We began with Rihanna.
It was, after all, only logical: Last week, at a Weeknd concert in New York, she was spotted wearing a NASASEASONS cap with the slogan “I came to break hearts.”
Alexandre Daillance ’19, also known as Millinsky, is a co-founder of NASASEASONS, and he and his team designed the hat in question.
“How that even happen?” I asked once Daillance and I had settled at a table outside of Usdan.
Daillance shook his head in amazement. He admits to being bold and cocky on social media, but in person he verges on boyish.
“I didn’t contact her,” he said. “I mean, it’s pretty hard to contact celebrities. I used to contact some low-key people with 150k on Instagram and not, like, millions.”
Rihanna, he explained, must have acquired the hat in Los Angeles.
“I sell at table stores,” he said. “One in Paris and one in L.A. I guess she bought it there. Basically, I woke up on Sunday two weeks ago, and I went on Instagram—a bunch of people were tagging me. It was really cool. First big celebrity we’ve had.”
Daillance’s success, and that of NASASEASONS, has been relatively quick: in the past two years, Daillance and co-founders Hugo Lieber, Edward Newgate, and Neil Saada, as well as more recent collaborator Nima Asgari, have gone from being a band of European boys with a cool taste in music to, well, accessorizing Rihanna.
“You got started throwing parties in department stores near the Louvre,” I pointed out. I did not mention my ten years of French, but pronounced “Louvre” with an accent to show that I wasn’t an uncultured swine. “What does that mean, and how does one do that?”
Daillance explained that Paris is way more lax than New York, specifically in terms of the trust it places in its teenagers.
“Basically, in Paris, we have less control around that,” he said. “One of my friends, his dad owns Nike stores. And so he gave us the place for the night, and we put all the sneakers out of the store for the day. And then we partied.”
But where did the sneakers go?
“In another place,” he said. “Nearby.”
I agreed that it didn’t really matter. I wanted to know what a NASASEASONS party was like.
“All my friends are Russian History and American History,” he said. “We love the period with Reagan and Brezhnev. We projected a documentary about Reagan with, like, Michael Jackson. It was epic. It was the type of party you dream of. Everything is, ‘What the fuck?’ In Paris, you don’t have the red cups, and we were the only ones to provide that.”
I asked if he was still obsessed with the 1980s. After all, there’s nothing retro about his hats. He answered that he still is, but only during parties. But these days, his socializing time has been largely eaten up with the demands of managing an international company.
“I’ve had a lot of work with my company since the beginning of the year,” he said. “Everything has been really quick. But during the weekends, I go out. One of my best friends is a senior, so he sometimes brings me to some parties.”
“What’s the best party you’ve been to here?” I asked, imagining he’d mention Eclectic or maybe Art House.
“It was during Orientation, I think,” he said. “The guy left his iPhone, with the music, and I had the chance to disconnect it and put my music. I felt people were more turnt than before, so I was happy.”
I remarked that Daillance had made great use of the word “turnt.” Then I asked him why he designed hats, of all things.
“To start with, I don’t really like fashion,” he said. “I mean, I like fashion, but I don’t really want to work in fashion. I want to just be successful. And I felt that all the hats are really bad at the moment—there’s not much competition in the hat industry.”
Daillance doubts that he would have seen such success designing something more common.
“Doing a good T-shirt, it would be harder to be recognized than doing a good hat,” he said. “Our hats are very simple, just, like, a phrase. I think if I’d done T-shirts, Rihanna would not wear it. She would prefer to wear a Givenchy shirt. High-brand hats, the quality is different, but it’s not cool.”
Cool is the name of the game for Daillance and for NASASEASONS. It is, after all, a young company run by young people. I asked Daillance why his designer name is Millinsky.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” he said. “I like the -sky at the end. It’s kind of Russian, like Tchaikovsky.”
I was still stuck on the idea of being cool.
“One of the slogans is ‘I came to break hearts,’ which is cool,” I said. “Is it meant to be worn ironically, or to actually advertise that one has come to a certain place to break hearts?”
“Um, I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, either way works. But no, I found this phrase and I felt it was good both for girls and for boys. It’s really hard, sometimes, to find a phrase that can work for both.”
Besides gender neutrality, there’s something about the statement that just works. It’s the slogan Rihanna was wearing when she was spotted at the concert: It’s hip. I asked Daillance what it means to be cool and if he thinks Parisians are cooler than, say, New Yorkers. He answered easily.
“No; that’s why I left Paris,” he said. “I mean, New Yorkers—when you walk, like, to Soho, there is diversity. In Paris, you have to have this style.”
By “this style,” he meant that everyone in Paris had to dress in a certain way in order to be considered cool and interesting.
“But in New York, everyone has different styles. Everybody loves each other’s style. In Paris, if you don’t have that style, you suck, which is terribly bad.”
Relatedly, to be cool, Daillance said, is to have that New York state of mind—to have your own style.
“To be original, to be comfortable with it,” he said.
I remarked that it made sense, then, that his hats can be paired with any outfit; they don’t dictate a certain color palette, for example. Daillance became animated.
“Yeah!” he said. “I mean, I don’t wear hats, because I think it doesn’t really fit me, but I think it’s a great accessory. You can have it for a night, and you can put it in your bag.”
And they’re black and white.
“Exactly,” he said. “You can wear a complicated outfit, or just a white T-shirt.”
I told him that I read in his Method Magazine profile that he hates color. He rushed to clarify.
“I like color,” he said. “But I don’t want to take risks. I personally don’t wear much color. But in a painting, or something, I love color.”
