Inside The Rarified Closet of Next Level Brand Consultant, Curtains
Inside The Rarified Closet of Next Level Brand Consultant, Curtains
- Words Lawrence Schlossman
- Date March 27, 2017
Curtains is the definition of low-key. This is a guy who's been instrumental to the modern growth of two industries, both music and fashion, but you probably wouldn't know. And that's just the way he likes it. The one-time rapper and now consultant has been collecting high-end fashion for nearly two decades and is opening up his next level wardrobe for the Grailed community's copping pleasure. Along with the sale, we were lucky enough to pin down the multi-hyphenate dot-connector before a trip to Japan for the rare conversation discussing everything from his immigrant upbringing to just how one of the hottest rappers in New York became the go-to consultant for your favorite celebrities and brands.
Photos by Chris Fenimore.
How are you doing?
Doing great actually.
So, for anyone who is finding out about you for the first time, can you give some general background information on who you are and what it is that you do? For example, I’m not sure I even know your government name.
Not that many do. I usually introduce myself as Curtains. If I feel like somebody is about to botch the name, like if it’s an old guy that I know is about to struggle with “Curtains” like he’s gonna say “Curtis,” I’ll just be like “DJ.”
What’s your full name?
Darryl Jackson. “DJ” is what my dad calls me.
What’s the significance behind the “Curtains" moniker?
So when I was a kid, I used to write graffiti. I was into art and used to draw when I was a child. So there was this graffiti artist at my elementary school—there’s a big wall outside the playground—and every Sunday night the local artists would tag the wall and every Monday morning it would be a thing like, “Yo, who got the best piece?” The best artist to me, his name was Stem. He was the dopest guy. I never even knew him, but he was a local legend to me. Stem was my guy. And my name was Showstopper, that’s what I used to tag. And I was like, “This Showstopper thing isn’t gonna cut it. I need a name like Stem.”
More direct and to the point?
Yeah, so I liked the energy of “Showstopper,” and then “Curtains.” It just happened. It derived from that. The mentality was like shut it down. Like, my piece is gonna shut yours down. It’s a wrap. Curtains kinda had that connotation.
Outside of graffiti, what were the other cultural touchpoints for you growing up? What were you into?
I come from another country, a third world country so to speak: St. Vincent. When I came to America in like 1990 or so, everything was new to me. Where I’m from, we didn’t really have hip-hop music. We didn’t really have sports, in the American professional sense. Life is completely different there. Now we all have the Internet and things are modernized so a kid on an island can experience American culture in three seconds with one click. We didn’t have that back then. Maybe your cousin would visit from the States and you would see what he had and you wouldn’t know the difference, like if that was the right Nike or the wrong Nike—you’re just like “Yo, that’s Nike! It’s so lit I got a Nike!” So coming to America was like a culture shock for me. Michael Jordan was the biggest thing on Earth when I got here and I was just like, “What is this?! Who’s this guy that everybody is going crazy for?” BOOM, I’m a Michael Jordan fan 'cause it’s the move. And LL Cool J is the biggest thing moving, so I gotta love LL. Mike Tyson too. So clothing, whatever I saw people gravitating towards, that was it for me.
You’re just over here eating it up.
Yeah, I was just taking it all in. And it all happened at the same time: art, fashion, music, sports. It was a complete whirlwind.
You’re coming here in the early ‘90s, which was like the golden age for all this stuff. You really came over at the perfect time, not that you would have realized that in the moment necessarily.
I feel so lucky. It really was the perfect time. My life just flipped.
You have this rich history in music, which people might not know about. It’s actually how I found out about you before we knew each other personally and professionally through fashion. You were Curtains, the rapper, to me for a long time.
Yeah, music was the first thing I saw that was like the coolest thing ever to me. Graffiti artists were cool, but rappers were, like, COOL. Artists, especially those working in graffiti, were invisible on purpose. I didn’t know what my favorite artist looked like. To this day, you could be Stem and I wouldn’t know haha.
So what kind of music were you into? Who were your heroes at the time? What were you listening to?
