presence?

J: I am glad that you pointed that out!  I agree completely with what you’ve said here regarding social media and posting one’s work.  There are so many different perspectives behind individual decisions about posting.  Many of my friends don’t post their school projects because they feel it does not accurately reflect their style but rather the assignment.  For some, they worry about others stealing their ideas.  For me, I like to have fun with my work, keep it lighthearted, and share with others what I am learning and working on.  I want to show what I’m passionate about!

I also feel that a formal fashion education is a privilege, and some people can’t access it due to factors like location, price, time, etc.  Through posts, I can help educate anyone interested by showing what I am learning, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Posting my work is my way of showing my friends and peers what I currently find interesting and relevant, and it often creates some new connections along with great social media discussions.  

The fashion industry is huge, but honestly the fashion community feels very small and connected.  An advantage to posting work is that many people see it, and I have garnered some great friendships and collaborations this way.  I believe that if you have made something that is true to yourself, you should not want to keep it hidden, even if it isn’t perfect.  Spreading one’s work through social media is a great way to build your personal brand, especially in today’s highly technology driven world.  I enjoy building my digital presence as a multifaceted creative with fashion design, graphic design, and styling.  I am passionate about clothing and styling, so a culmination of my “fit pics” combined with my personally handmade design creations is my way of building an online identity that I hope will ultimately lead to the official start of my brand.

N: Thanks James! To end this on a fun note: what is your most treasured item in your closet? And what is something you are dying to get your hands on?

J: Haha that is a great question and an extremely difficult one!  Every piece in my closet holds a different special meaning, and for many different reasons: personal, historical, visual, valuable, etc.  I’d have to say that one of my favorite pieces is definitely my Craig Green Scuba coat. He is one of my favorite designers with some of my favorite runway shows of all time.  It took me years to acquire, and I therefore treasure it.  I would love to get my hands one day on the iconic Issey Miyake Cargo Bomber Jacket, as seen famously on Robin Williams.  It is a piece that is extremely hard to find, but very iconic and aligns with my personal style choices.  As you can see, I love jackets and coats.  And shoes, don’t get me started on shoes!  

All Images Courtesy of James Draudt

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