He may very well know how the game of the business of fashion is played, still, though, John Targon is not your ordinary designer.
Having drawn attention from early on, already before even finishing with his studies in Parsons, he quickly found himself holding important posts at great fashion brands. Armed with his successful experience from his stints with Givenchy, Celine and Burberry, in 2013 he launched the popular brand Baha East, along with Scott Studenberg. After stepping away, he continued with other projects in various brands, to end up in Marc Jacobs – a collaboration that only lasted for two months.
And then… there was Fall Risk. His absolutely personal project, a brand that, in the spring of 2019 and with flying colors, has placed him on the map again – or, better yet, a brand with which he is creating a new map, reinventing the game: ignoring fashion’s seasons and calendar, John Targon launches his collections as he pleases, with drops of casualwear consisting of uber-cool cashmere knits that sell-out instantly – and via telephone!
Ozon magazine tried to get into his mind and to map Fall Risk’s concept and creative spirit, on the occasion of Volume 5, The Wavy Mix, which is dropping now.
Why did you start Fall Risk, after working with Scott Studenberg in Baja East, in major brands such as Celine and Givenchy and after your short stint in Marc Jacobs?
I started Fall Risk on April 30th 2019. It really started as a result of my past experience. I thought, you know, this is such a critical industry of the things people produce, it’s on a calendar and it’s hard to just make the things you love if you are caught up in all the ways fashion should be done as per the typical industry format. I love creating a brand and I wanted to use Fall Risk as a platform to say I had a variety of career experiences and what matters is that I persevere and try things in a way that feels manageable and fun. I could create specific styles I loved that didn’t have to be part of a runway show and I could market them and share them however I wished. I wanted to eliminate the falls of my previous career moves, get smart about our planet and connect with my customers very directly.
Why did you name your brand Fall Risk?
I was out with a friend one night and he got completely wasted. I had to take him to the hospital in an ambulance, he was checked in and because he couldn’t stand up on his own, he was given a Fall Risk hospital band. I saw his arm dangling over his hospital bed and I thought, hold on, this is me. I can be completely disheveled in my personal life but I want to still look cool and be in easy to wear clothes. I can fall down in life in some way or another but I choose to look at how I will take my next steps differently, and the applied learnings as something positive and not as something to carry shame about.
Your brand’s aesthetics and style are pretty nostalgic – where is all this nostalgia coming from?
One of the most important things to me as a designer and branding guy is to look at what’s going on in our culture, be aware of it and speak to it as a movement of its own but through my lens. With Fall Risk, I always pull from my childhood experiences but I also look at moments in culture where there was an undeniable feeling of ease or happiness; and I twist the current state of affairs with a more nostalgic approach. I call it Nostalgic Futurism. Mostly I have pulled from the ‘70s and ‘90s, this sort of hippie bubblegum twist.
Why did you choose to design knitwear?
Knitwear has always been the coziest and most stylish way to mix relaxed and sport for me. With time, it’s become one of the most innovative ways to design both technically and, as far as resources are concerned, in a way I can control waste; because I make fully fashioned knits, constructed as a total garment and not with sewing panels of cut materials which leaves waste. So once I’m ready to go to production, I order the exact amount of yarns needed and have little to no leftovers.
Why did you decide to sell via telephone? How did it feel when the phone started ringing, on the first day of the launch of Vol.1?
I had this belief that I would get some calls but I was not expecting what came in. In about an hour we had nearly a thousand calls, and we had sold out of Volume 1. I was actually on the floor shocked. Then I had to plan, because I started using the phone to hear from my customers directly, and that meant I couldn’t just close the hotline, I still had to see what the remaining people were interested in. It was a ton of fun, lots of chatting and lots of collecting info on what to continue to make and how I would proceed on the product side. I probably didn’t stop smiling for two weeks.
Did you answer the phone yourself? Did the customers know who they were talking to?
