Proportions were at play in New York designer Raun LaRose's NYFWM debut, with a voluminous collection he says was "designed for the alternative." The range, called "To Whom It May Concern," aimed to juxtapose high art with mainstream consumerism, creating a "new look" that reflected today's media era.
For inspiration, LaRose looked to his favorite artists, including Austrian sculptor Erwin Wrum, whose Fat Car series--depicting puffy, life-size sculptures of overfilled cars--visibly influenced the shape of his wide-legged pants and dramatically oversized coats. These bulbous silhouettes were imbued with the casual nonchalance of skate culture and stylized coolness of '90s hip-hop videos, thanks in part to LaRose watching Missy Elliott videos on repeat while designing.
The designer experimented with unconventional fabrics for fall '17, from metallic silver silk lame trousers to ones made of white PVC. Though LaRose's pieces were exaggerated, much like the Wrum piece above, his collection was still luxurious, with its rich color palette of blue, cream and chocolate, and subtle inclusion of classic menswear details, from speckled tweed to tailored jackets. Unlike most designers at NFWM, LaRose was able to mine traditions of menswear, and elevate those with fresh, innovative edits.
OUT recently caught up with the rising designer to unpack his noteworthy NYFWM breakout.
OUT: How did you first get involved in fashion?
Raun LaRose: I was exposed to fashion at an early age, in a more unconscious way of sorts. My mom was a seamstress and used to work full-time out of our home, so I was surrounded by most things revolving around fashion. Around the age of 6 or 7, I remember after school sitting around and watching her work. Not understanding the depth of what she was doing, I really enjoyed seeing the different processes and the start-to-finish phases she would go through. [By] 16 I started experimenting alongside my mom, asking her to create things I thought were cool . Around 23 is when it hit me that fashion was what I wanted to persue as a career and that's when I launched the brand and started making samples.
How do you see your work altering the framework of New York menswear?
Being from New York, Brooklyn especially allows me to see things here in more clear light--from being on the subway, hanging out with friends, passing the skate parks, even the music we listen to. We've become such an expressive generation and I find it important to reflect that in my work and to showcase new alternatives.
What is the core aesthetic of your brand?
Youth. Some of best memories come from my childhood--having the ability to experience and explore things with no real societal boundaries. But I also have an appreciation for tailoring and I try to incorporate that in my work even in the most subtle of ways.
What was the inspiration behind your fall '17 collection?
Over the past year or so, I really came to the understanding that art is a major influence in how I approach design. In the early stages of the collection, I started compiling images from some of my favorite artists--Erwin Wurm, Wolfgang Tilmans, Weimar Munchun--and thought about reasons why I found the works so inspiring, and ways I could incorporate some of those concepts into actual garments, but in a more practical way. I listened to a lot of '90s R&B and hip-hop--Jodeci, TLC, Bonethugs, Missy [Elliott]--during the process and started to look back to some of the videos from that period.
Your pieces really play with proportions...
It's important for me to showcase personality in the clothes I design. I like the concept of adding to the human form and creating some sort of narrative through proportions, whether it be extending a shirt sleeve, exaggerating a pant or even cropping a jacket. With this collection, I experimented a lot more with proportions then I have in the past.
Who is the Raun LaRose man?
I don't believe there is a Raun man, or woman for that matter. My primary focus is to design for men, yes, but I want it to be more about an individual's connection to the clothes than creating some sort of exclusion. At times, I tend to shy away from labels or categorizing, as I feel it can be limiting and a bit subjective to whomever takes interest.
Your collection was one of the more experimental at NYFWM. Do you think menswear needs to take more risks?
I've been designing for a little over 7 years now. When I started out, one of the main points of feedback that I always took from conversations was that my aesthetic way strongly European." I understood that what I was doing aesthetically was different from most designers here, but I didn't fully comprehend how much focus was put on the commerce side of things with art being an alternate factor. So with time and experience I really decided to stand firm in my core aesthetic and what I envision New York Men's could build towards in the future.
Collection photos by Kevin Buitrago