Trust — Trust yourself! Trust your gut when you are designing. If you love it, I am sure others will love it too. Make sure to take chances and trust your instincts when navigating through this industry as that might be all you have to reassure yourself that you are on the right path. Keep a small circle very close and it will mean the world to you later down the road.
As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Kuluva of Tumbler and Tipsy.
Anchored by the creative mind and brilliant talents of professional figure skater and fashion designer, Michael Kuluva — designer of Tumbler and Tipsy, is not only reworking, redefining and revamping the world of fashion, but is taking it over by storm one sequin at a time. This sexy yet stylish brand, which is produced in Los Angeles, CA, is a colorful collection that is distinctive but never repetitive, chic and classy while being comfortable and versatile.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was on a figure skating tour in France when I was able to attend Paris Fashion Week with a model friend of mine. I was able to go to a Roberto Cavalli show which was just amazing and I was able to meet Roberto Cavalli himself. Ever since meeting Roberto, I have always wanted to be in the fashion industry. I then went on to FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) to get my Fashion Design degree and then was able to apply it to the labels I currently run.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?
Wow, that is a super hard question as there has so many interesting things to happen to me. I think having the opportunity to be the first fashion designer to collaborate with a video game software company on the New York Fashion Week runway is probably the most interesting. Plus Kendall Jenner was the star of that runway show!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Yes and it wasn’t too funny but it was a great mistake to learn from. We were shipping our first orders to retailers and for our second shipments for the holidays we used a commercial shipping service to handle our big deliveries. We sent it out on time however there was a HUGE storm right before Thanksgiving as our orders were suppose to be delivered before the Black Friday shopping day. Since there was a massive storm, all of our orders were delayed to the retailers, which means they have the ability to do a chargeback to us which means the retailers would send all that merchandise back to us without having to pay for it. We would be stuck with 1000’s of pieces of merchandise however we were VERY LUCKY and the retailers understood and accepted the late orders. We will never get an order for a retailer out that late again knowing the holiday season shipping times now on top of now a world wide pandemic, we are looking at shipping times months in advance to be safe.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are a bright vibrant brand that loves pop culture so we definitely stand out on the fashion scene. We have always been the brand that has sequins, crystals and dazzle which brings a unique vibe to our brand aesthetic. Each time we are on the runway at fashion week or doing an appearance, we are always the closing show as we have the most sparkle and “WOW” factor from our jaw dropping designs to the celebrities that wear them.
We have had countless celebrities walk our runway at fashion week and for our campaigns from the highest paid supermodels to Olympic champions, we always make a huge splash every time we have an event! Come see us or watch our videos so you can see!!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to take a nice, two-week vacation after each fashion week that we produce. I need that down time afterwards to recollect and build up my energy as fashion week and designing the collection really takes it out of me. I love that revamp after the vacation to come back to work and feel alive and ready to start the next collection.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have worked with non-profits with my brands since day 1 of all of them as I love to give back to our community as much as possible. I am a Rheumatoid Arthritis warrior and I work with Global Healthy Living Foundation and CreakyJoints to bring awareness to arthritis and other disabilities every year. I have patients and patient advocates from around the world become a part of each of my collections. I love sharing my platform so that others can get awareness as well.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Live the life you love, love the life you live!” — it is the quote that I live by every day since I was skating on tour. Each and every day I am thankful for my life and I love what I do. When I don’t like it anymore, I’ll move on to another passion of mine. We are only here on this Earth for so long and it can be taken away from us instantly, so make sure to live each day to the fullest!”
Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
I really believe retail and social media will be really shaping our industry a lot over the next few years. With retail becoming as easy as looking at your IG stories, retailers and brands will have to be innovative on how they connect with their demographic and really tap in to them through their social media. I think with COVID pushing this industry faster than ever to be digital, we are seeing a lot of that even with Fashion Week being online and most retail drops now are not in actual retailers but online or on social media accounts.
Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry.” Please share a story or example for each.
1)Knowledge — you need to get that degree from school. Even if you’re the best designer in the world, that degree will only help you succeed in life. Knowledge is power.
2) Passion — I believe you need to have a passion for this fashion industry. You have to make sure you want to breathe, eat and live this industry life which can be very hectic at times and stressful. If you really love what you do, it is fun and it’s not about work — it’s about accomplishing your passions in life.
3) Re-Invention — this industry is always looking for “THE NEXT” and it is very true! You should be thinking of how to be re-inventing your brand or designs for the future as you don’t want to become stale in a fast moving industry that is all about eye candy.
4) Connections — Make sure you are connecting at every fashion event or industry event that you go to. I believe that “Who You Know” really does help open a lot of doors throughout life. Even if you are a shy designer, make sure to have a business card or something to give to people when they ask, “Where can we find your designs?”
5) Trust — Trust yourself! Trust your gut when you are designing. If you love it, I am sure others will love it too. Make sure to take chances and trust your instincts when navigating through this industry as that might be all you have to reassure yourself that you are on the right path. Keep a small circle very close and it will mean the world to you later down the road.
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
We are starting to improve on inclusivity in the fashion world and I can see that right now which is great however there isn’t a place for young emerging designers with limited funds to get the proper platform to be successful. I wish the CFDA or another fashion organization would take that into account when they are shaping their next “IT” designer.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think the movements have been happening. I have been striving for diversity on my runways for years and I am now seeing it come to life. I always wanted the disabled to be taken seriously at New York Fashion Week and now they are. I am loving what we are doing in fashion and if we can just stay with it and keep improving it season after season, collection after collection, we will be a much better industry that is all inclusive.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!