Innovator Who Evolved and Redefined the Fashion Show
Models donning the hottest designs are the bare minimum of what you can expect to see at the Surround Sound of Fashion. CEO and founder Nathan Gilbert orchestrates a totally evolved total experience fashion show. The fashion show far exceeds fashion guru’s traditional expectations and dips into the world of entertainment by molding the show around much more than just fashion. This show includes music, designers and also dance. Think less simple and conventional and think more electrifying and dynamic.
As a guest at the show, you can expect to be truly entertained as celebrity performers take the stage and dance groups showcase their talent in front of hundreds of people. Guru, founder and CEO Gilbert exudes an extraordinary passion for the entertainment world that can clearly be seen throughout the well-organized show. Yes, Gilbert is now known as a guru in the entertainment industry. But, he wasn’t always quite sure where his niche lay within the industry.
An Unlikely Beginning for Fashion Show Innovator
Before taking Chicago by storm with the Surround Sound of Fashion, he graduated from Chicago State University with a degree in accounting. Although accounting is not the expected field of an entertainment guru, accounting was the degree Gilbert chose to fall back on.
Fresh out of college he landed a position working at Kraft Foods working in the finance department, making a decent living for himself. However, for Gilbert, he knew that his passion was not being fulfilled.
When I was choosing my career path, I wanted to make sure I had a job,” he said. “I had a good foundation at home. My mother was like ‘someone has to be an accountant, someone has to be a doctor’ and I don’t like needles so I was straight on that,” Gilbert laughed.
Nathan Gilbert Chooses His Dream over Security
Although working at Kraft Foods provided stability for Gilbert, pursuing his dreams was also important to him. In order to achieve this, he felt networking would be the best route for him. Therefore, Gilbert began attending the WGCI music seminars every year. It wasn’t long before he had an entire stack of cards from people in the industry who were ready and willing to give Gilbert a shot.
I had a hundred of cards from different record labels, artists,” he said. “But, I didn’t have any true talents, I couldn’t sing, rap or produce, but I knew there was something out there for me.”
A Leap of Faith into His Dream
Gilbert continued pursuing his dream even though he wasn’t quite sure where he fit within the entertainment world. After four years of working with Kraft, he was offered a job in the marketing and sales department at Chicago urban hip-hop station 107.5 WGCI.
“A door opened up for me from someone at WGCI,” he said. “They brought me in for an interview and the rest is history.”
For Gilbert, he was truly making a leap of faith. His new salary was a whopping fifty percent less than what he was receiving at Kraft Foods. Yet, he gave it his all.
“I stayed overnight some nights and put in extra hours to learn the craft,” he said.
Although changing his profession changed his finances, Gilbert continued to push through, zooming in on becoming great at his new job.
“I didn’t really think about it. Ima just make these dollars that I do have and figure it out,” Gilbert said regarding the decrease in his finances.
Gilbert continued to move his way up the entertainment ladder. He transitioned from WGCI to 92.3 and, eventually, TV One where he is currently employed full-time doing digital sales.
From Radio to Fashion
Working at popular radio stations, being in the realms of famous entertainers is not what gave Gilbert the idea to create his own musically driven fashion show. He got the idea for the event while attending a fashion show with a friend.
“It was the most boring thing I’ve ever experienced in my life,” he laughed. “I was like ‘I can never do this again.”’
The lack of a deejay and the task of watching clothes for forty-five minutes did not excite Gilbert.
However, he had a friend who was a photographer who wanted to produce a fashion show. With Gilbert’s marketing experience, he wanted in but desired to make a change from the traditional dynamic of a fashion show.
Remixing Life into the Runway
“I said If I had the opportunity to remix the fashion show, it would look different and feel different,” he said.
So, he and his fellow photographer friend turned business partner birthed Remix the Runway in 2008.
Unfortunately, although Remix the Runway was extremely successful, Gilbert and his partner had divergent opinions and their partnership came to an end. Gilbert, however, decided to continue the show and he changed the name to Surround Sound of Fashion in 2011.
Nevertheless, not being a fashion guru, Gilbert’s heart wasn’t always in the show and continuing the show without his partner proved to be a challenge.
“I was never a fashion guy. I was more of a marketing guy,” he said. “So for me to continue it could have been a hurdle, taking on this entire event, but I was really focused.”
He continued with Surround Sound of Fashion but his heart wasn’t really invested in it. He felt his event had been successful. After all, major entertainers such as Tyrese, Keri Hilson, Wale, J. Cole and Black Eyed Peas had previously performed. However, just two years into the show, he considered ending the event as he felt it had run its course.
“So in my head, since it was never my passion to get into fashion shows,” he said. “I think I did enough to prove to myself that I can do things outside of my spectrum.”
Time to Let Them Hear His Roar
He, however, quickly reconsidered after reading a book by Tony Evans called “Kingdom Man.”
“I think I had my awakening moment about three years ago,” he said. “That awakening moment was [saying] like ‘you can’t stop doing it.’”
There was a specific passage in the novel about a lion’s roar that spoke to Gilbert. He learned how to show his presence like a Lion in the wild. According to Gilbert, the prior Surround Sound of Fashion and Remix the Runway shows, though successful, never really reflected his presence.
“We can do things all day and not connect with what’s going on,” Gilbert noted.
“The chapter discussed how the power of a lion’s roar can be felt six miles away and it has the ability to shake the ground. That powerful roar gives the indication to anyone that’s coming into the lion’s den, that they would have to go up against that lion.”
According to Gilbert, he viewed that passage as an analogy to quiet men and women in a household. Gilbert said that these quiet men and women aren’t roaring or showing their presence. Therefore, they are losing track of who they are.
“I kinda connected that with relationships and life and business,” he said passionately. “Being present is very important versus just being there.”
Wake-up Call and New Life Perspective
Reading this passage changed Gilbert’s view on life. He began to evaluate friendships, relationships, associates and money.
“It was a wake-up call, I made my roar to get where I am today,” he asserted. “But I want to make my presence felt throughout everyone I touch and feel.”
From there Gilbert phased out everyone that was a part of his original team.
“It was a growth factor that I felt in different areas,” he said. “I just had to re-brand, rethink and just change my strategy up to make sure my presence was felt.”
The Models of Surround Sound of Fashion
Another difference between Surround Sound of Fashion and other shows is the selection process for the models. Surround Sound of Fashion does not select its models ahead of time or through an agency.
Models are voted into the show by anyone who wants to vote.
A casting call takes place and the top 20 girls and 20 guys are selected. Once chosen, these men and women are posted on the Surround Sound of Fashion website and the top 15 men and women are voted into the show. The dancers, designers and celebrity hosts are previously chosen.
The Show’s Mission: Inspiration and Opportunity
The mission for the show is to inspire anyone who never thought they had the chance to be on such a dynamically huge platform.
“A lot of models on the show, if they went through a traditional agency, they wouldn’t get signed,” he insisted. “But Surround Sound gives them that opportunity to be promoted and they learn how to brand themselves and also [the opportunity of] being on a main stage with big name designers and national recording acts.”
This year’s Surround Sound of Fashion happens October 16th at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts located on the campus of the University of Chicago. The main celebrity act will be Lloyd.
Next year, Gilbert says the show will go national. It will make its way into Miami and into four additional larger markets not yet named.
Gilbert’s next goal is to have more independent artists to perform or host his future shows.
How does he balance it all? Gilbert insisted that it is definitely a challenge.
“When you’re passionate about a particular project, you find the time…,” he said. “But you just figure it out, There’s a million people like me…you just figure it out.”