The Rapture Of Nesir Slegna: an uncompromising vision of modern minimalism, a tribute to the Late Alexander McQueen. Emore’J collection brings Couture to a conservative nation’s capital. “Fashion on steroids” and in one fell swoop, reinventing the fashion scene.
On this evening, I met Emore’J in the basement of a lounge in Baltimore, a modern building on South Calvert Street. He was accompanied by his uber stylish friend, Ramona Jones, who is also his manager. The sound of knives hitting the chopping board poured through the door as the kitchen staff sliced lemon wedges for cocktails at the bar. Emore’J dressed in his signature LA meets Miami style, added instant effortless chic to the stuffy room.
Desiree: First and foremost – Emore’J, I got the assignment to interview you less than 5 hours ago and here we are making it happen. First, I must say that more than any other Washingtonian designer, your work feels inextricably connected to the couture houses of yesteryear. So, it’s a pleasure to chat with you. What brought you out today, Emore’J?
Emore’J: I’m here to host an event for my fashion friend, Amy McNish for the Green and Gorgeous Fashion Show. It’s a good cause, raising awareness for Breast Cancer.
Desiree: Yes, a very good cause. So, something that I enjoy?I really love that you include in all your communications, everything you send out, the term, “fashion friends”.
Emore’J: You noticed?
Desiree: And I love that, honestly! Simply because the industry can be so catty, and it’s like, people think you have to be vindictive and evil to each other, but you use the word friends. So you give this connotation of love and caring about the next person.
Emore’J: Thank you. Yes, it’s definitely about that. I was thinking of something that I could say to express how I felt for the people that appreciate what I do and I appreciate what they do, and I didn’t want to use “love muffins”, cause B. Scott says that; and I don’t like the word “fans”, because I don’t feel comfortable calling—‘oh, you’re my fan, you’re my fan!’ Not yet. So, I use fashion friends, like you said, it’s loving. Fashion friends. I love my fashion friends.
Desiree: Yes, and we love you too, fashion friend! Now we were just talking about style and style in the UK. Define DC style.
Emore’J: To be honest, I don’t think I could actually—well, I can define DC style. Actually, it depends. Well, it really depends.
Desiree: Don’t hold your tongue, honey.
Emore’J: I’m trying to figure out who I want to talk about.
Desiree: Let’s attack them all. Go!
Emore’J: Let’s start off with this young generation, from the ages of 14 through 19. When it comes to their style, to me, it’s all copycatted and it’s meaningless. They don’t put in any effort to what they’re doing. They don’t even know the meaning behind what they’re wearing. Like, how can you possibly be Muslim and you’re wearing a Muslim cap with Catholic rosary around your neck, with, like Buddhist kind of bracelets on? It’s like you have like three different elements going on sweetie. I don’t understand. What are you trying to portray? It looks a mess, like it was all wrong. And, just religion has become a trend for this DC area. These kids don’t know what to do with it.
Desiree: If you could say one thing to the younger generation, what would it be, in terms of embracing personal style?
Emore’J: Educate yourself. Honestly, education. I think I will start with that. Forget fashion right now for you, because you’re not even worth it. Educate yourself?and I think with educating yourself, you’ll begin to find out who you want to be.
Desiree: Absolutely. It’s funny that a lot of people don’t realize that by studying art and ancient history, you actually see the evolution of fashion. It didn’t start with RocaWear.
Emore’J: A fashion friend has recently talked to me about that: going to museums and getting up on art, ancient art, things like that. And I do wanna take that into consideration, because that’s the field that I’m going into, and that’s honestly a field that you will be remembered for, and you will last. I’m not doing this just for “honey he was just giving me Lady Gaga! He was so Gaga! Oh my God it’s so-o Gaga!”
Desiree: Everything is Gaga. Everything is Gaga right now!
Emore’J: Gaga is gonna fade out. I had a blog about that, but I have not released it yet. It’s just, it’s called “Gaga”, but I haven’t released it. Busy.
Desiree: Are you going to bless us with that? Cause we want to hear your take on the Gaga phenomenon.
Emore’J: It’s crazy. It’s just called “Gaga”! Oh my God it’s so Gaga! Oh my goodness, you’re so Gaga! Look at your hat, you’re so Gaga! It’s, it’s really like that ? the whole blog.
