Topher Adams, founder of Dark Beauty Magazine, isn’t your run-of-the-mill magazine editor or fashion designer. His magazine is exploding, his art, graphic design, and photography have an international fan-base, and he was recently crowned Mélange’s Designer of the Year.
He’s a skull-loving creative genius, no doubt. Most creative people tend to think outside the box, but as the Tim Burton of fashion, Topher’s box seems to sit in the middle of a glamorous fashion dungeon – right where he feels comfortable.
Topher Adam, founder of Dark Beauty Magazine, isn’t your run-of-the-mill magazine editor or fashion designer. Most creative people tend to think outside the box, but Topher’s box seems to sit in the middle of a glamorous fashion dungeon – right where he’s comfortable.
His affinity for the darkness was seeded in his early years. “My dark side probably emerged because of my pain and solitude as a child,” Topher says. “But it was also influenced by the films of the day like Indiana Jones, Alien, THX, 2001, Star Wars, and so on.”
Those weren’t his only interest or influence, however. “I remember being obsessed with runway shows. I grew up in the day of the supermodel so I was excited and intrigued. I caught the passion to become a designer but I just didn’t know how,” he says. “I remember crying sometimes because the designs were so magical. The shows were absolutely badass and I desperately wanted to be there.”
“I loved clothes, even as a child,” he says. “When I would watch my Gran make clothes for dolls, she started teaching me how to sew. I remember playing with dolls with my sister, my parents gave me a Luke Skywalker doll for christmas one year and I loved dressing them up. I think I have always had a keen sense of style.”
Carl Chen, co-founder of Dark Beauty and partner of Topher Adam, shared this story.
We were walking by the toys section one day and he said to me, “When I was little, my grandma saw the Cabbage Patch Kids and thought she could make them and sell them herself. So she had us ‘help’ her make them, but we never got paid; so it was sort of like child labor.” He then chuckles about that fond memory. So Topher started making dresses for both men and woman at a very young age; though his aesthetics has definitely grown since then.
He’s ability to sew paid off in high school. Since he didn’t have enough cash to buy the clothes he wanted, he made them himself to be unique and make his own statement. Topher says, “I was a part of the “FREAKS/GOTHS” in school. So, it was makeup, tall hair, new wave, punk and goth. I had to look cool!”
Being cool was especially important for Topher who could never win the approval of his father. He was a pretty boy with blond hair, blue-eyes and a small, skinny frame. He wasn’t interested in football and Tonka trucks. He found his passion in art, sewing, fashion, things that horrified his father who wanted him to be tough. “I wasn’t tough,” he says. “I was delicate and innocent. I remember him calling me ‘faggot,’ ‘sissy,’ and all kinds of things. He would beat me with a belt, a fist, a hand, toss me around the room, hold me up by the neck against the wall and make me look into his mean eyes and tell him I understood him as blood was dripping down my face, then fling me across the room. He wanted to toughen me up and broke my nose a few times to prove it.”
He was still estranged from his father when his father passed away in 2009.
School was not much of a reprieve. He moved often and didn’t have the opportunity to build a lifelong base of friends like so many other students. At one point he was enrolled in school where administrators then told his parents he was learning impaired and placed him in a special needs program. “Now I am just another outcast with no support group of friends, and I was put into classes where the mentally challenged kids were. It really made life even worse for me,” Topher explains. It wasn’t only worse at school, but at home.
“I remember being in a room all together as kids, laughing and giggling like most kids would. My dad wasn’t thrilled about that, came into the room, hit us with the belt, then taped our mouths with duct tape and made us sit in our beds until he decided it was time to move. Things like this happened a lot. When I was 16, I was a goth by then, I felt more powerful and I had enough. I finally hit him back, pushed him, he fell against the wall and threatened to call the cops on me. That was the last time he hit me.”
He found solace in art and fashion and it helped him define his identity. Thanks to a sensitive art teacher who saw tremendous talent in Topher, she helped develop a side of Topher that other students admired.
“As a freshman I was placed in Art 1, but the teacher thought my skills were beyond ART 1, so she advanced me to ART 4 which was the top class. From my freshman year until I graduated I was in ART 4 and had one the best teachers who let me blossom. I designed the Senior shirts, built homecoming floats, designed water fountains. I was basically in a class where my teacher never told me what to do, but encouraged me to do whatever came to my mind to help me become the creative I am today.”
