Apollo Braun is going to conquer the world. Armed with music and fashion, this designer wants us to believe that it’s just a matter of time before we fall under his tasteful thumb. At first, it seemed as if this was going to be a typical interview – ask a couple of questions, get a couple of answers, study the subject in his environment and report to the world the results.
That was until Braun insisted on describing his big penis. He went on at length about it’s length, his prowess in the act and his cure for AIDS. Somewhere in the middle of his Israeli accent and his foreign English, you get the sense that this man knows what he is doing and the world may not have enough prep time for what he is about to unleash.
I met Braun on a warm Wednesday evening on the Lower East Side in his store. Various fashion posters and photographs adorned the walls and items ranging from offensive tee-shirts to vintage skirts were interspersed throughout. I got the distinct feeling that his store was more an experience than some sort of tourist retail shopping stop. Through adversity and cat food, Apollo has made a name for himself dressing the likes of Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Britney Spears, Bjork and many others. Talking to him left me with more questions than answers. It also gave insight on the years it takes to become an overnight success:
PD: Who is Apollo Braun and why should we care?
AB: I am Apollo Braun and I want to conquer the world. I am New York. I am black, white, Hispanic, Asian. I am Muslim, Jewish, Christian. I am fucking everything. I came to NY with nothing on Aug. 13, 2001. I washed dishes, cleaned floors, I was a nude model. I was this close to being a sex whore. I am a New York story. It is about art and creation. I have real faith. I feel richer than Paris Hilton. I feel pity on people like Paris Hilton and Donald Trump with their fame and money who can help find a cure for AIDS but instead they create stupid words like ‘you’re fired’ and ‘that’s hot.’ In my own little way I find a cure every day, I say “Look at me, look at what I am doing.”
My store is not a clothing store only, it’s a lifestyle store …people call me the new Patricia Fields. I think outside of the box. I do a lot of things, but wish I could to go out more, party a little more. I spend a lot of time working so it doesn’t allow me to go out as much.
PD: Where are you from?
AB: I am from Israel. I come from Petach-Tiekva; it’s the sixth largest city in Israel. It’s the place to raise kids and be abused. It’s a sleepy city. I went through a lot in Israel. I was in the Israeli army. When I was 23, I moved to Tel Aviv. I was very famous I was Doron Braunshtein but people called me Doron Brown. In Israel I wrote for Anashaim It’s the Israeli People magazine. I had a TV segment and was on a show called “Good Morning Israel.” I did a pilot for a TV show that no one wanted. I almost died in a Palestinian bomb attack. 19 people died in the bomb attack. I believe that people are all the same. Never mind religion. I believe we are all the same. The world doesn’t want a “Jewish problem.” The world doesn’t want another holocaust. The world needs to have Israel. I believe there is a place and need for a Palestinian country. I am very pro-Israeli and pro-Brazilian (I love to vacation there).
PD: What was it like growing up in Petach-Tiekva?
AB: Everyone knows who you slept with. Everyone knows your bullshit. Everyone knows who fucked my sister, if my father yelled last night, what dick I sucked last night. So it was pathetic. I loved Tel-Aviv it was bigger than Petach-Tiekva. After living in NYC, though, Tel-Aviv is pathetic. I am bigger than Tel-Aviv. I am a huge pop-artist.
PD: How did you get your start in fashion?
AB: From survival. I didn’t have money to do anything. No friends or family in America. 13 is my lucky number. When I came to NY I slept at a girl’s house for the first two nights who I never met except through long distance phone calls. I thought, I must find a job. My first job was as a nude model on Crosby street in a still existing art gallery studio. I feel very comfortable with my body. I have a very large penis. I am a whore…I am an American whore. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t get paid for sex. I’m not a whore in a sexual way. I just mean I would just do anything for my goals. I would wake up 3 a.m. in the morning and work the whole day. When you come from nothing, your ambitions come from a different place … You want more, you want to prove that you are not a leech on society. Especially when you are a minority. When you are a minority and not a W.A.S.P., you have to work that much harder. Some people think to be Jewish is easier but it’s a big mistake … a big mistake. It is a huge racism to say that Jewish people are rich. I work hard … regardless of anything I am.
