• Joseph Quartana
“I wasn’t sure what Dutch fashion was about. I came here with the intention to really understand that.”


The American Joseph Quartana is co-owner and buyer for the concept store Seven New York. With a mix of 35 edgy labels and adventurous top designers, Quartana puts together a bold range ,with brands like Raf Simons, Bernhard Willhelm, Gareth Pugh, Preen, Henrik Vibskov and Juun J. Joseph Quartana talks about Lichting 2010, his definition of Dutch Fashion, and what designers ought to know.



Why did you want to be on the jury for Lichting 2010? “I enjoy doing fashion juries. I‘ve done judging for schools like La Cambre in Brussels and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, and a lot of fashion competitions, like the Swiss Textiles Award, the French ANDAM. And you know, in New York, we don’t know a lot about Dutch fashion outside of Viktor & Rolf… I wasn’t sure what Dutch fashion was about. I came here with the intention to really understand that.”


And do you see potential? “Slowly this concept is taking shape in my mind of what Dutch fashion is about, and I’m not disappointed. Yeah, for sure, I will follow it… Over the years I got to know some brands—but not enough to like it—like Alexander van Slobbe and Saskia van Drimmelen. They came and went. Again, I could not lay my finger on what Dutch fashion was. What I see now is conceptual, maybe because it was a student show, but if you take Viktor & Rolf, that is a sort of starting point for what Dutch fashion is about. These guys, with Hussein Chalayan, are as conceptual as you get, really. I’ve seen so far it’s not like of the moment, I won’t say it’s not relevant, but it’s conceptual beyond trend, just nice because it’s timeless, like Comme des Garçons.


Did you have particular expectations of Lichting? “I expected student fashion, and that’s what it is. These are BA students, not MA students, so I dropped my standards a little bit. Winner Marije de Haan’s concept was very tight and strong and original. Somehow, also, her collection with the collared shirts reminded me in a slight way of Viktor & Rolf. Again, it’s Dutch modern fashion.”


You never buy graduation collections? “No, never. I need to wait at least three seasons. Let’s be real; they’ve just come from school. Number one, they have to demonstrate that they are sustainable, that they can keep strong. Number two, they have to demonstrate that the pressure is not going to get to them, that they can be persistent and produce. That’s important to know as a buyer, that if we place an order [it will] be delivered. Honestly, we lose money otherwise. So you do three seasons, and then you talk to me.”


How important is it to you that a designer has had lots of press? “Very. We as buyers we love that. That’s another criterion, too. I won’t buy a brand—unless I am 110 per cent sure—that has no press buzz or other good shops, and hasn’t worked with a good stylist. That reduces my risk. You know, we’re almost like an incubator; we buy really edgy brands and designers, for the most part, and particularly with the crisis and bad economy right now, I need to be very certain that it’s going to be profitable for me.”

If a brand’s sales disappoint you, what do you do? “I try two or three seasons, because sometimes I might be buying it incorrectly. I re-tune the buy for the next and third season. After that, I stop—It wasn’t my fault.

Then it’s not meant to be.”


Does a designer’s personality play a role for you as a buyer?  “Absolutely. When I’m looking to buy, I want to know what they’re about. I want to know their prior collection. I want to know everything about them! What they’re thinking, what the show is about, the music choice—everything matters. I won’t buy a designer who I personally don’t like or I disagree with. I buy almost 35 brands, and except for one or two, I know each of them. We have dinner or drinks. I need to have some trust on a personal level.”


As a buyer, you’re investing in designers and brands. “There’s something like loyalty. When we get behind a brand, we want to keep it for at least three seasons, but meanwhile, we’re reaching out to press, loaning it to the right stylists, loaning it to the right editors, giving exposure, all for the brand, so that later we can cash in. Or at least make money together… We’re like a free PR agency… So it’s very much an insult if [I’m] working with someone and I turn around [and] suddenly they’re selling to my main competition, Opening Ceremony or Oak or If Boutique Inc. Then we’re done.”


What else should beginning designers know? “Generally speaking, what you want is a good department store and a good concept shop in every city. You start with twenty or thirty stockists. That’s a manageable production level. Then you grow with these people. Very simple.”


You see a lot of fashion competitions and collections by young designers. Have you noticed any particular developments? “I don’t really consider students’ collections to be indicative of emerging trends necessarily… the menswear collections I’ve seen in the last two or three years were, strangely enough, more innovative than the womenswear…


“Someone who is very influential is Bernard Willhelm. In a few years, I see how he’s influenced a whole world of design. He’s created a kind of school of thought, I feel. I don’t know how it is in Holland, but a lot of competitions I’ve judged over the years for emerging designers are influenced by Bernhard Willhelm, who is my favourite designer, because he’s so influential. The guy is a pure genius… He must have the thickest skin on his back, because some of the things he puts out there are just hilarious. People do make fun of it, but the fact is he stands there and says, ‘That’s what I had to say.’ It’s amazing.”


By Georgette Koning