Being in the hood, drug dealers weren’t playing De La Soul. They all wanted to look like Rakim. So I caught Rakim a little late. I caught EPMD right before they broke up. I caught LL in his prime. I was late for Big Daddy Kane, Run DMC—all the classic hip-hop I had to go back and learn what that was. I just wanted to be LL. Whatever he was, whatever he was on, I wanted that. However he dressed, however he talked, I wanted to be that guy. That’s what got me into rapping.
When you look back at your career in hip-hop what kind of emotions come to mind? What does that time in your life mean to you?
Youthful energy. I was young, hungry and ready for whatever. That was just my energy back then. Music was just me channeling whatever was going on inside of me and put that into my stage shows, putting songs together, music videos. That was just my youthful energy unfiltered.
I feel like your music is something that doesn’t necessarily get brought up a lot anymore. Where you are in the industry now as a dude who connects the dots and consults for a lot of people and brands, that’s almost how people see you. Do you purposefully leave the past in the past so to speak? Is that a conscious decision?
At a certain point, I decided that I didn’t want to be in the music industry anymore.
Why was that?
I didn’t see longevity in it for myself. And I’m not the kind of person to waste my time on something. If I don’t feel like there’s a future there and I feel like I’ve hit the point where nothing else positive is gonna happen, I’m just gonna leave it alone.
It sound like you’re almost diminishing it, but I remember hearing about you and your music a lot. You were signed, right?
Yeah, I had a few deals. Like, I was in magazines when I was in high school. I was fifteen, sixteen getting “Unsigned Hype” in The Source. I got “Next Up” in XXL.
There was success there…
I didn’t enjoy it as I got older and in tune with myself and I learned just more about me and understanding life around me. I just didn’t see myself fitting into the music business. Just the way the business is structured…
Especially back then…
Right, I think right now is the greatest time to be in the music business—the fact that we can have a Chance The Rapper not sell one single record with no record deal, but win three Grammys and donate a million dollars to his local school system. Even like Migos, who are super independent spirited. Now is the greatest time for music because the artists are really showing that they have the power and they’re willing to use that power.
Do you see yourself ever getting back into music now that the landscape is more favorable?
As an artist? No. But I definitely have a hidden hand and have had a hidden hand over many years in different projects in different capacities.
You’re still connected to it because you still love it as a cultural art form even if you’re not actively in the driver’s seat creating it.
Yeah, but I would never make a song ever again.
So how did you pivot from music to fashion? Obviously, it’s always been an interest…
Like I said, since I came to America I’ve been into fashion. It was just something that people were on that I was drawn to. You know, you can’t be late haha. My mother’s a very stylish woman as is my older brother, so as an impressionable kid I was just around good taste. My mother dressed me well all throughout my youth. We were poor, but I wasn’t raised poor. I might not have had every Jordan, but I had enough and I had the right ones.
And you don’t have to be rich to have good taste either.
Taste has nothing to do with money. We didn’t have money, but if you saw our house you would think, “Oh okay, these people have money.” My mother carried us in that sense. That rubbed off on us greatly. I’m a product of my mother’s taste.
When did you start getting really into collecting? Because the stuff that you’re selling is very next level from Balmain to Dior Homme.
It came in layers. Going back to being poor, again, I might not have every Polo piece, but you, my man, might have a certain jacket I want, so we both have fire pieces and we’re gonna swap. So now I have two jackets to pull off haha. It starts like that and just goes from there. I’m a consumer. I try to educate myself on product, so as a kid I would be in the stores. I would be the thirteen-year-old kid in Barneys or Bergdorf. By that time I already knew all the sales people.
It’s really a New York thing to a degree. That hustler’s mentality that starts super young.
Absolutely. Getting into the brands was easy. I’m always looking for the next thing. I’m always seeking something out. So, then, what’s better than Polo? Okay, North Face. Then, what’s above North Face? It's just layers on layers on layers.
That’s just the natural progression to discovering stuff.
So, for me to get to Dior, I had to go through Polo, North Face, and Iceberg. I discovered Dior in Saks just browsing. I don’t remember what I was there looking for, but they had the Dior joints. I’ll be honest, what attracted me to that was Hedi Slimane’s name. I was like, “What the fuck is this?” It was weird to me. The tag read “Dior Homme by Hedi Slimane.” So, yeah, it was weird, but damn the jeans were fresh. I don’t even remember what jeans I was on back then, but it wasn’t Dior yet. As life moves on and your taste elevates you give things a shot. Okay, cool, I’ll try that out.
How long would you say you’ve been seriously collecting high-fashion?
Since 1998, my freshman year of high school. You gotta realize I wore a school uniform from like elementary school to eight grade. Come ninth grade it really starts, you gotta go hard. Back in junior high, the only way to stand out was to be clever since we all wore the same outfit, so it was my shoes, book bag, jacket or hat. That’s how you stood out and it trained me to dress how I dress now. It provided a certain type of discipline—wearing a uniform, but finding these little spots. Once I could get crazy in high school, I went crazy. That’s when I started really collecting and flipping.
So thinking back to when you’re doing the music thing, but ready to move on, did you know what you were going to do next?
Absolutely, I’ve always got a plan. So, I want to say it was 2007, 10 years ago, I was dead broke, damn near homeless in LA. I was out there chasing the music dream and then something happened: Kanye West shouted me out in Complex. We were already cool, we were both doing music, I used to intern at Rocafella, and the one day I’m at this Nike Air Force 1 anniversary party in NYC where he performed. Me and Don C were talking about management opportunities because he was about to manage me and so he naturally wanted Kanye to approve. So he brought me to Kanye and I was with my man Ferris, and Kanye walks out by himself and says what’s up. And he was like, “I like the way you dress.” I was wearing vintage high-end gear at the time since I was just discovering high-end vintage and consignment shops, so I was wearing vintage Levi’s with MCM and Fila’s—that kinda vibe. He’s like, “I’ve been paying attention to the way you dress. It’s ill.” So we kicked it and I didn’t think much of it. The next day we met up and I took him to some of my spots, just giving knowledge. And then my homie from Complex is like, “Yo, you see what happened? You’re in the magazine.” So I thought it was just some street style thing since they had taken my pic so I just assumed he was talking about that. He’s like, “Nah, not a picture. You’ll see.” So I go to a Complex party where Ye is performing, it must have been for that issue. So he sees me and he calls me over and is like, “Have you seen it?” And again I have no idea what everyone is talking about, but I’m playing it off all cool. And he’s just like, “Look out.” So now I’m straight up clueless haha. But Complex comes out and I finally see it and they asked him in the interview “What do you think is the future of fashion?” His answer was something like, “Dior jeans, being yourself and the true geniuses of fashion: Taz Arnold, Chris Julian, and Curtains, the rapper from Brooklyn. Those three people are the future of fashion because they’re mixing and matching.” That quote changed my entire world because it opened opportunities to me that I didn’t know existed.
You’re still the same guy after a cosign like that, but it definitely gives you a new level of legitimacy.
It was the ultimate cosign. When he said that, it changed the whole perception from “what the fuck is this kid doing?” to “oh shit, he’s onto something.” But I was never thinking that I was suddenly in the fashion industry and I could do this. I still just wanted to be fly. That’s just the nature of where I come from. Around that time I was fucked up, I was broke. I had expensive clothes, but nowhere to keep them. Really, I slept on a park bench in a fucking $3,000 outfit haha. It was the dumbest shit ever in life, but it happened. I reached out to Chris Julian because Kanye shouted him out and shouted me out, so we’ve got some synergy. I don’t know what it is exactly, but there’s something. And I knew Chris Julian was involved with Undefeated, so I broke it down like I don’t really know you, but I could use a job. He told me to meet him the next day in LA and he took me to meet Eddie Cruz and James Bond, these legends who owned Undefeated. So we had lunch and they thought I was cool, but they thought I looked like I was more into clothes than shoes so they sent me to Union. I went to Union, met Chris Gibbs and Eddie was just like, “Meet Curtains. He works for you now.” Chris was like, “Aight. Cool.” And Chris is just like, “What do you know?” I said, “I’ve never worked in my life.” I had always just been working for myself. I could always find $2 or whatever. Chris finally called me on Sunday and I started working at Union that Monday. Union is what made me look at the clothing business as this is what I want to do in life. I had the best teachers there in Chris and Pete.
That’s why it’s still around. How many stores have come and gone, but Union is still best in class, ya know?
They’re still shaking. Back then, Chris wasn’t the owner yet, he hadn’t bought the store. So he was still in the store and I used to just pick his brain any chance I got. I was twenty-two, twenty-three, just the annoying little dude who wanted to know everything. What does this mean? What does that mean? We just gained each other’s respect and he would start asking my opinion on buys. I was still just the guy ringing you up at the register, but I was hungry and I was ambitious and I just wanted to learn. This is still early, like, before Visvim was Visvim. Hiroki would just be coming to the shop, kicking it, giving me these little trinkets haha. The early days. But I was providing a different perspective as the young guy and Chris just started asking me more and trusting me more. Chris Gibbs gave me the confidence to pursue clothing. I want to give him that credit. Through working at Union I met Mega from Black Scale. He was my customer back then, there was no Black Scale yet. Mega and I bonded over jeans. He was showing me his ideas, his early stuff because back then Black Scale was going to be a jewelry company with a couple of T-shirts or whatever.
The seed for Black Scale is just being planted…
Yeah and like I also knew who he was from the blogs. He was a Hypebeast blogger. So I give him my feedback and he likes my perspective and that relationship just blossomed from there and I got to work on Black Scale from, like, the ground up. Working at Black Scale taught me how a brand was run. Union showed me the business of clothing. So like I’m learning everything like buys, margins and merchandising. I’m learning everything in the game. Working with Mega taught me how to build a brand. I saw Black Scale go from an idea on a Blackberry to 4 to 5 stores worldwide. Through Mega, I met Rob Garcia, who was a designer at Black Scale doing the cut and sew. And he told me his plans and would ask me for my opinions. So now I’m thinking I might actually have a knack for this shit. I’m still rapping at this point.
Oh, so you’re still just dabbling in the fashion stuff.
I’m dabbling trying to find my angle, trying to find out what I’m good at, what I’m not. Am I a designer? Am I a production guy? Who am I? I don’t know. It’s all still very new to me. And through working with Rob I really put my strengths to use.
He helped focus you?
Not so much focus me, but eventually, Rob’s project, En Noir, gave me my true path. Rob bringing me in to do this line with him was huge. En Noir really created the version of myself that people probably know now.
Which is what? What do you consider yourself now because you’re the definition of a multi-hyphenate guy?
There’s no real name for it because my skill set is so diverse. Naming it sort of limits it, ya know? I’ve done everything from produce runway shows on a grand scale, built stores, I’ve done ad campaigns, marketing campaigns, I’ve designed. I’ve done so many different things it’s hard to pin it down to like one job description. When people ask me what I do, I just say I’m a consultant—a visual consultant.
Of all those things you just mentioned, is there a particular favorite after you've seemingly done everything?
The thing that gives me the most satisfaction is developing product. I’m a product guy. Like, working on a hoodie from a verbal conversation to trying on a sample to seeing it on the rack in a store, that is the greatest feeling of satisfaction for me. I love product. There’s nothing like conceiving something from nothing to growing it out. That’s my favorite thing.
What are you currently working on that you can share with us?
So, myself and Mike Camargo, who everyone knows as Upscale Vandal, have a consulting company and we work with everyone from musicians, like Pusha T and J Balvin, to brands, like Fortune 500 companies. And we just give them that young, different energy they might not get otherwise—that edge and focus they need to grown.
How long have you known Mike?
