INTERVIEW AND PHOTOS: RICK H. MANAYAN '17
Where does “First Twelve” come from?
The name comes from my suite number from my freshman year of college (Suite 112). When broken down, it literally means: first floor suite twelve, therefore “First Twelve” came to be. This was the room where the idea was incepted. We didn't brainstorm different names, or go back and forth, but it was just one of those things that hit us and we knew it was right.
What led you to fashion design?
My youth was the fuel to the fire. I remember becoming extremely self-aware—I would throw on an outfit that was trending at the time and it never felt right; the outfit was missing something. I couldn't quite pinpoint what this feeling was because I was so young and inexperienced at understanding my place and time in life. Around this age, it was easy to conclude that I was simply the problem, or “the weird one,” not the outfit. Everyone would wear trendy clothes effortlessly while I was still really uncomfortable. I later realized, as I grew into myself, this said weakness that I believed I had was actually a hidden strength. I couldn't relate to the common style because what felt actually right on me was something off the grid: not just one specific style, but a compilation of various styles. Being an artist and prospective art student in college, I realized that part of my job was to communicate this untapped part of myself in my future endeavors and projects. I didn't know what the outcome or response would be, but I didn't care if it didn't quite make sense to people right away. Then came my college experience in Suite 112 and the people I met during that time, both of which guided me to the basis of First Twelve and a dire need to communicate this idea through fashion design.
How would you describe the aesthetic of First Twelve to a stranger?
The aesthetic of First Twelve is a core fusion of street and sportswear, seasoned with subtle cultural identity references—naturally conflicting, but designed in a way to show unity. The aesthetic demonstrates how details and ideas from one culture, or one genre combined with another, can create something effective, opposed to setting one another apart. I love the idea of collaboration; everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Working together with people or things or ideas of a different kind has the potential to teach you something, all while you're teaching the [other party] something. All in all, when you look at the pieces you might see something fun, questionable, and thought-provoking, yet relatable somewhere along the lines.
Why open your shop in Middletown?
I opened my shop in Middletown because we ran into a killer deal on the space and it's always been a dream of mine to influence the style of life, and general style, in Middletown. Being an NYC-lover (who isn’t?), I’ve always wanted to bring that vibrancy to my seemingly complacent city, this consciousness for art, style, forward thinking, and development. I love my city and I really want to inspire the culture here.
Do you see First Twelve expanding?
I definitely want to expand. Online we’ve distributed to over 15 countries. We picked up a retailer in Michigan called REVIVE, VFILES in NYC, and just recently one in Hong Kong. I’m hoping the seeds in these various places grow and expand and we could cover more ground in them and beyond. I feel like we're moving at a good pace right now. We're not looking to push forward impulsively, but take things as they come.
Haha, I don’t know exactly. I feel something brewing. I'm really just trusting my intuition and rolling with it, but ultimately I want to unlock this world for everyone to enjoy on a large scale. One giant worldwide team working together.
Shop online @ www.firsttwelveclothing.com