This photo is everything. It’s from my 2009 launch collection and I remember that day like it was yesterday—the blistering heat, sticky humidity, broken AC, grueling shot list and expensive catering platter that went untouched by a team of relentless red heads. I also remember how model Tara Renée and I discovered we were birthday twins, the type of happy coincidence that comes from living in alignment. She and (brilliant!) photographer Liz Lippman stopped at nothing to get my coveted cityscape shot, risking life and limb atop EKNY HQ to capture magic. Mission accomplished, we got the shot.

But it’s the culmination of firsts I remember most from that day—my first foray into fashion, my first bite out of The Big Apple, my first love letter to New York City. You see, I’ve loved this city with all my heart since Day 1 and, save disaster, never thought I’d leave it. But, alas, disaster struck. Thank you for everything, New York. Because of you I am stronger, braver and better. You never made anything easy, and I love you for that.

To quote William Faulkner, “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” So thanks for joining as I swim for new horizons. Come on in, the water’s fine.

P.S. — We may be over New York, but I’m keeping your name. I earned it.