Desiree: [Laughs] Alright, we’ll be waiting for that. You are the only person in DC who deserves to use the word “Couture” in his name, in his line, in his collection. Better yet, you are the only person that is allowed to write it or even think of the word, because you are Couture, and a true Couturier. And people don’t know what Couture is, but everyone’s throwing it around, “Chez Chez Couture!”
Emore’J: Or you go on Good Hope Road and they have a store called “Le Threads Couture” and everything in the store is just T-Shirts!
Desiree: T-Shirts! [Simultaneously]
Emore’J: And then I went to a Barber Shop—I don’t want to blast them—but I went to a Barber Shop
Desiree: You’re on blast!
Emore’J: I went to Friendly Face Barber Shop in Wheaton Mall and it was a hot mess! I didn’t understand why their business name was “Friendly Faces Couture”. I asked the man, “What’s so couture about these t-shirts and things?” and he just said “Nah, the name is different, it’s French.” But this clothing, this is not couture, this is everything but. People just take that word and they just don’t know what to do with it. Everything is couture in DC, everything is couture.
Desiree: And it hurts my soul.
Emore’J: It makes it feel like the word love, you know how love is so watered down?
Desiree: Yes, it loses its meaning. And then when a true couturier uses it, everyone thinks, “Oh, I have the same. I can do that too,”??Emore’J: DC is tacky. I’m sorry. I know it’s my own town, but I think that somebody has to show this town tough love. Somebody needs to give tough love and nobody’s giving tough love back. And that’s why I’m being more respected than being hated. And that’s the only thing that I care about, because I’m being bold enough to say it: DC is tacky. These babies need love. They need to be encouraged; they need to be lifted up. Nobody is saying “sweetie, you look a mess,” “sweetie, that’s not how that should be worn,” “baby, that hair, that lace front should not look like that, that’s not for everybody!”
Desiree: No, it’s like a parent who has the best intentions, but they are gonna show you that tough love. They’re gonna tell you what you’re doing wrong, so you can be aware of it and correct it. And that’s how I see it. And you do the same, not only with designers, but with the models, and you use the term “patrons.”
Emore’J: Oh yeah, but they’re not models, they’re patrons.
Desiree: What is a patron?
Emore’J: A patron is—well, Webster’s term is someone who is investing or partaking in something. But a model is someone who actually does research, represents a designer, you know, its work that you get paid to do.
Desiree: Alright, now, we spoke about the designers, or “designers”, we talked about the “models”, the patrons, what can DC expect from Apparatus II?
Emore’J: [His face lights up] Apparatus II, umm, they can expect a lot of emotion…
Desiree: What can the World expect from Apparatus II?
Emore’J: Yea, the World?because DC, like, they don’t even get it, they won’t get it. I think my audience that’s coming will get it. Apparatus II: The Rapture of Nesir Slegna, brings a lot of emotion being portrayed through a collection, and I believe that was gonna be pretty much displayed through my work. Not downplaying the other designers at all, but to me the other designers are there to fulfill a purpose, I’m there to just tear it up. I’m going to let them have it, and I can’t wait to see what I created. I mean I can’t wait for the World to see what I have put honestly my blood, sweat and tears into.
Desiree: What you birthed.
Emore’J: Yes, exactly this is going to be a birthing, and I believe that this show is really going to be, like, not literally, but my coming out phase. This is Emore’j Couture. I’m finally about to walk in everything that I said I will be. It’s awesome. I might start crying on stage, who knows? You may not be able to tell through what I have on, but I may be crying. [Laughs]
Desiree: Over the last several months to a year, I’ve just seen Emore’j become this?I don’t want to say icon yet, cause you’re working on that, and I see it coming; but, you’re all over the place, you know? And you’re not just local in DC, because I go to showrooms to pull pieces in New York, and I’ve heard your name, honey.
Emore’J: Oh, really?
Desiree: Yes. How does that make you feel?
Emore’J: Really, it still hits me. Like, when I walk into a room and people want to take photos with me; people, you know, want to just be with me in the pictures or people get excited to see me, and things like that. They want me to host their events?cause to me, I still don’t see that yet, cause I’m working on?I’m trying to get to a whole bigger thing, but when I do get that… it’s, I feel honored. Like, I want that and more, because I really want people to see what I was trying to accomplish for so many years, and what I was trying to bring about. And I really do believe I’m making a strong impact for this area.
