Ra’mon-Lawrence Coleman on RunUp
TCD caught up with designer Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman before "RunUp 2012: The Roaring '20s." (Monday Update: Photo gallery from the event by Lacy Landre)
TCD’s Lacy Landre caught up with clothing designer Ra’mon-Lawrence Coleman at the Iron Horse Hotel and had a chat regarding Borgs, his upcoming collection, and Milwaukee’s upcoming RunUp 2012 fashion show:
Lacy Landre: I read somewhere you’re a Trekkie. If you could be any Star Trek character, who would it be?
Ra’mon-Lawrence Coleman: I would completely be Seven of Nine. She’s analytical and a little bit removed and a sexpot at the same time. I just love it. I look at her and I’m like, “Is that feminism? I don’t really know? Probably not?” But I love that she’s this paradox of things thrown together to be everyone’s fantasy in some way, and I think that could be me.
RLC: Is Milwaukee conservative? Classic? Yes, absolutely. What’s interesting is that things you do see are done so brilliantly because they’re understated. Fashion isn’t necessarily about the dramatic or the avant-garde or things that make you turn your head. It’s also about simplicity. I think that’s what you see in Milwaukee that most people don’t realize, because they’re in it. Fashion has so many different faces, and what most people have in the Midwest, specifically Milwaukee, is the ability to make it very clean and understandable, which is beautiful.
A lot of designers get inspiration from the Midwest. They have this ability to see bare-bones structure where most people are like, “Oh, I’m not fashionable.” But they really are.
In regards to the fashion “scene,” I think there’s still sort of this feeling that it’s trivial. Fashion doesn’t have to be about these frou-frou shows. That’s what I love about RunUp. I love that they’re using it as a platform for a bigger idea: something that’s charitable. I think that tie-in is really where the community will see more success, when they take a more philanthropic approach to fashion.
RLC: The idea can get very costumey very quickly if you don’t think about modernity. It is an “event” of sorts, so people are going to have that kind of back-in-the-20s feel. For me this is not a hobby; it’s a business I’m growing. Even with the theme, I have to think about how to make it new and accessible.
When people see the collection, they’ll have a feel of the 1920s and the decadence and the richness. The fabric is definitely high-quality; everything is basically as luxurious as you can get. But it’s fun, modern, and understandable at the same time.
LL: If you had to pick a song to describe your collection, what would it be?
RLC: “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” (No, I don’t regret anything) by Edith Piaf. It’s a bit somber and biting and chills you to the core, but there’s something so beautiful about that macabre feel that was the undertone of inspiration for me. It’s so haunting,”
LL: Will your mother be attending the show?
RLC: Oh yes, she’ll be in the front row.
LL: What are your favorite fabrics to use?
RLC: I’ve recently been known for my work in chiffon and georgette. “Sheer” has been a trend for the last two seasons and will continue to be. It’s not forgiving, and I think that’s the fun thing because it pushes me to really hone in and be as refined as possible. It’s a love-hate relationship because I think it gives me my best work by pushing myself.
Next to that, I also have a love for denim. That’s kind of weird, right? Fall will be very interesting… There will be a lot of denim done in very tailored, intricate silhouettes.
LL: You’re currently designing for your own label and Nanette Lepore for JCPenney. Would you eventually prefer to produce your own line of consumer-label apparel, or keep the ra’mon-lawrence line small and exclusive?
For the retail future of ra’mon-lawrence, I definitely want to keep it very exclusive as to where it’s located, but I want it to be accessible to people. I don’t want to do department stores. I definitely enjoy the feel you get from a boutique; I think it stays in line with my brand identity. My dream would be to be in Barney’s CO-OP or Neiman Marcus.
LL: If you had the opportunity to be the exclusive stylist and/or designer for one person, who would it be?
RLC: Rooney Mara would be good. Really, only one?
LL: Ok fine, you could name a couple people.
I like two types of women: kind of the odd, quirky misfit who’s slightly indy-esque, and the strong, powerful, bold woman. Rooney Mara, Michelle Obama… they’re two different personalities but I think they definitely resonate with most women.
LL: Do you prefer making clothes for women or men?
RLC: Womenswear is always fun because it gives you freedom; it tends to be more okay with the theatricality of fashion. American menswear tends to be harder because there is that conservative vibe people tend to stay within, so it becomes more of a challenge to make it fresh and new and not like your grandfather’s clothes.
I treat my work more like collections versus ready-to-wear. I like utilitarianism; I don’t like to say “androgyny” anymore. You can have things sort of meld, and I feel like fashion will be making that turn. I do a lot of shirts in fine cotton. I use fabrics that you would see only on women in menswear, and vice versa. There’s not an either-or for me.
LL: Do you think you’ll eventually settle down in New York? Where in the world would you live otherwise?
RLC: I think I’ll base my business there. People like to call me a jet-setter, and I don’t know what that means nowadays, but I hop around quite a bit on planes. There’s something about New York I love. It’s obviously convenient based on my industry. I do enjoy the fact that I can have a greater opportunity to have everything made in the USA. All of our production is done in New York, so I definitely have some pride behind that. Personally, I wouldn’t mind living in London again. I think it’s a beautiful city and very inspiring; it gives me that push to make sure everything is really refined when it comes to construction and tailoring.
LL: If you couldn’t be in fashion, what would be your second career choice?
RLC: I’ve had so many opportunities to do different things, but I would be an interior designer or carpenter. I love being very hands-on. I’m influenced by architecture a lot in my work so there’s always this common thread of inspiration.
LL: Do you have any advice for fashion students about what not to do to make it as a designer?
RLC: I think what not to do is to rush too fast too far into the fashion world. A lot of people think they know everything right away, and they don’t take time to build themselves up. A lot of designers think being in the industry is just about design, but it’s really about being creative and analytical. Learn how to create a business and brand.
Also: not being aware of your self-worth. I think a lot of designers straight out of school have such brilliant ideas. The more they get into the industry, the more it kind of fades away.
I think before you even get to that stage, the biggest thing not to do is to jump into just any internship or any job. Sometimes if you align yourself with the wrong person, you could be giving away your intellectual property to someone that may not help you grow. Think about what the experience will give you to help you go where you want to go in your career.”
Ra’mon-Lawrence Coleman showed his line at RunUp 2012 at the Pritzlaff Building on Friday, Oct. 5. Other designers included: Timothy Westbrook, Miranda Levy, Terry Michael Designs, Mink, Delanie Couture, Linda Marcus Designs, Heather King and Leslie Randall, and a Mount Mary fashion design student scholarship competition. The event was a fundraiser for Froedtert Hospital Foundation‘s cancer translational research unit.
Our behind-the-scenes coverage of the event can be seen on our Flickr site: