Industry Insiders: John Whitledge, Trovata’s Fashionable Prankster

Trovata’s John Whitledge on pulling off the best Fashion Week prank of the decade.

What has been your most memorable season so far? I think the most memorable Fashion Week was Fall 2007 with the faux Eastern European socialite couple. We weren’t planning on doing anything during Fashion Week, but since my partners had just left the company, we were really encouraged to participate in the week in some way. I literally came up with the idea two weeks before the show, so it was pretty amazing that we put it all together so quickly.

We didn’t have the actors selected until Thursday night (we started on Friday) and they were in LA. They flew into New York City on Friday night, came straight to our showroom, and then they were out and about cruising around town one hour later in a white 1954 Rolls Royce, a bodyguard (our graphic designer), a cat handler, a publicist, and of course their feline friend. It was all a bit outrageous. Each day the plan changed based on how it went the day before, so the lack of a fixed schedule delivered a consistent adrenaline rush. The other memorable Fashion Week was Spring 2008, when we got the chance to collaborate with Perry Farrell. I hope that when I’m his age I still have the same passion that he has.

The 2007 Fashion Week scheme was unique. Can we expect any similar creative antics in the future? I hope so. That was such an unexpected and magical week. There were so many variables that had to fall in line, and the fact we pulled it off for eight days was unimaginable. I think it will be pretty hard to top it, but I’m always trying to do something that is unique, unexpected, and memorable.

Has there ever been a disastrous moment backstage during a show? You always have a model that does something wrong, but in the grand scheme of things it’s all gone pretty smoothly. I think the biggest panic is when the models don’t show up on time, especially when everyone has already taken their seats.

What do you feel in the moment right before the show starts? Really nervous. I’m usually pretty laid back, but right before the show, I definitely get the butterflies.

What do you feel in the moment right as the show ends? Relieved, but at the same time a bit awkward. You really don’t how the show went until you get the reviews the next day, so for that night you are in this mental state of no man’s land. Elated, nervous, and confused.

Has the economy had a tremendous affect on the way you’re running your show and after-party this year? Yes, we were fortunate enough to share our space and production costs with a few other designers and were able to secure enough sponsorship from our generous sponsors to cover the costs of the show. Without this support, we wouldn’t have been able to take part in the week.

What do you have planned for the after-party? We are hosting it at The Anchor Bar. Just good music and free tequila!

You’ve won quite a few prestigious awards. Which one meant the most to the team and why? I think the CFDA Vogue Fashion Award stood out the most. By all means I felt that we were the outsiders to the industry, and therefore the underdogs, so I was pretty surprised that we ended up winning. It was very memorable. Lastly the chance to work with Reed Krakoff as our mentor for a year was invaluable and an amazing learning experience.

Who are your dreams celebrities to sit front row at a Trovata show? Barack Obama, Peter Beard, or Steve Jobs.

Are there any other shows that you’re looking forward to seeing this season? Rag & Bone, Hutson, Proenza, Jason Wu, and Alexander Wang. I think they are all amazing at what they do.

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