Hell yeah I answered the phone myself. Some people specifically asked for me and others asked “is this John?”. Haha. It was rad. My next drop, Volume 5: The Wavy Mix consists of 5 groups that will all be pre-order. Each group is constructed of a variety of sustainable yarns, biodegradable yarns, and using vegetable and plant based dyes. I only want to make to the total demand, and in an ever changing climate socially, politically and culturally, I wanted to cut to the piece-ordered new approach for Fall Risk, which means that people help me gauge my orders before I purchase. Also, with the coronavirus, I think it’s important to note that my focus is still on making people feel good through design, so I am less focused on sales and more about being tapped into our culture and being of service to our most in need communities.
What is the coolest thing you’ve heard from a customer about your clothes?
That they have worn my pieces for a week straight and they can’t take it off. I guess Febreeze is their best friend.
Did you ever see someone wearing Fall Risk and thought “please take this off, you shouldn’t be wearing this”?
Never. In fact, people send me pictures of how they wear Fall Risk and I’m like, damn that’s dope. And then it inspires my personal styling or my next brand shoot. Dude, my philosophy is, if you bought this item and you love it, you can cut it, crop it, tie it, never leave your house in it or do all the opposite; I am so grateful you shopped with me that, within itself, it is a go-show ‘em-how-it’s-done kind of mentality.
Who is the Fall Risk person? What is your target group?
The Fall Risk person cares about where their items are made, how they are made and they care that they can wear them a lot. I started out thinking I would get my same customer base from my previous design jobs, a 30-60 something year-old who loves luxury. I got those, but what became quickly apparent is that I had hit a stride with Gen Z. So my actual customer base is comprised of 85% in the age bracket from 16 to 32, which means this mix is mostly driven by Gen Zers and then Millennials. I’m having fun with the Gen Z crowd, they give a shit about things and also have, from what I can tell, serious brand loyalty to me. 73% of my customers have bought from 3 out of the 4 drops. They also love to collect the pieces and feel special because not everyone they know has it.
From day one, Fall Risk had its own timing, launching volumes, and not collections, and ignoring the usual fashion calendar. Why is that? Is each volume part of a wider concept or leading to something bigger?
Each Volume could also be looked at as a chapter in a book. My book has only begun and I don’t know if I’ll move to another format in the future, but I have worked hard on showing each drop again with new pieces and bringing previous ones back with a fresh update. I have to be realistic about business, I am here for my customers to help style them and give them what they want, not some false vision in my head that I think everyone should wear.
You are dropping Volume 5. What is it all about? What is The Wavy Mix?
I had this idea of a love story in my head. And the thing that mostly came into my mind was my experience with young love, when I would make mix tapes for friends and crushes. So I have set each group to a track list. Also, after I had designed the five groups, which are called “Ride me Like a Bike”, “You Plaid Me”, “Get my Heart Racing”, “Block Party”, and “I’ve Met my Match”, I thought, let’s make this some kind of love story and the phases of excitement, heartbreak, and whatever else is in between.
What inspires you?
Connection. I think some of my favorite inspiration comes from researching what clothes and advertising looked historically, movies, art and comfort. So I mash up all my loves of cultural movements, artists, musicians and comfort into a brand. The idea that someone brings their own experience when wearing Fall Risk is what I love to know.
What are your dreams about the future of Fall Risk? How do you picture yourself in ten years?
I can see myself working on a local farm understanding where our food comes from and helping supply it locally, and that’s actually a very near dream I am going to embark upon. I see myself working on branding and creative direction for a beauty brand or any brand that has real connection to science and climate, or a mission I find inspiring. And I see Fall Risk doing what it’s doing, curated drops of things I love and feel that are relevant to a life that will no doubt bring us closer together and make us more aware of how we consume now and in the future. I have such a proud feeling around Fall Risk and this brand DNA I have created, and I want that to grow, but I’m not in a rush. I am patient and I am playing a long game in life, where I think more about my impacts on community and planet than money.
Shot by Nicholas Prakas