“Where did you go to, if I may ask?' said Thorin to Gandalf as they rode along. To look ahead,' said he. And what brought you back in the nick of time?' Looking behind,' said he.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit The soundtrack from the Hobbit soothes through my white bud earphones, a gift from my ever present but often misguided friend Pandora. The title of the song? "An Unexpected Journey." A title fit for the road I am on. Am I the Bilbo Baggins of the fashion/independent fashion/streetwear/T shirt brand world? There I was buried in the shire. Comfortable to remain, and not to explore. Afraid to make myself open to the world around me. If you read my story, you will see that it took something that seemed pretty big to make me start my brand Vaughn de Heart. I wasn't visited by a white haired wizard. I was presented with a highly unlikely event that presented me with two choices. I met Nick while he was wearing a shirt that I had designed over a year prior. This was before I had a brand. He was wearing a shirt I had designed for my fraternity even though he had no connection to the school or the fraternity and lived hundreds of miles away. He didn't know what the shirt meant, he just bought it at a thrift store in California when the shirts were only made and sold in Washington state. The kicker was that I was wearing the same shirt on that day as well. I could have ignored this occurrence and pass it off as ordinary and return to my comforts. I decided to take the hint that I feel I was given and run with it. I've been running with it for 5 years now. Along the way I have begun to pay attention to the fashion world around me. All levels of it. From streetwear to high fashion, I have observed the industry because I am now part of it. Albeit a small part I thought I could learn a thing or two from them. Along the way questions have raised in my mind. Why don't people in this industry talk? There is so much that goes on in the design process and the inner workings of a modern brand, but I can't find any place to read about it. We have sites like Business of Fashion to go over the financial pieces of the industry, and countless blogs from Hypebeast to Selectism to Four Pins to go over the products that are released. We even have street style bloggers JakandJil and the Sartorialist to document how these clothes are worn by mere mortals. The everyday people instead of the models and editors. However, there isn't much information about the actual designers. What they do. How they capture inspiration, and how they put a collection together. Most of this is still a mystery. The pieces that the leaders and tastemakers do leave often just beg more questions. There are a few names that stand out as the elite within their various realms of fashion or because I follow their small niche blog. Oft frivolous, but take up vacancy in my mind. Does 13th Witness really use his Iphone to take all of those pictures on his Instagram? Is Ben Hundreds secretly jealous of Bobby Hundreds? Will Levi Maestro ever make another episode of Maestro Knows? Will T shirt blogger Coty Gonzalez ever return? Can Nicky Diamonds really afford a Ferrari? Does Rob Heppler actually do anything? Does Johnny Cupcakes actually have a learning disability? Or does he just say that to make his story more inspiring? If Ronnie Fieg only redesigns existing footwear models, can we really call him a footwear designer? What ever happened to the original format and articles from the Madbury Club? I am a lot like Bilbo on this journey. I am surrounded by dwarves and wizards. These are the trained warriors. The ones that were meant to do this. I am more like the Hobbit of the group. The unlikely one. Often overlooked, more an observer than a participator at times. Most of the brands that I talk about I do not own. I don't get many chances to dress casually, and when I do I wear my own brand Vaughn de Heart. I am the burglar. The one that can steal a glimpse of what it's like to be in this industry and bring it to you. Most of it will be my own experience as I traverse these misty mountains trying to build my brand. Building my product offering, and capturing new customers. To dungeons deep and caverns old. Welcome to courage.