Roc-A-Fella Records project for Jay Z & Damon Dash

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Roc-A-Fella Records project for Jay Z & Damon Dash – file under bizarre stories!

I can’t for the life of me remember what year this project was done – I was down in my space on Franklin Street and it had to be well before the Twin Towers came down- so it had to be between 1997 and 1999 – I doubt it was as late as 2000.  It was a beast of a project on many levels.

On the one hand, the garments were HUGE.  This was  1990’s rap/HipHip High Style so everything was incredibly oversized. I was at the time still producing my club wear line for Patricia Field.  And that club wear  line was  absolutely the antithesis of the big oversized streetwear trend that was happening simultaneously.  Today’s oversized trend is a direct nod to the 90’s.

The scale of the pieces just don’t come across in these old shots, but working on them was like making leather blankets – that’s a lotta leather to shove under a machine!  I think each pair of pants took about 3x the amount of leather as the average pant I was making at the time! The big leather jackets – were likewise.

The Real beast however,  became the Stylist who was hired by the label.  For the purposes of brevity here, let’s  call her CJ.  CJ was a stylist I’d worked with on several projects before this one.  I designed costumes for several artists’ music videos and various appearance wardrobe. We worked quite well together…until this job. 

For this job she first went full on Derek Khan.  Just outta the blue.  She went from being someone who understood the relationship between “budget” and “deadline” and what could realistically be created within the constraints of both.  First it was things like custom printing the lining and custom embossing the leather –  but 25 years ago you could not get any of this done in short runs and fast turnaround. (Let alone within the budget requested.)  Nobody would take on those short run jobs and if you could find someone who would,  there were always huge set-up fees and never, ever, would anything like this be done on a rush schedule.

Then she starts asking for “diamond” encrusted belt buckles – and it turned out that by diamonds – she meant diamonds!  (& out of the budget that by then had been agreed to,  for leather )

This was  a sign of something gone truly haywire.   She got a flat out NO from me.  Why was she suddenly asking (practically demanding) me to get things made involving diamonds and metalwork???  I told her she needed to go to a jeweler and I would not be involved – but she kept bringing it up,  it was just bizarre.  

I had already met and measured Jay Z and Damon Dash.  No diamond belt buckles were ever mentioned.  They were however, looking forward to their Logo’d Custom leather suits!

After a bit of an intervention,  the design and scope of the project got back on track and the suits started.  Roc-a-fella were very excited to see the finished project wanted one suit finished ASAP –   I had to move some other work around, but they were clear I could finish the second suit at a slower pace so I would not have to make my other clients wait too long.

So I finished the first suit in under a week and hand delivered it to Roc-A-Fella myself.  

Maybe 2-3 weeks later the 2nd suit is just about finished, but I have not invoiced Roc-A-Fella for the balance yet (terms are always COD and everyone knows this).  CJ has been on top of the progress during this whole time.

Late one afternoon – out of the blue – CJ suddenly shows up at my shop, demanding the 2nd suit.

I tell her I have not invoiced yet and I cannot deliver the suit before the balance is paid  & I’m invoicing that evening. So in a couple of days is probably fine to pick up.  She absolutely explodes!  I’m floored because there has been no urgency indicated to me at any point on delivery of this 2nd suit.  She storms out of the shop. 

Maybe an hour later there is banging on the shop door – it’s early evening now and CJ is back with 2 massively huge guys.  She’s screaming that I have to give her the suit and there is a vein in her forehead pulsing and swelling up alarmingly.  She’s sweating bullets and I’m expecting her to have an aneurysm on the spot.  I am most certainly NOT letting her and those 2 big goons into my shop.

She keeps screaming and shrieking and banging.  This is so completely over-the-top and out of nowhere and also quite scary. I am at a complete loss. 

She knows the terms are COD and Roc-A-Fella gets invoiced directly.  This is how every job she’s commissioned from me has worked.  She shows no sign of stopping. The vein is getting bigger. The sweat is pouring off of her.

I call the police. They are on their way. I call Roc-A-Fella.

Roc-A-Fella seems to have no idea what is going on with CJ.  But they tell me to wait for a check, they are messengering it right down.  They tell me it’s OK to give CJ the suit.

The cops arrive and calm CJ down. I explain that I am waiting on payment before delivery, as agreed – I don’t hand of finished projects without payment in full.  

(Silently…Especially not to anyone in the Music Industry.)

We wait for the messenger. When he arrives the cops oversee the hand-off.

I never see CJ again. 

Turns out neither did Roc-A-Fella Records.

Six Months after this insane episode, I get a call completely out of nowhere from Roc-A-Fella records.  They want to know if I had the second suit. (!?) Huh? Uh, No…I gave the suit to CJ like you guys OK’ed.  The party on the phone very politely asks if I have any idea where CJ is.  I can’t help them and their response is calm and professional and seems resigned. I guess they’d been looking for her for a while – I have no idea if they were ever able to find her or that suit.  I do wonder what happened to those suits – separately or together.

I don’t wonder what happened to CJ since at some point she managed to continue working in the industry.  I do hope whatever she was going thru passed before inflicting permanent damage.

 

 

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