PD: Did you get any encouragement from parents, siblings etc?
AB: Not at all. My parents were in shock. They were really afraid. I came (to the US) with nobody. I came with nothing. I am insane. But I did it. It’s not like leaving Idaho or Iowa. You leave Israel and come to the US, it’s a big thing. One of the places I lived in was Harlem, it was wonderful. I lived in the East Village with 2 guys and no money to eat. Once, for 3 days I ate cat food. I never told anyone this. It is what I did because there was nothing else to eat, but I did it. When you have no choice you do what you have to do. I have big dreams but I have a bigger penis.
Doron Braunshtein is haute couture and Apollo Braun is the urban. I do a lot of things, my fashion shows and production. The f song under db record Apollo as a singer…I live with life four names and feel good about it.
PD: What was it like living with seven other people in an apartment?
AB: It was very hard…I lived in a room that people had sex in while I was sleeping. My boss kept my tips while I was making $1.25 an hour at a restaurant where I worked. People use you when you start out, but you learn. I think we all have stories to tell and you always feel like you are in a struggle.
PD: You tried nude modeling for a time, did you enjoy it or was it just a job?
AB: In the start it was just a job, it was humiliating because I didn’t love my body. But the relationship with the artists grew into such a big thing and they taught me about art, they taught me about Frieda Kahlo, Salvatore Dali etc.. They supported me and they allowed me to grow and they bought my art it’s very easy to cry and take everything hard. But life is hard you need to say fuck it all because your future is important.
PD: In another feature for another paper, you said that you were either going to commit suicide or conquer the world. You haven’t conquered the world yet and you are still alive, why even contemplate suicide?
AB: I felt that everything was going against me when I was young…In Kabbalah, (not that I believe in that bullshit) the tikon is like a fix in this lifetime. I just believe that I am an ancient soul. I am multi-cultural. I want to have children with Oprah Winfrey because Jews and Africans need to be together. We all need to be together.
PD: Britney Spears wore your fuckyou.com tee-shirt, did you make it big when she wore it or were you big before that?
AB: Britney Spears was very sweet she bought the shirt at the flea market store that I started back in July 2002. Even after she bought the shirt I still had work to do. I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. A straight guy that I was in love with said “Let’s open our own place, a flea market, it’s $2,200 a month rent but it will pay off. You will work seven days a week.” He said that I should stop t
hinking like an employee and think like an owner. If not, he said, “you will always chase your tail.” Then I thought: still my mother works. What she’s doing? My parents never had money never went abroad … They found their own little way. They came from a place where no one had any money. I thought to myself, “I need to be a superstar because the world will enjoy me so much.”
(In the middle of all this Braun places an order for food. He calls information for the number to his favorite local spot but the operator is having trouble understanding his accent. Apollo has a certain charm, charming and complementing the telephone operator, the restaurant worker, even the delivery boy. He finally gets through and orders as if he is talking to an old friend. The person on the other line understands him completely, though he can’t describe exactly what he wants … “it’s that little something … with the meat”)
PD: In your opinion, what makes a designer a success – the people that wear the clothes or the clothes themselves?
AB: None of those things are the reason. These days you have to do two great things: be a great artist and be a better businessman. Most of the designers you see don’t actually design. They choose designs from a team. The funkiness and edginess come from their in-house team. They then manufacture, do marketing and pr…and blah, blah, blah. I sell in 23 stores all over the world. But it’s nothing yet. As long as my stuff is not in Macys, Bergdorf’s or Barneys, I am a zero like my father told me every day of my life.
PD: Do you feel successful?
AB: No … I don’t feel like I made anything yet … less than my pinky for what I wanted to do. I know that I do need help but I hate partners and I love to do things my own way. I prefer to fail my way. I want to succeed my own way. I like to do things big and huge. If I fail, I will fail big time. If I succeed I will succeed big time. I will never compromise on anything. I have big balls.
PD: You are now making your own music why go into music?
AB: I always did music, it was my first passion.
PD: Where is the love, is it in fashion or in music?
AB: It is in both, the love is the love for life, and I like to make people think. I am a very passionate person.