By the time Topher Adam completed high school, he was named one of the top 500 students in the United States. “I even made it into a book!” he laughs.
“When I was young I watched fashion shows and was fascinated and inspired by the supermodels and the lifestyle they lived. I remember looking at Vivian Westwood and daydreaming of being as great as Alexander McQueen and so many other legends. I just loved the combination of fashion and music and storytelling. The larger the show, the more involved and more inspired I became. When Madonna worked with Jean Paul Gaultier in her Blond Ambition tour, I lost it. I knew somewhere in my heart that I was meant to be a part of this world.”
His career in fashion wasn’t immediate. After a couple of normal jobs that made him miserable, he went into fashion. His first fashion job was working for Guess clothing. He became a regional window dresser and would dress the mannequins and forms for the stores in his region. He then moved to LA in 1995, and worked as a lead stylist for Bloomingdale’s in Beverly Hills. He had 140 mannequins to dress each day. “I use to call them ‘my bitches,’” he laughs. “But I was setting the trends in the store for the Ready to Wear and the Couture departments.” He was then snatched by a Juniors clothing line called Rampage Clothing where Topher was brought in to be an account executive. He helped art direct the photos of the new lineup, dressed their section in all Macy’s stores in my region for the new collections, and was jet-setting back and forth for fashion week to NYC.
“I knew Topher Adam was a fashion triple threat the first time I saw him in the mall years ago. As a district manager for our retail locations I stalked him until he said he would come work for our team,” said Kim Goodnight, a former employer.
“My instincts were right, he has a supreme eye for design, functionality and the know how to get stuff done in style!”
At the prompting of a partner, Topher Adam went to college and graduated with BA in Arts in Design and Visualization. Aside from producing compelling visual media, Topher has also expanded his innovatory expressions into the music arena. “He’s a creative genius,” says acclaimed musician Bobbi Style who not only makes his own original music, but also produced Topher’s last two singles. According to Style, he and Topher build upon each other’s visions, sort of like playing a game of creative ping pong. When Style presented an idea for his own single cover, “Topher developed the idea and made it 400% better, than what I had even imagined,” confessed Style. “Topher Adam is voraciously creative, one of my closest friends.”
Dark Beauty Magazine (DBM)
Working a dead end job in SF’s porn industry as a web art director, he was told by the owner they needed to cut back. “I was making good money, so I was the first to be let go,” he says. He looked at the owner of Falcon Studios and responded, “I am so happy, I hate porn, I am going to audition for project runway!”
He did just that. In 2010, Topher was accepted in the semi-finals and went though the grueling audition process which included building a mini-collection, engaging models, planning makeup and hair. He was ready to show off his stuff.
“When Topher went to the semi-finals for Project Runway, we were certain that he was shoo-in, but the casting panel had other ideas. I think he was so taken aback by the casting panel’s ruthlessness verbal attacks, that he wasn’t able to conjure up the stereotypical dramatic snipes and soundbites they were looking for,” says Carl Chen. “Even I was surprised to hear some of the questionable remarks that were made. While Topher was shell-shocked from the experience, he quickly dusted off his shoulders and moved onto bigger ventures. That’s when Dark Beauty came to light.”
Tim Gunn and two past contestants didn’t see his vision, and he wasn’t selected to go further. Afterwards, he was not only down and disappointed, he went through a career change crisis. He refused to touch anything related to fashion for a few months. “I was confused, broke and came to believe that fashion isn’t something the world wanted from me.”
After sitting and reflecting on past shows of Project Runway, he realized that there are designers out there who deserve to be noticed and celebrated, not turned away. It was right then the birth of DBM happened. The name, “Dark Beauty Magazine,” simply came out of his mouth and he contacted anyone he knew through Facebook, compiled a collection of artists together and launched his first issue in August 2010. Now four years later, his fan base is close to 200k, and growing. The magazine celebrates the dark artists or those who express their fashion in the avant-garde, bringing the passion of fashion out of the underground and into the eyes of thousands.
From its web site, it says, “Dark Beauty is a magazine dedicated to artists, fashion designers, photographers, musicians, and actors who crave dark glamor. We provide a new avenue for promoting new and exciting talents who dare to push the envelope and bring such fantasies to life. We want to celebrate and bring back the passion of fashion in a unique and powerful way, but promoting and pushing creativity into the eyes of the world who wouldn’t otherwise see it for the art that it is.”
