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Blake Martin Productions keeps Chicago talent on the forefront

Photo Credit: Kevin Russell

Blake Martin constantly raises the bar for himself and although you might not know his name, you might be familiar with his work if you have attended one of his productions. While his career path was a bit unconventional, the entrepreneur has carved a niche in the fashion and event industry. Since founding Blake Martin Productions and starting his production company in 2009, Martin has established quite a resume. He has produced over 55 fashion shows around the US, produced and choreographed a 39-city tour in China, two sold out tours in England, and has worked the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week the past 14 seasons.

Why did you start the business and what are some of the services you offer?
I began BMP because I wanted to create high energy fashion content for the city of Chicago. [At the time,] there just wasn’t anyone creating content for the young, vibrant, and energetic fashion professional. There were many fashion shows, but they were either sterile and boring or very poorly produced, and I wanted something a little better. At this time, I offer A-Z fashion event production, which includes consultations with brands and clientele about their events, model casting call, [securing the] venue and all of the other production needs, model training, etc.

What were some of the challenges you met when you started and how did you overcome them?
I believe the biggest challenge in any new business is brand trust. In starting off, the consumer doesn’t know who you are, your atheistic, or why they should pay their hard-earned money to see your product. So, overcoming people’s doubt was my most difficult challenge. But, I produced the content that I, as a consumer, would have wanted to see. I produced from the front of the house instead of the back. I placed myself in the front row of the show and created my content from that perspective. I wanted to entertain you, not just show you 100 pieces of clothing. And people responded to that. They felt my passion through the work and they received it well.

Talk a little about your dedication to finding and using Chicago talent in your shows.
I’ve traveled the world and worked with talent everywhere: China, Russia, Paris, New York, Miami, Houston, etc., and there is nothing like the talent I have encountered in Chicago. Chicago has such a unique and diverse group of talented individuals. Chicago is the city that made me, so I feel a strong commitment to also use Chicago talent in everything I do. No matter where I am hired, I use Chicago talent in some shape or form.

As a minority-owned business, what has your experience been like seeking opportunities?
As a Black-owned business, many times, I must create my own opportunities. I must have the eye to see a need and approach it. For example, my work was recently featured on Vh1’s “Black Ink Crew.” I produced a show for the brand Chicagorilla. But that show was my idea. I was visiting my good friend, Van Johnson, in the Chicagorilla studio. I was looking around and so proud of his work with the brand and I said, “Yo, we need to do a fashion show. I think it’ll be major.” He agreed and the very next day we began work on it. I had to create that opportunity for myself. I recently did collaboration with GUCCI. The brand loaned to my company over $40K worth of clothing for a high-end photo shoot. It was an honor, but come on, it’s Gucci. They don’t know or care anything about who or what a Blake Martin Productions is. I had to approach them. I had to send dozens of emails and show up randomly during meetings, etc. until they saw the value in the photo shoot that I wanted to do. Again, I had to create that opportunity for myself. 60% of the most major things I have done are from creating the opportunity for myself. I can’t sit around and wait for things to fall into my lap; I have to just make them happen.

What advice would you share with other aspiring entrepreneurs and producers?
The best advice I would give to my peers is to just know your business. We are all so talented, and passionate. But, that’s just not enough. Talent just isn’t enough. It’s so important to know the ins and outs of your business — the trends. What clients are looking for, shifts in the industry.