PD: In the same interview for another paper you said that you slept your way to the top when working for a company in Jerusalem, was that literal?
AB: I never said that I slept my way to the top.
PD: Someone once said, and it escapes me now who said it, “there is no such thing as a bi-sexual. You are either one or the other, not both.” What do you think?
AB: I think sexual orientation a very unique thing. It’s got great points it’s not black and white. The most manly man can find himself having sex with a man. A man can run away from a family and become gay. I think we are all bi-sexual in a way, even if it’s less than 1 percent of you, it exists. Especially people that others hate so much. You hate what you fear the most.
PD: Are straight male designers becoming, or are already, obsolete in this industry?
AB: Yigal Azrouel is a very famous designer and he is straight, and he’s hot as hell, I would do him. I think there are one or two straight designers left.
PD: You’ve been featured in a variety of magazines and press. Someone even said that you were the male Madonna. Is that true?
AB: They thought that I was the male Madonna after seeing me in a show. Madonna was amazing. The word is WAS, she reminds me of myself – 90 percent ambition 10 percent talent. I think she’s not relevant anymore. Not to our days. People like Madonna should never get married or have a child. People like that must live for the public. For me personally she is not relevant anymore. For the last ten years she didn’t change the color of her hair, she’s been blond. Madonna used to push the envelope, now nothing. Apollo is the new Madonna
PD: What kind of designs do you create?
AB: My designs make people stop you in the street and say “what the fuck?” My creations are the movement of life. I will never create a plain black dress. I am never corporate.
(At this point the food arrives, and he almost – but not quite – flirts with the lanky, boyish delivery guy. He asks the delivery guy if he would want to model in his upcoming fashion show. The delivery guy doesn’t believe his luck and articulates as such with Apollo by asking “No shit, seriously?” Apollo says he likes “real people” as models for his shows.-
PD: How do you go about putting it together?
AB: I will tell you what I always say… Just do it. I don’t paint. I take the garment and make anything. It doesn’t matter.
PD: Why design at all? Why not just go into music?
AB: I am passionate about designs. It’s reality, it’s how I live. Where with music, selling is more abstract. With fashion you make a tee-shirt someone can go into my store look at it and buy it. It’s how I make a living.
PD: With all the things going on in Israel and the Middle East, how does one get involved in fashion?
AB: It was not at all in my thought process. I always liked art. I am doing a pilot ”Who’s Afraid of Apollo Braun” but I can’t talk completely about it. I don’t like when people interview each other and they suck each others’ dicks. My show would be about getting in the face of someone and finding out what’s really going on.
PD: Why help other independent designers when you are designing yourself? Why not simply open a store that sells only your items?
AB: I am opening up another store called DB strictly for my designs. But I do believe in NYC the place that can be open minded but at the same time they say stuff like it’s too much, it’s too dangerous. They would rather buy student designs on consignment. I don’t do that. I buy designs outright. I take risks, I am the only one in New York City that does that and it works. I have students from FIT and from Parsons come in from 1 to 10 p.m. on Wednesdays and sell me their stuff. I just buy from designers if I really like them. Other stores don’t have balls; they don’t take chances on new designers.
PD: How hard has it been to move up in the fashion industry?
AB: It’s still hard. I am not where I want to be at all but I work every day doing what I love. It will happen.
PD: Are you weird?
AB: No. I am what people need to be: open minded in a great way. I am an achiever doing something from nothing. Not cranky … The world is divided into 2 kinds of people: people who complain and people who just do. I just do.
PD: I listened to some of your songs and they are unconventional to say the least, what kind of response have you received?
AB: People take off their clothes and have sex to my music. They love it. They send me pictures. Especially anal sex. I sold more the $1,500 worth of songs on the Web.
PD: You seem to give off a lot of positive energy, where do you get it from?
AB: My mother gives off great energy. Her name is Bianca. My first fragrance will be called Bianca. She is still strong and she told me whatever happens that I always need to be strong.
PD: One hundred years from now at a museum honoring great fashion designers they feature you. What would be the headline of your exhibit?
AB: I hope that it would say, it was fucked up and we loved him.