About five years. I met him doing En Noir. I remember meeting him in a sales meeting at a hotel in Vegas and he was bringing buyers by and I remember just being blown away by how he sold. It reminded me of how I would sell—that street hustle. I wasn’t used to street guys in the clothing business. I didn’t know what the industry was, I just thought they were artsy and into art not, like, guns and stuff like that haha. But this dude was the real deal, like, oh shit, he’s like me and from where I’m from. We’re into the same shit! I was very impressed and knew this was the dude I would be happy to have on board.
Knowing both you and Mike, you have very different personalities, to say the least, especially when it comes to something like social media.
I don’t really like attention. I don’t really like crowds. I don’t really like being around too many people. Social media is weird to me. Like, I feel its invasive of my privacy. Even other people’s social media can be invasive of my privacy as well. Tagging me in a picture is invading my privacy. Like, who told you that I wanted somebody to know that I was there? The only social media I really have is Instagram. I have a Twitter and all that other stuff but don’t really use it. I just want to make sure I get the name “Diorandjordans.” Just so nobody else takes it. I don’t want anyone to think they’re dealing with me when they aren’t. That actually happened on eBay with Virgil were some dude named “Diorandjordans” was giving him a hard time. He hit me at like 2 in the morning being like, “C’mon man.” But that wasn’t me haha. That just taught me I gotta own my shit if I’m building up any currency in my name. But I only use Instagram because I like pictures. I like to tell stories that way. I’m a visual person. But I don’t, like, take pictures of myself or even put captions. It’s about the picture and that’s it. I never post instantly. If I post something it happened like two weeks ago haha. I just hate how social media takes away the mystery and appeal of certain things and people. I don’t care what my favorite rapper had for breakfast. I care about your music. I don’t care what you found funny or what your auntie did. I never cared and I’m not gonna care. That’s just not who I am. There are people who I thought were so cool before social media that I think are dweebs now.
You think the younger generation is too reliant on social media?
Yeah, they don’t know how to have conversations.
What kind of advice would you give that kid?
Be passionate and self-educate. I’m always seeking information and if there's a field that you want to get into research the fuck out of it. Who’s the best guy in that field? Research his life. Research his friend’s life. Research his competitors. What made them lesser? Learn from that. Be as informed as possible and very passionate.
What’s the motivation behind your Grailed sale?
There’s really no specific motivation. It’s just so natural to me and the world where I come from. I’m always going to be buying, flipping, buying, flipping. I’ve been on Grailed forever! Y’all checked my account number and I’m one of the first guys! I’ve been doing this forever. Any buying and selling site, I’ve been there. I’ve been banned from eBay 10 times haha! It’s on Grailed because I like you guys. Once you came on board, I liked the content and the information on Dry Clean Only. I’m all for education and sharing stories. I could have just put this on my account, but I like what’s going on here. I can’t even tell you the last time I sat down and had an interview like this. I just don’t see much interest in it. I’d rather just do work and you not even know that I did it.
So, to wrap up, what excites you right now in 2017?
Traveling. I know it’s a hot topic now with immigration and politics and everything, but as an immigrant myself I was in this country for 26, 27 years with no paperwork. I was an illegal immigrant. I didn’t even have a state ID until I was 30-years-old. Don’t ask me how haha. So I could never leave. Traveling is all new to me. There are so many places I ain’t touch yet. I’m going to Japan in two weeks for the first time ever! That’s what’s exciting to me. My first time going through customs was like holy shit I got a stamp on my passport. People asking me why I’m traveling so much these days, it’s because I literally couldn’t before. This is freedom to me.
Since this is Grailed, there is this one thing I’m looking for. I still need this cashmere and silk Marc Jacobs zip-up hoodie in all-black. It sounds like the most simple thing, I just can’t find it. They don’t make it anymore. I’ve seen them pop up on Grailed a few times. If anybody has that in all black, I don’t care what color hardware, I’ll take size small or medium. Let’s leave it at that. And whoever got that Chrome Hearts pin the other day for $50, I’m mad because I left to do something else and when I came back and refreshed the page it was gone. So if you bought it and don’t really want it, I’ll take it for $500.