New York Fashion Week is known not only for unveiling the cutting edge and upcoming trends in clothing, but also in musical performance, art, and social movements.
The New York Fashion and Music Conference held this past weekend at DROM NYC during NYFW F/W 2019 merged music, modeling, and messaging together through a mix of performances and panel conversations meant to complement and amplify what we’ve seen on the runway throughout these past few weeks.
DROM, a premier afro-Mediterranean club adding international flair to New York’s Alphabet City, was the perfect place not only for the fusion of fashion and music at NYFMC, but for up-and-coming designer Michelle Locke to unveil the latest pieces of the SPECTRUM capsule to her streetwear apparel brand, MLOCKE. Unbeknownst to you, you’ve already seen her line if you’ve attended Travis Scott’s AstroWorld, where rapper Trippie Redd wore MLOCK’s “Go” Race Pants onstage. Redd aside, rappers, artists, and influencers alike have been spotted in MLOCKE apparel, not to mention loyal fans of the fairly new brand. The Knockturnal caught up with Locke pre-show to discuss the origins of MLOCKE, pieces on display during NYFW, and what to expect of her work as an up-and-comer in the industry.
Michelle Locke at NYFW’s Fashion and Music Conference, wearing MLOCKE.
Locke, a New Jersey native newly working at Universal Music Group, is by day in the office and by night at the sewing machine assembling the next prototype for MLOCKE, which she founded in March of 2018. Locke, who since highschool took interest in fashion and styling, came to the creation of the streetwear apparel line following her work in the bridal industry. “I always really loved dressing up nice for class and helping my friends pick out outfits, but I never really thought that I would be in the fashion industry until I actually started interning and then working for a fashion designer,” she shared. For two years Locke worked with bridal designer Jean Ralph Thurin where through him she learned of the industry, rekindling her fashion passion.
“Just seeing him and watching him design these sketches,” she said, brought forth ideas she had previously pushed to the back of her mind of starting her own line. “He has pattern makers, there’s seamstresses that work there, I got to see kind of the ins and outs of every part of the industry. I just thought to myself one day, ‘Hey, why not you? You’ve had the idea for a while, you’ve been holding yourself back in a sense, and you just need to take that first step.’”
“I was around the bridal industry for so long, but that wasn’t really my personal style,” Locke admitted. “I personally love streetwear and I wanted to make clothes that I like, that I would wear, not necessarily catering to trends.”
Thereafter around December of 2017, she began her business venture with just a T-shirt. “I knew I wanted to do streetwear, but I didn’t really want it to just be T-shirts and hoodies. I kind of wanted to bring it to a step further than that, so I started off with the shirt and it did really well. It was like a tester,” she said. Once she saw the shirt selling well, Locke knew it was a sign to build her brand. “After that, I really sat down, I put out a business plan, all those types of things.”
Vibrant, lively, energetic, is how Locke would describe her brand and its presence on the runway. “I really try to base it around adjectives that I relate to my own personal life. I love being adventurous, and going out and being spontaneous, having a great time, and being full of good energy,” she said. “I really wanted that to show through my brand, and the people that invest in my brand, my clients, I think that they share those same ideals with me, and when they see my clothes it radiates that type of energy and vibrancy.”
While Fashion Week focused on her newer SPECTRUM collection, Locke noted that it follows in the path of previous capsules purchasers can find on her site. “The first collection was the Nitrous collection,” inspired by car racer suit style. “It pretty much was based around one piece initially,” she recalled. “They were my first race pants which ended up becoming very popular, but back then that was just my first piece, that was like my baby.”
Inspired by the racer trend, her second collection was the Adventure collection. “That one was based around spontaneous living, fast-paced lifestyle, and so I had different types of imagery on certain pieces that reflected that,” said Locke. The new color palettes Locke introduced to the Adventure collection led to SPECTRUM, on debut for Fashion Week. This collection is focused on vibrancy and energy, and as a result, is SPECTRUM is Locke’s most cohesive addition to her line.
“I feel like it was the first time that I sat down and detailed every single thing. I made sure that everything, one piece flowed into the next. And it was very close to my heart so I’m showing a couple of pieces from that SPECTRUM collection,” she said.
“I think that SPECTRUM came out a little bit before the neon trend. Neon colors, I knew that was coming for the Spring, and I dropped the first piece of SPECTRUM in the Fall. But then it definitely was so fitting to continue it, because I know that that’s really big right now. Neon colors, different types of prints, so I even have a snakeskin piece incorporated.”
And while Locke has seemed to have gotten the jump on bright trends for the Fall with her SPECTRUM collection, she goes against the grain just by her very presence at the New York Fashion and Music Conference. “Most of the designers here actually are more like evening, or couture, things like that, so I would be the first kind of real streetwear brand here,” she admitted. “I love having the opportunity to show that other side of fashion. It’s not always deemed as high fashion but streetwear is coming into the high fashion space. You can dress up streetwear pieces, you can dress them down, but it’s really a blessing to be able to be in that space and show that streetwear can be high fashion and deserves to be at Fashion Week.”
And it’s not just streetwear that deserves to be at Fashion Week, either. Locke herself as a newcomer to the scene recognizes what her place at DROM’s show means for the legacy of her brand. “I’m deserving of being here…I’ve put in the work and I’ve taken this very seriously, so this is a blessing that I was invited to be here and I’m definitely going to take up on every opportunity that comes my way.” While taking her own opportunities, Locke as a Black and Puerto Rican designer is conscious of creating them for others through her marketing efforts asMLOCKE’s CEO. “I definitely take a lot of pride in being able to represent my two cultures and showcase them through my fashion line. So that means utilizing models of color in every shoot; I definitely am very cognitive of doing that in every shoot, every show and every film opportunity. I always want to be as inclusive of the communities that I come from because when they open themselves up to me, and they open themselves up to Black and Spanish designers, that wasn’t always done,” she said.
“They were excluded from that industry for a while but remained in the background making amazing pieces that just weren’t getting the type of spotlight that they deserved. But now that the platform is here and people are paying attention, I definitely feel just overwhelmed to be able to be apart of that and to be able to showcase and make everybody proud.”
While Fashion Week also falls during Black History Month in February, it’s only fitting that SPECTRUM be debuted at a diverse venue, on a diverse runway, and centrally focused on brands, artists, and musicians of color. This first NYFW showcase for Locke, beyond its cultural significance, is also representative of personal evolution for the designer as well. “MLOCKE has evolved so much in this past year, I know people who have been following me or people who may not be following me, they will soon see that I’ve been working on my personal craft in terms of making different types of patterns and learning and increasing my sewing skills and things like that,” she said.
“Being able to put out more pieces quicker–newer, handmade pieces–are pretty different from things that I’ve put out in the past. But they can definitely expect more evolution, it’s going to continuously be growing and it’s going to be growing fast. It’s a big learning curve for me but I think they’ll be really excited, really happy with the new pieces that are gonna be coming out in the future.”