Desiree: I agree. What’s the one thing you can say to a young designer who doesn’t only have the creative part down-pact, but has that business mentality– that business acumen down-pact, which is what I think you balance, you know? You bring the art, but you’re also a businessman.
Emore’J: Yea, and believe it or not I have, and had a really tough time in college with business and math. I had the worst time. Oh God, math is not my subject at all. But the thing is, I’m doing so well in business, you know? And it’s like, “what is college doing?” You know?
Emore’J: But, I think what I’m gonna have to say to that young person is to definitely be encouraged and keep grinding. Even if you’re the only one grinding, keep grinding, you know? I have a model that I like to use. I actually use it on facebook and I find myself using it time and time again, and it just says something about me. It just says, “if you’re not gon’ grind, you’re not gon’ shine, and so what use are you on my team?” And that just says a lot in itself.
Desiree: And, speaking about a team, how important are other people that you surround yourself with?
Emore’J: It’s…that is nothing but importance, that is what’s gonna keep you grounded, but at the same time, keep you encouraged and things.
Desiree: But do you surround yourself with a bunch of “yes men” and “yes women,” and they’re like “oh it’s gorgeous!”
Emore’J: No, cause I fight with people all the time on my team. It’s blood, sweat and tears, child. But, no, I have rings around me, and it might sound funny, but I do. I create rings around myself and I know all the layers of people around me. I have my small layer – my first ring around me, it’s really close to me as if it’s almost gonna touch me. And this is the people that I can talk to, I can let that layer down, that face down—I can show them things that the public won’t see, I can let them see my hurts, and my pains and what I’m going through personally, and I need to be spiritually encouraged. Help me—those are the kind of people I surround myself with and I will talk to. The next ring of people, are people in the industry that I talk to on more than one occasion and things like that. We share laughs, more laughs? pretty much that’s all we do is just share laughs together, but they don’t know the inner layer of me. They don’t know the crying side, the hurting side, all those sides. And then there is the third ring. It’s not a bad ring at all, but it’s my fashion friend ring. You know, you can’t tell fashion friends any of that kind of stuff that’s going on. You want to definitely keep up the job, keep up the persona that you created, keep up this image, which is this—to me there’s nothing wrong with that, because who wants to follow behind a sad person or a sad image? Unless it was that Mary J. Blige from back in the day—now that’s something that we wanna keep seeing [laughs], but, you know, that’s my out ray for my fashion friends, my greeters, my “hi and goodbyes” kind of people. And people need to know that, because if you don’t know your rings, you’re gonna get burned every time; you’re gonna get hut every time. If you keep putting your third layer ring in the first layer, please…you ain’t gonna make it. And that’s my idea.
Desiree: Right, right. I like that. I really like that metaphor.
Emore’J: Yea, but that’s my philosophy on life. I have three rings around me and it really does work. You’ll find out how much drama you will save, because you’ll know who to, run your mouth to, and who not to run your mouth to. You’ll know who to say the right things to. You’ll know who to put your game face on for and who not to, you know? And I had to learn that, you know? With my small circle, I was hurtful to them at first, because we have our own things that we go through and things like that, but I had to learn to appreciate my first ring.
Desiree: Emore’J, do you have a love in your life? Do you have a person? You are all business. You have to have someone you go home to who strokes your back…
Emore’J: I do! His name is Career. He’s so fine, he’s so good to me! [Laughs]
Desiree: Career? Tell me about Career.
Emore’J: Career has been with me for quite some time. It started off kind of rough, but, like, we’re starting to roll with the punches now, and people are coming in to see me and Career, and, like, I love Career—he’s a fine, tall, thick brother, you know, good hands, nice tongue [laughs]. I love Career, that’s the only thing I’m talking to, is Career.
Desiree: I love it, I love it! I suggest that the rest of us meet Career, when do we meet Career, so we can be so fulfilled?
Emore’J: Yea um, you can meet Career on August the 1st at the Apparatus II show. He’ll be there in full throttle.
Desiree: Love it, Love it! Look at him all hot and bothered! We look forward to meeting Career on August 1st. Thank you Emore’J.
Emore’J: No, thank you.