“At the risk of sounding cliché, it has been a roller coaster ride. The magazine has grown from a small-time rag into an international sensation. From photographers to designers, stylists to models, we’ve discovered and showcased so many talented individuals from around the globe through Dark Beauty. The submissions just keeps flowing in, and we literally cannot keep up, though we definitely try. Like all curated publishers, Dark Beauty obviously cannot post every single submission we receive, and that means saying no sometimes.” – Carl Chen
“But Topher knows that rejection can be a driving force, and that a genuine artist would not give up so easily after just a few pitfalls. They will always bounce back to create something new to show you, because that’s what they love to do.”
Not only is Dark Beauty inspiring others to create, it has also fueled Topher’s own creative energy.”
Gallery of Photos from Topher Adam’s Hell Collection
Click the first photo to start the slide show. All photos by Tolga Katas
Through the Eyes of Carl Chen
Topher is always studying, examining, and learning. When we would discuss a movie that we’ve just finished watching, he would talk about a certain costume or set from a certain scene in extreme detail. He’s constantly observing and observing what the world around him is trying to say. He’s dedicated to his crafts; his multitude of creative paths. To not only express himself but to encourage others to explore and question their own psyches. “What makes your heart sing?” is a question he’s asked me that has really resonated and stuck with me. I’ve asked myself that question numerous times since I was first asked; and it’s a question I think everyone should ask themselves and remember to always strive and allow our hearts to sing.
Topher was recently crowned Mélange’s Designer of the Year. For him, being a self taught designer as a big deal. He was extremely appreciative of the support he received from both the show and his fans. He is a designer that is not afraid of delving into the unknown, to bring to light what others dare not even fathom.
He is independent, stubborn, and resilient. What true creative isn’t? He knows what it is to be an artist, he has to stay true to his interpretations. He has to be able to stand proudly behind his creations, to take criticisms, and always be at the ready to defend his artistic choices. He knows that it take a thick skin to be an artist today; especially one that isn’t groomed by a team of handlers with deep pockets.
But his work speaks with a certain depth that the corporate-backed designers’ cannot; his designs stands out from the sea of noise, far away from the often seen regurgitation and monotony in the fashion industry. His creations are personal and distinct; striking a balance between understated and excess.
His creations are all intricately handmade, not at some sweatshop downtown. I joked to him once that he’s his own Chinese sweatshop. While he can and will put together an outfit together for your night out in minutes, he also spends days or even weeks slaving over a piece that he wants to get just right. Interwoven in the layers of his clothing are stories he craves to tell. His garments are seemingly from worlds beyond; as if he’s a returning adventurer who just brought new world exotics back home. His clothing doesn’t appeal to the masses, and that is the point; they appeal to those with a vision for themselves. You may not necessarily wear his creations to the office, but you should.
He is an undiscovered treasure, but hopefully not for long.
— Carl Chen
Words of Wisdom
“No one can really tell you how to design or be the artist you want to be. They can show you the tools and you do the rest. My experience on Project Runway showed me that they are creating a limitation for themselves as a show. I have reminded young and aspiring artists to be the artist they want to be and that no one can put a limit on their dreams but themselves,” explains Topher Adam.
“The power in art is the essence of what isn’t captured.
It’s the essence of how it makes you feel.”
~ Topher Adam
Life ticks by, what’s next on your schedule? Time is running out. If I like a moment personally, I don’t like the distractions of the camera. I just want to stay in that moment. Right here and now, and now it’s gone.
Silence was the rest of the story, this is how it all began. . . . now the rest is history and up to you to create your own adventure story!
“Topher Adam is one of the most avant-garde and forward-thinking designers out there. He is a truly inspiring artist,” says fashion photographer Tolga Katas who shot photographed the models wearing his hell collection for this article. “I know many models and photographers who consider him the dark side of Vogue. He’s shaping the future of fashion every day.”
Bobbi Style echoed, “He’s unstoppable and I love him to death.”
Hell Collection Gallery Credits
Photography by Tolga Katas
Fashion Designs by Topher Adam
Hair Designs by Alyssa Velasquez, Dean Sproule
Photography Post by C.M. Katas
Cover Photo by C.M. Katas
For more information about Dark Beauty Magazine, see http://darkbeautymag.com
Dark Beauty Facebook http://facebook.com/darkbeautymag
Topher Adam’s music can be found HERE