With that cleared up, I asked how he balances being a young, hip, cool person with running a business. He described the catch-22 in which he’s increasingly found himself since his real success.
“Before, when there was nothing to lose, I was just being cool,” he said. “Now that we’re kind of making a lot of money, I have to take seriously what’s happening. But at the same time I have to stay cool, because, like, if I make money, it’s because I’m cool.”
Since Rihanna, Daillance said, people have high expectations of him for the future.
“But the way I succeeded before was because I was cool, and didn’t care about anything,” he said. “I don’t know what attitude to have now.”
I asked who does most of the business.
“Me, and a guy Neil [Saada, co-founder], and each time there are orders on the website he’s dealing with it,” he said. “Each time we get money from the stores, he’s dealing with it. I’m just saying, ‘What’s happening there? What’s happening there?’”
“Who taught you how to do all of this?” I asked.
“It’s not really complicated,” he said.
The hats are currently made in L.A., but they’ll soon have to change: it’s getting too expensive. At first, NASASEASONS had a Chinese manufacturer, but after that manufacturer sent back orange hats instead of the black ones Daillance had ordered, he decided enough was enough. I agreed that that was unacceptable and asked if he’s trying to reduce the 45-euro price of the hats from the website. The price, which is about 50 dollars, struck me as somewhat excessive.
“True,” he said. “But I really want to be a real reference in the streetwear industry, regarding hats. Price is always about, ‘Now it’s expensive, but maybe in one year people will say NASASEASONS is cool, and you won’t mind.’”
In fact, people already don’t mind all that much. He sells out regularly at colette, an upscale boutique in Paris, and is trying to lock down Barneys before June, which would of course necessitate high prices. I asked him how it feels to have fans.
“It’s cool,” he said. “Now it’s not that important, but when I was young, I always wanted to have fans. I have no talent—I’m not a musician, and I’m not designing amazing stuff—but I always wanted to have fans. I have people reaching out to me saying, ‘You’re my inspiration.’ It’s nice.”
Ever since seeing the article about him in Vogue, the first 18-year-old designer to be featured in the magazine, I’d been wondering what the effect on his ego has been. When I asked him that, he laughed.
“I have best friends and a girlfriend,” he said. “But to play the Instagram fame game, you have to be really arrogant. I think that people need to be shown what to follow, and I’m here for that. But I’m different with my friends.”
Even though playing the Instagram fame game—taking on a sometimes obnoxiously confident trendsetter who posts pictures of himself lounging with a friend in what appears to be a New York City club, sticking a NASASEASONS sticker to a wall onto which “fuck society” is painted, and squinting on a rooftop in a FREE SHMURDA hat with the Eiffel Tower in the background—has been key to Daillance’s success. His goal for 2016 is to break his image as an Instafamous designer and solidify his reputation as an influential streetwear designer.
Nowadays, his short-term goal is to be featured in The New York Times. I asked whom he looked up to in the fashion world, and one of the answers he gave was Gianni Mora, who also does hats.
“But I’m better than him now,” he said.
I asked if he would ever want to meet Mora; Daillance joked that Mora hates him. When I got home, I googled Gianni Mora. The caps are indeed similar: Mora’s are also simple, black with white text, bearing the slogan “I think about you sometimes,” which is the glib, flirtatious type of slogan that might find itself at home in the NASASEASONS line. But Daillance doesn’t dwell. He also looks up to Shane Gonzalez, of Midnight Studios; the two have in fact met.
“He’s very humble,” he said.
I asked Daillance how famous he wants to become.
“More,” he said. “Always more. But I want to be famous as a cool guy who has succeeded in the business too—so I have the respect of both teenagers and adults.”
What does he think of style at Wesleyan?
“Classic,” he said. “Some have really vintage style. There’s this girl in my psych class—she’s so cool. Way cooler than me. Really, she’s like the girl on Tumblr, kind of mysterious. I want to talk to her so she could model my new hats.”
I gasped because of the intrigue, wildly trying to guess the identity of mysterious Tumblr psych girl.
“You should talk to her,” I urged. “That would be so cool.”
He chuckled bashfully.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “Like, ‘Hey, I have a brand…’?”
Well, I said, it’s not just “a brand”; I assured him that she would probably be flattered. He just shrugged.
We talked briefly about the connection between fashion and music, because so much of Daillance’s success has been tied to rappers wearing his hats.
“Basically, nowadays, the whole music industry is so tight with fashion, or streetwear,” he said. “When you start rap, or you start a brand, you have to have this image. And it’s the same image for rappers and designers. I’m kind of like a rapper, in a sense, because people like Travis Scott—have you heard of him? The rapper Travis Scott?—it’s, like, O.K., he does music, but it’s all about his image.”
The industry is small, which means that being on good terms with someone can make you, but being on bad terms with just one influential person can be the end of your success. Daillance’s youthful frankness had gotten him into one or two sticky situations.
“Being young, I wanted to run at one hundred kilometers,” he said. “I wanted to break all the rules.”
But that tenacity often pays off. When I asked if there was anything else he wanted to add, he told me about a new project that not even Vogue has heard about yet. It’s a ski jacket, black and simple. He pulled up a picture on his phone to make sure the concept came across in English.
“I want to make that, but I want to make it fashionable,” he said. “Either it works, or it doesn’t work at all. But I’m going to put a huge ‘HEARTBREAKER’ across the front.”
It’s going to be complicated, because he’ll have to find a factory to produce it first, and I told him I couldn’t wait to see it.
“You like it?” he asked, shutting off his phone. “I’ll give you one.”