David Quarles is an visual artist and designer based in Memphis, TN. He is noted for his unique style and eccentric take on aesthetics. It’s exciting that he sat down with Brekfast to share his perspective on heritage, his business IV and designing in Memphis.
Where are you from? Has that influenced your artistic approach?
I was born and raised in Memphis. My Dad’s family is Dominican, Creole and Irish. My grandfather was Gullah. My mother’s family is from Mississippi, Native-American, Black and European ancestry. I try to imagine what my ancestors would have worn. I take inspiration from the color and the influences of those cultures.
How did you get into the design world? Do you have an artistic background?
I graduated from Overton as an art student. I went to school for home furnishing. I took AP Art. Painting, 3D art. I have been featured in the Brooks Museum and The Dixon. I was in Memphis Vive, which was a showcase of Latinx artists around Memphis. It was giving a different perspectives. They are not used to seeing different hispanics of all shades. It was great for me to be a part of it. My cousin, Whitney Washington, and I were gifted a space in Cooper festival. The first thing we did was go to Michaels and made jewelry for this festival. After the show, we split ways and I went our separate ways.
How did you come up with the name “IV”? What were some of the inspirations for the brand?
Right up to May of this year, I had a different name, IV JD. I was the fourth David in my family. I would like to have a family one day and if I do I hope to have a child and name him, David. If I don’t have a child, I hope to leave this brand as my legacy. I took off the JD. I want to make hand made greeting cards in the future using that name (JD). IV is a lot cleaner. The inspirations are the different cultures and celestial beings. I have always been drawn to the moon, semi-circles and things related to the cosmos. My African heritage deals with brass which is showcased within the line. The other parts of my family are there.
You have very unique design elements. Can you talk me through the design of one of your pieces? Why did you choose the colors, stones and accents for a particular piece?
A lot of the names of my pieces are names from my ancestry. Even if it’s in English, there can be a reference to the original culture. For example, one of the pieces is “Nymph.” These are ear cuffs and differ from some of the other pieces I have done. I was inspired by water from a trip in San Diego. The moon was full and I went to the shore and took it all in. I was releasing negativity and it influenced the design. The design has a hammered fin and so I kind of a thought about Venus and what she would like coming out of the ocean. What would she be wearing? I like the color gold and how all of us look when wearing the color gold. Whenever I have a design, I picture the person wearing it first then I’ll come up with the design. I’ll draw the person, then make the design. I sleep with a mobile design sketch book and I often see designs in my dream. I dream in surrealism. I draw it and then go back to sleep. I’m constantly taking in my surroundings. I can be inspired by a shape and I’ll get into the creative zone.
Is there a target market for IV? Do you hope to expand the demographics?
Within the company, I want to appeal to everyone, but of course there is a group that IV appeals to the most. I want to appeal to everyone, but young Black professionals (millennials)and older white Gen-x/baby boomers seem to gravitate the pieces. I’m meeting with Whitney Hardy and she told me to keep up with these two groups. It was recommended that I should focus on an every day line. I will start getting interns from the fashion merchandising department from the University of Memphis. They could help me develop my every day line. Something that you can throw on in order to feel nice. I’m doing some hand work, but I’m starting to outsource for the brass pieces. I want to do more couture pieces. This helps with quick assembly.
What are your most popular items from your line?
The ear cuffs, “Luna.” It is inspired by crop circles. The extravagant designs are selling well. I love it. It is a lot to do. I make the connectors for it. The men’s bracelets are also popular. I use recycled sea-glass. They are replicated in brass and have been a big seller.
How has social media supported your business development?
I’d say in the last year. It started with the boom with my social media presence. It started with a favorite blogger. I took a picture and sent to her. She responded to the picture and asked me on how she could get her hands on this jewelry. Her social media presence grew mine. I hope to get with more influencers so that we can use word of mouth to spread the brand. I would like do more events, pop-ups to make sure to put my name out there as much as I can. I like for influencers to try my products. It has been constant.
What were some challenges to forming your business?
When I had a corporate job. You have your job that pays your bills and your dream job. I was assistant buyer for St. Judes which took a lot of time. I had a boss that supported me which was good. Having to focus so much on my corporate job, I missed out on a lot of opportunities. Trying to recuperate from that has been a big challenge. Remaining inspired to do production has been a challenge. I have to think about survival and force myself to do this. Of course, I want to grow. I continue to develop my education and try to maintain strategy for my business.
How would you describe the current fashion industry in Memphis?
It is not dominated by minorities, period. That is a challenge because it is dominated in the Caucasian market. There is usually one or two companies holding it down. It is a struggle for people of color to keep their names out there. It’s rough, but if you stay constant and stand behind your brand and design it can be done. It is important that our craft is buttoned up. We are trying to change the industry. It can be done.
Do you have any events or projects related to your brand coming up soon?
On the August 31st, I will be doing a pop-up at Everbloom. I will be doing this from 6-8:30. This will be amazing. She is right next to the shop where I get my beads normally. September 15th, I will be working at the Cooper Young Festival. MBABAZI will be collaborating with me and allowing me to use her space. This should be a neat collaboration because of her new modern approach to African designs.
What’s your recipe for success?
Communication, Consistency, and prayer. You have to remain consistent with the person you are. If we get to know the person, we want to support the brand. Within the business realm, communication is very key. I have to make sure to keep in communication when money is involved. I tried not slip with my clients. Eso Tolson stated that “you want to develop a relationship with the creator to start a business.” Religion is a big thing for me and it helps me make the right decision in taking opportunities that are right.
You can keep up with David via Instagram @sancochin89
You can shop IV by clicking here.