Fans were thrilled in April when John Targon, formerly of Baja East and Marc Jacobs, returned to fashion with an all-new brand: Fall Risk. The line launched with a particularly interesting sales quirk — fans could shop via a telephone hotline. It was an immediate hit. Now only a few months since launching his first collection Targon has released his second drop, a capsule of seven tees. The designer spoke to The Daily about launching his brand, and how the hotline turned out to be a surprise success.
Let’s go back to the beginning! What made you want to break out on your own?
The name Fall Risk comes from this idea that if you go to the hospital or end up at a retirement home and you’re unable to stand up on your own, you’ll be labeled a “fall risk” and given a wrist band. Ultimately, I’ve had my own life experiences and you get back up. So it’s all about this idea of getting back up and feeling like you can move on with zero judgment and zero shame. Like, here’s who we are and here’s how we pick up our story and keep going and do the things that we love. Fall Risk stems from this idea of being a zero-judgment, zero-shame brand and being comfortable in telling your story.
Does that mean that you put a lot of yourself into this brand aesthetically?
100%. The aesthetic component comes from me from my love for cultural mashups. I love taking the ’60s and ’70s and mashing it up with the ’90s. But really what this aesthetic comes from and what the desire for this brand came from is having very everyday, wearable clothes that stack and build. It’s about creating a new wardrobe that isn’t 90 pieces of [one] theme, but unique individual stories of things that I love that all mixed together.
How is Fall Risk different from what you’ve done in the past?
I’ve tapped into a new, rooted approach to design which is very much a vintage inspiration twisted out to something today. I am harking on nostalgic moments of my childhood, my upbringing, things that made me happy and excited. There’s a lot of cultural and inspirational references from my youth, remixed into today.
Why did you want to sell via a hotline?
We live in a world where people scroll on their phones all day, where people are one step removed from the experiences that make us actually connect. So the phone is a whole idea of connection to me. The hotline idea is, I’m busy, you’re busy, we’re all busy. But if we take a minute to actually connect and have me tell you about the styles and share about why I like a certain detail or get to know your size or whatever it might be, it’s that exchange around getting to know one another, even if it’s a short exchange on the phone. It’s just this idea of reconnecting in a personal way. I personally really enjoy that.
The first drop sold out after 45 minutes. What was it like in the atelier trying to handle those calls?
In many respects a little bit overwhelming. There was one part — and this is again just me being transparent — but there was one part which was like “holy shit.” The shock that the phone was ringing and it was working. The second part was taking on one call at a time. That’s also very much a mantra in my life, which is you take on what you can. It was going to be managed and be dealt with the best way it could and it turned out to be a success and I was really, I’m happy about that. To sum it up, a little bit frantic, but nothing unmanageable.
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You answered some of the calls yourself — did anyone know that they were talking to you?
Some people asked for me and then some people also knew they were talking to me. Some (through having been in this industry for a minute) when they started to tell me their details, I was like, “Are you so and so?” I also was able to pinpoint a few of my customers, my long standing clients. So that was fun. It was the perfect game of telephone essentially.
Did you have any weird conversations or get any weird requests?
No, not on that first exchange. Maybe I need to open up and be a little bit more awkward and make room for that. My most memorable calls were for people that were that have been following me tease out since the inception. They were just excited to have a piece and have something to hold from that volume. Each of those connections with the people that called meant something. They took time from their day and they were excited and sharing and that makes them almost all memorable to be honest. That sounds so fluffy but it’s true.
Tell me about this new drop!
Each t-shirt is built in with a story to create seven unique stories. Some of those stories are from things that I find fascinating or important, or moments I think are cool. For example, the nostalgic twists with the Risky Rainbow. It obviously has a Pride connotation but it’s also a twist on the original Apple logo. Most of the time anything you see from me is twisted to something else. For each of the pieces there is a little bit more of a story there, and once you know it, it makes the piece even more special. That’s incredibly important to me. My favorite is the Risky Soaker tee. The tee is meant to create awareness around getting guns off the street and it’s of a super soaker and the back says, “Lives are more important.”
Tell me a little bit more about the campaign — why did you want to do Barbies and baseball cards?
The [concept] came from this idea of seven collectible t-shirts. I started thinking about collectibles, and about childhood memories. One of my youngest memories was actually borrowing clothes. I was borrowing Barbies and then borrowing clothes from my cousins. I was taking them because it was taboo for a guy to be playing dolls, but I would always dress up my recently found Barbies and give them clothes and jewelry. There’s this nostalgic idea of escape and playing with dolls and creating stories for them. It was really about creating narratives for these dolls to have fictional lives that I created.
What are Risky Confessions?
Risky Confessions are a mix of stories that people share with us. It’s a way for people who want to share their zero judgment … almost getting something off your chest. It can be a time that you went for something and had a great achievement as the outcome. Or it could be a time that something didn’t pan out the way you had hoped at first. Big picture perspective is “Hey, this is what happened and here I am today.” It’s almost like an online support therapist.
How many submissions are you fielding?
Last week we got 163 submissions. I just ran the numbers.
What’s the funniest one you’ve heard so far?
“I pushed Regina George in front of the bus” — I really liked that one. Another one I really liked was that somebody that had covered themselves in baby oil and their grandma approached the room to walk in on them when they were covered in baby oil about to enjoy themselves… like a risky, slippery door handle situation, a moment of panic.
What are some goals that you want to achieve through Fall Risk?
To create unique or special products that has a real everyday use in people’s lives, to create that t-shirt that you want to wear again and again, to create things that are for everyday casual life. One of my goals is to create a fresh, hot product that I love. One of my goals is to create this brand and to be something outside of clothing as well. Things that are really important to me, like skincare, beauty, and other things within the health spectrum. It’s always building on this idea of branding as it translates to real life things that I personally need or use.
What are some of your favorite beauty products?
I love, love, love, Glossier’s Boy Brow. I’m obsessed with Marvis toothpaste, just because of the flavors. I’m also really into Patchology under-eye patches. These are all beauty things that, for a guy that make you look fresh. As someone who can easily put himself into the workaholic mode, I love things that give you that quick three minute, “I feel good.” It’s vain, I can’t lie, but I always enjoy products that are well priced and change how you feel.
What are your summer plans?
I am going to be very local in New York City and out and about in the Hamptons. It’s really about staying local and reading books, that’s my main M.O. this summer.
What’s on your reading list?
The Essential Rumi, Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, and Catcher in the Rye again.