Four years ago, I set out on a mission to turn my dream into a reality. That included turning my personal blog — and public opinion — into a “new media lifestyle site” (a magazine) chronicling all things popular culture and personal wellness. The result was VitaFavo.com and the efforts of myself and my accompanying small freelance team exceeded any expectation I could have ever had. Friends from across the entertainment, fashion, and public relations industries helped immensely in taking the feed from local, to national, and eventually global syndication. And, in just two years, more than six million people had visited the site; it had been viewed on every life-sustaining continent and translated in over a hundred different languages. (Some major gratitude is felt even to this day.)
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with 12Seven, a brand you likely know as a clothing line…
Right around the same time I had made the decision to actively pursue working on the magazine, an internationally recognized production company had reached out to a friend to get in touch with me. In time I reluctantly agreed to hear their concept for a cosmetics line that would appeal to men of all ages and races and would hopefully be carried to success through my involvement. It was a beautiful presentation of a beautiful concept that would rely heavily on my relationship with my readers and social media following. The product was stellar, the packaging was fantastic, and the company seemed deeply rooted in the industry. (They knew what they were talking about.) In truth, I loved the idea right off the bat, but one problem kept arising… I do not wear makeup; never have and probably never will. It’s not something I had ever shared about and not something that I really thought the following would really connect with. Honestly.
The idea, however, sparked a bigger conversation between the friend and I. He was very passionate about me not pursuing the magazine idea and instead launching a sellable retail brand. He knew that, ever since I was a child, I had always been designing clothing. Inspired heavily by couture designers I would fill notebook after notebook with replicated designs and go back later to alter and improve them with the changing times. He knew that I had no interest in ever bringing a couture line to life but I did often express interest (in the wee hours of the night) brainstorming aloud about someday introducing an “urban inspired” casual clothing line.
It was a dream that together we would bring to reality…
Recognizing that my commiment would be minimal in the beginning, as I was focused on the magazine, he immediately he got to work researching production companies and “soft pitching” the idea to national distribution centers. (All without my knowledge.) And, in October (2012) I was surprised when he recommended an impromptu weekend in New York City, and even more surprised when he said a well-known manufacturer was interested in meeting to discuss a larger-scale concept. Incredibly cautious and a little nervous, I walked into that 5th Avenue boardroom completely confused and left (three-hours later) with an unwavering certainty that The Universe had put this opportunity in front of me for a reason. Eventually our collaborative ideas were growing more and more distant; what I wanted and what they wanted were two seemingly different things.
Sometimes I wonder if I should have conformed — for the sake of success.
Still in all, the 12Seven clothing line launched (privately) in the summer of two-thousand thirteen. June 1st, the website was unveiled and by the end of the first week we had shipped more than 100 orders from our Arizona-based distribution center — a number this “little nobody” from the suburbs of Philadelphia is still very proud of. It was the single most difficult thing I had ever done in my entire life; I was completely enveloped in fear and had never been more uncertain of anything in my entire life. (And, that was going about it the easiest way possible!)
With a background in web development, I was fortunate enough to have full control over the look and feel of the digital destination where shoppers would visit. That, paired with the other relative tasks (creating and uploading the designs, marketing the brand, etc.) as well as running the [then] newly launched magazine, left every minute of every day and every cent of every dollar utterly consumed. Somehow I had managed to simultaneously launch not one but two thriving brands and while I was (literally) eating Ramen Noodles (if anything) every night… a part of me couldn’t have been happier to see my concepts finally coming to life.
Essentially, I was living two different lives. On one hand, I was the Chief Editor of a freshly crafted magazine who’s feed was deeply rooted in the popular culture, with all of the “trendy” articles positioned to appeal to women. Then, on the other hand, I was the vertebrae of an independent clothing line that would [if everything went smoothly] evolve into a lifestyle brand, inspiring and motivating its audience to live their most authentic and happiest life. (Live the Dream, was the official tagline.) Surely you can see where the problem lies when you try to blend the creative production of promoting the exaggerated truths and glamour of pop culture in tandem with inspiring authenticity. All the while, financial stress and personal-life chaos seems to keep pulling me further and further away from “Living the Dream.”
Life seemed more like a nightmare.
Research made it almost immediately clear that, although they were designed to appeal to both halves of my original blogger demographic, both VitaFavo.com and the clothing line were attracting the same audience. 50% of the magazine readers were surprisingly men, and 40% of the clothing line orders were being shipped to women. Getting even more specific the language, geo- and demographic data showed that 60% of the people visiting either of the digital properties had already visited the other. Regardless of gender.
Those statistics called for a more indepth look at the state of the union. On one hand I was effecting a large audience across two growing platforms. On the other hand I was completely and utterly exhausted. (Incase you missed my earlier memos.) In the end, which happened to be mid-February 2015, I made the decision to actually make a decision before going any further – on both projects. By then, the team of freelancers had dwindled through a lack of funding and I had been working solo on the magazine, but it was a whole other story when it came to the clothing line. I was contractually (and morally) committed to suppliers, production partners, warehouse associates, and digital team members and they were rightfully pissed — with a capitol “P!” — when I announced my decision to halt production. Through radical candor, we were able to come to an agreement that the decision was for the best. It wasn’t an eternal exit or a “forever good-bye.” This was an opportunity to evolve a successful brand into a higher and more authentic state of being.
Truthfully, their commitment to me and the brand were more than a surprise. They inspired me to keep working towards this “rebirth” as we called it. And, together we’ve limped along.
Throughout this past year-and-a-half, I have carved out some serious time for research and development. A lot of that was rooted in self-care and figuring out where I stand, as a leader and creative professional, in my ability to move these companies, brands, and productions into the future. Failure and change are never easy things to face, but as time went on and I continued to evolve, I really began to miss the day-to-day life of being an editor and designer. I slowly began to return to that creative headspace and began to see how those two roles could certainly fit back into my life, amongst other obligations. It’s like that old saying about how remembering what you don’t have — like not one but two creative outlets — is a foolproof way to make sure (1) you get that something back, and (2) never take it for granted again. Lesson learned.
One thing was incredibly clear and that was that this rebirth was not going to be a rebrand but more of an overhaul across the board. I made the decision to remove myself of the obligations that came with running VitaFavo.com and to refocus those efforts in building a new property; one that would complement the clothing line. And, you won’t have to wait long to check it out because in just a few short weeks we’ll be launching the all-new 12Seven Magazine — a daily digital lifestyle publication created to inspire, motivate, and entertain its readers to live their happiest and most authentic life through updates in art, style, personal wellness and entrepreneurial growth.
Then, later this year, the 12Seven retail shop will return with an all-new look, all-new merchandise, and a few new twists. (Sorry — no spoilers.)
If you’re interested in getting in touch with me or the team, you can email us here.