Those Who Wait
Melanese Reid and Charleston Pacius of I Waited For You…
By Lindsay Cooper
“Good things come to those who wait.” And those attracted to the progressively world-melding designs of I Waited For You… have been waiting a long time. With Brooklyn-based design duo Melanese Reid and Charleston Pacius coming together to form the brand in 2011, IWFY has been consistently and quietly upheaving long-instilled industry norms since resigning from positions at international designer studios. With aims to fill a gap in the market with their seemingly unimaginable sartorial combinations (like sleek, professional trousers contrasted by harsh grommet details or ruffled pencil dresses made from rough denim), IWFY was definitely worth the wait.
Do you both remember the event or person that got you into the fashion industry for the first time?
Charleston Pacius: I would say it was a mix of things. Firstly, seeing old photos of my parents back in the 60’s and 70’s, they both had so much style and used great color palettes and it was all effortless. I would also say growing up in the 80’s / 90’s and watching movies and music videos had a huge impact on me. I would watch Blondie Sade, and Lenny Kravitz music videos and wonder what they did on a day-to-day basis and how they dressed for each occasion.
Melanese Reid: For me, it was a plethora of things. I grew up in the Alexander McQueen/Galliano era, so studying their collections made me realize everything has to tell a story and transcend being a trend. On the other spectrum, I would say my sister Deidre was a huge catalyst. She is an artist, with her current medium being sculpting. When I was really young I would watch her draw clothing for herself, then take me with her to the garment district to pick up fabric and finally take me to her tailors. For me, she was kind of the first introduction to the process of creating a collection, except she was creating all of these theatrical pieces for herself to wear to work, events, etc.
Speaking of family, Charleston is Haitian-American and Melanese was born in Barbados. Do you find your heritages influencing your design process and the final outcome?
MR: Not necessarily, I would say what influences us the most is our upbringing here. I was able to travel around New York and was in different art programs- that’s what really drove home the idea of everything you do has to mean something.
CP: My parents come from a working class background; therefore, I am always trying to infuse a working class element within each piece in our collection.
What other major influences do you draw from?
MR: Currently, it’s movies like “High Art” and “Travelers”. We are also inspired by Shirley Manson. We are also constantly inspired by the personal style of women in NY when we see them walking in the streets.
This brand is deep rooted in ideology and romance, so we’ll take concepts from movies and literature that represent these fundamentals. We always want to strive for the idea of new romance, which for us is the complexity of life and love.
Despite these contemporary influences, do you see those original inspirations being reflected in your work today?
MR: In a sense, yes. We are not as theatrical as the designers I mentioned before, however, we do still need every collection and article of clothing to tell a story. For instance, our latest collection for SS17 is titled “Fëminista”. This has to do with concepts referring to modern art and proletariat design fundamentals. In this collection, we are trying to capture the current mind state of our woman and her daily journey.
And who is the woman captured in IWFY?
MR: We’re for that artistically inclined woman who is seeking innovative essentials. That woman who is truly an art lover and kind of shies away from what everyone in the culture is doing. However, she is still very aware of what is going on around her. She likes to celebrate her different perspective on life through various creative outlets, one being her personal style. She is definitely an influencer, not a follower!
Speaking of being an influencer rather than a follower: over at IWFY, you seem to resist even your own trends. You debuted with pastels and flowing silhouettes, you’ve had austere blacks with clean lines. You’ve done outerwear and the upcoming season includes slip dresses. Being so hard to pin down, how would you describe the label?
MR: At a glance, you may not realize it, but if you look closely there are always design elements that string each collection together. This brand is rooted in romanticism. Ideologies in romance are always in flux.
You say on your website that you “fill a gap in the women’s apparel market.” Can you elaborate a bit more on what that gap is?
MR: In the market, currently, there isn’t a space for say a beautifully well-made black satin trouser that happens to have faux fur on the knees. There is, however, either a well-fitted black satin trouser (which you can buy anywhere) or its antithesis – an over the top fur pant with a thousand things going on. I believe as a woman that we just want to have essential, well fit and well-crafted pieces that aren’t astronomically priced and that have some twist, some defining element within its features to make us stand out to the world while we are in our professional work atmospheres, out at an event, relaxing with friends on the weekends, or just enjoying our own company. There just wasn’t anything that was a great in-between, in our opinions, within the current market place.
And how do you balance that ideology with having two strong creative forces working behind the brand?
MR: (Laughing) It’s a balance of respect. We both respect one another’s viewpoints enough to hear one another out. I admire what Charles brings to the brand’s aesthetic and vice versa. We also have learned that when presenting designs to one another; make sure you can back up why there is a feature that maybe the other doesn’t fully get right away.
Have you always found it easy to strike a positive professional/creative balance? What did you think of each other after first meeting?
MR: Well, it hasn’t always been easy to find that balance, because sometimes you just want to be as creative as possible but we both made a decision in the beginning to focus on our woman and her needs/desires. That makes it a lot easier to make design decisions as well. My first impression of Charles was, “Wow, this person is devoted, focused, and pretty humble about his creativity.”
CP: My thoughts were, “This person is a real creative being and has a lot of interesting ideas.”
Going back to those days before you two united to form IWFY, you independently worked with Theory, Jill Stuart, Alice & Olivia, and Betsey Johnson. What was the most valuable piece of advice received during your training?
MR: We wouldn’t say it was any piece of advice, but more so observing. We both worked for a few independent designers before we started IWFY. We saw how work ethic and having a strong point of view made the difference. This is what we implement on a day-to-day basis with IWFY.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Who can you thank for that one?
MR: We have a wonderful mentor who had been in design partnerships in the past. She told us to “make sure your overall objectives and vision for the brand are aligned.”
If we were to take a look at the mood boards for your upcoming seasons, what would we see?
MR: You would see a bit of lace and textured fabrics as well as some images of movies we are inspired by now which include “High Art,” “Travelers,” and Shirley Manson.