In The Studio With Très Rasché: Streetwear As Told By Women
“So I said, fuck it, let’s put Très Rasché on a bunch of shit because it makes me feel good and maybe it will make other people feel good too.” This is the origin story of viral streetwear brand Très Rasché—when founder Madisen Sowers puts her mind to something, she gets straight to work making it happen, even if (or, perhaps, especially if) she has to defy expectations and prove a bunch of people wrong in the process. Streetwear has always been a bit of a boy’s club, but Très Rasché isn’t interested in simply playing house by sticking logos on a hoodie; rather, Sowers and her business partner Sydney Levy are expanding the vision of what streetwear can mean, and who it’s for, and in the process, making room at the table for everyone who wants to take a seat. The food metaphor seems an apt way to describe her business model; in her own words, it’s all about making sure she eats and her friends eat, too. Sowers’s crew is a tight-knit one, and nothing happens without her explicit approval. In the midst of establishing a burgeoning brand, styling celebrities, and nightly DJ gigs, Sowers sat down with Milk to give us a peek into the world of Très Rasché.
When did the idea of TR first come to you, and then how did you develop it into a whole company?
Woah. [Laughs] Well it’s a long story. I’ll just start with how I came up with the idea—I was on tour with a musician and noticed how women were not really down for each other in the music industry. I really didn’t like it. Sometimes it seems like we don’t want the woman next to us to shine brightly in fear of our light is dimmed. We don’t realize that if the woman next to us is shining brightly, together we collectively shine even brighter. We don’t dim each other’s light, we create something even bigger, better and brighter. I feel like the only way for women to ‘make it’ is by helping each other. Being on tour all the time I was always seeing these male music groups, like the A$AP Mob etc., where all the guys put each other on. I started to think, “why don’t women do that?” So yeah that was the foundation and inspiration of starting a new subculture, this was missing for women and I wanted to help create it.
We don’t realize that if the woman next to us is shining brightly, together we collectively shine even brighter.
I have always been a designer, actually long before I was a DJ. I studied product design and fine art in college and have designed for a few streetwear and luxury brands. So I decided I wanted to make clothing as the main tangible product for this subculture. I also wanted to make DJs and parties a big part of it too. Also, the idea wasn’t exclusive to women, but always my focus. I really wanted this wave to have an opposite gender affect the mainstream streetwear has- a mans world that women get to sometimes be involved in. So that was my goal—to create a female-run company that men are also super down for.
The name is pretty funny—Très Rasché -Very Ratchet Chic. I was actually in Paris when someone called me “Rasché”. Some French friends were joking about the duality in my style, how I mixed street pieces with luxury. It really stuck with me, for the first time I felt really understood. See, I came from a divorced home and my parents’ came from drastically different social classes. So it was always really hard going back and forth between them. I felt extremely misunderstood and didn’t know which class I was. Really I am both social classes and I tap into each one depending on the situation. This leads me to understand my own duality—not just understanding but thriving in it. I realized that there wasn’t just duality in what social class I was but that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites, for example, female-male, dark-light and old-young. Yin and yang.
So I said, fuck it, let’s put Très Rasché on a bunch of shit because it makes me feel good and maybe it will make other people feel good too. The first few pieces we made was right before Fashion Week February 2017. We got some coverage on Vogue of celebs that were wearing it. Other celebs starting hitting me up making requests. I was just like, “ok, I can do this—people like it and people get it.” So I took a break from styling for about two months to start the brand. I already knew my mission, knew my name, the last thing I needed was some clear branding. I wanted to create a timeless logo, something that would still speak to me when I am an old ass bitch but at the same time, the youth would fuck with. I took notes from LV and made my “TR”. I wanted to shoot most of the photography myself (because I was poor not because I am a fab photog) and I had a film camera so that became our thing. I decided to only photograph models who were friends, which actually meant that a lot of people we photograph are not professional models. I want people who, in real life, embody the brand to be the face of it. Authenticity is key to me. TR always positions the women as a powerful, dominant hero. This same perspective is also used on our PR.
So the actual product… this was actually really tricky. I didn’t have a lot of money so I just started cutting shit up. The first pant I reworked was Dickies. I like Dickies because it’s a work pant, and I’m a woman who works. I needed a pair of pants that could go through all the motions with me—something sturdy that could go from a styling job to a fitting to a DJ set. Dickies also fit women so well—they make your waist look little, your booty pop, and your legs look long and straight. So we went to the ‘ready-made’ way, giving workwear a new purpose. The 50/50 concept came about in an organic way, cutting up the pants it naturally took form. Although, subconsciously I know that the duality of our 50/50 was not an accident. It is the backbone of TR. The first six months everything was made to order. Then we just kind of took off. Our first ‘collection’ was Holiday 2017. We made 12 items and dropped each one a different day leading up to Christmas. The collection did super well! We made a little money then reinvested it right back into the brand. Then in March, we dropped our first custom cut and sew sweatsuit with our monogram. Like I said before LV is a huge inspiration to me. Our biggest product launch was this past Fall 2018 when we did a full manufactured run of our 50/50 pants without using dickies.
I needed a pair of pants that could go through all the motions with me—something sturdy that could go from a styling job to a fitting to a DJ set.
What has been the most challenging part of that whole process?
Manufacturing has been really hard. It is expensive and confusing. Financing is probably the hardest because I’ve self-financed the entire brand. I DJ and I style as my main source of income. I make cool money but then I literally pour all of it back into this brand. That’s scary. We started with custom, you know, you order and I’ll make it, and then we moved into making 30 units, 100 units, and now we’re dropping like 700 units of this 50/50 pant. It’s so frightening. I went to art school and don’t have much experience in business so I’ve been I’m reading all these books etc. to learn as much as I can, I just got an accountant. But I’m basically full winging it, learning from my mistakes and praying the W’s are bigger than the L’s. I think fear is maybe my biggest fuel if you can use it in the right way. But it is scary, and of course, I’m scared to fail. But I have to remind myself that “failing” isn’t real if you learn something from it. If you just continue to learn from all your mistakes, you’ll end up with a W. Turn those Ls into Ws.
What is it like, working as a female business owner in a male-dominated industry?
It’s very difficult, I’m not gonna lie to you, but it is not the end of the world. Women have always had to navigate through a male-dominated world and I think it is actually getting easier overall because of the internet. The conversation is moving forward and that in itself is a huge step toward equality. This shit doesn’t happen overnight. Two things I would want to change to make it easier for women in mostly male-dominated industries is I want to see more women supporting each other and I want to see men genuinely including and collaborating with women. I often feel when men do want to include or help me they have ulterior motives. A lot of guys also tell me I don’t make unisex clothing, that I am a woman and it is women’s clothing. Men who are very close to me even tell me this. It is hilarious because our mold was a men’s work pant. It is the exact SAME silhouette. Anyway, I try to not let it phase me. It is interesting because when people don’t know I am a woman, TR is often included in male-dominated spaces. We recently got an email to be a full men’s trade show. In Japan, we’re only in men’s stores, they think we are a men’s brand. When I first started the brand I considered not telling anyone who owned the brand so people wouldn’t automatically assume it’s a woman’s brand because I am a woman. People who are pushing a futuristic new wave of thinking, they really get us and fuck with us. I have created a subculture that people fuck with. Young kids hit me up all the time. That’s what matters to me. Helping the next generation be better. And if you don’t think I should be here, that just makes me wanna be here even more. Let’s go.
Stay tuned to Milk for more streetwear brands we love.