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Zero Tolerance: The Raun Larose Interview

Fashion, Interview

With the rise of so many talented menswear designers coupled with the debut of New York Men’s Fashion Week this month, the menswear industry is finally beginning to hit its stride. And so is up-and-coming star, Raun Larose. Despite being young, Larose is ready to make an impact on the fashion world. Inspired by his mother, an accomplished seamstress, the budding designer works to create designs that are meaningful, innovative and offer a sharp perspective. We caught up with Larose as he explored the Zero Tolerance exhibit at the MoMA’s Long Island City outpost, PS1. In our tag along, he let us into his world sharing his take on art, the men’s market and youth culture.

In what ways does going to galleries play into your creativity?

I go to galleries a lot. For me, I like my process to be organic. I hate rushing. Going to galleries is another outlet for me to see things on my own time without being forced. And I like art a lot, too. I have an appreciation for art.

Who is your favorite artist?

My favorite sculpture artist is John Chamberlain, for sure. I like his work a lot. I’m also a fan of Matias Faldbakken. I like mixed media art, but aside from those things, I like the art to have contrast, depth and meaning.

Are you looking at anything specifically for inspiration when you’re designing? Or does inspiration just come to you naturally?

Yeah, it’s random. I like things to come naturally. Like, I’m a not heavy rap fan, but I had this obsession with the underground Chicago rap scene. ­­I don’t know what it was. A friend of mine told me there was this really hot rapper out of Chicago, and I started listening and it was like a domino effect. I started checking out all the kids from Chicago. And it was amazing! There was this one girl I was checking out, and she’s naming all these underground rappers who are from Chicago and coming up. I researched all of them. It grabbed a hold of me. And when I was working on the last collection, I was listening to some of that music. That was in my mind when I was designing stuff—this whole rebellion and trying to understand these people. And for me, one of my biggest sources of inspiration is youth culture. A majority of inspiration comes from my childhood. The best moments that I had were in my childhood. And it’s interesting to see how different the youth are getting inspired and taking things in.

What is one of you best childhood memories?

Some of the best memories I remember from my childhood were the trips I would take with my mom to the garment district. Although not aware at the moment, my mother was introducing me to a process of how things worked from a behind the scenes standpoint. Aside from that, just living as a normal inner city kid. I never really took an interest in sports much other than baseball, but clothes were major outlets for me to express myself. Funny story, I remember the first thing I designed was in the 5th grade. I was raised in a Christian household so certain things that most kids might have been able to do I might have had restrictions on, one of those being Halloween. Every year, I would have to sit out because my mom would never send me to school in a costume, so that year I decided to make my own. I remember cutting up a Pistons jersey and making the weirdest mash-up of what I thought a zombie basketball player would look like. It was the funniest thing looking back, but my teacher called my mom to verify that I could participate, and I got caught, so yeah. But, overall, just being carefree not getting caught up in the things we get caught up in as adults. Freedom was the best part of my childhood, I’d say.

Emerging designers have so much against them when starting out. What struggles have you faced in the industry?

I didn’t have a background in business. The driving force behind what I was doing was creativity. Certain things weren’t in my forecast. It wasn’t until about two or three years into it that I realized, ‘Okay, there’s a process. I need to have a structure. There are things I have to figure out.’ When I started to figure those things out and where I wanted to go, the business part became a lot to juggle, especially when you’re juggling the two. Now, I’m working with someone who is working on the financial side of things, and we’re looking for someone to handle the business end. Which would be great. I think every designer wants that Marc Jacobs/Robert Duffy kind of relationship.

Menswear is growing and people are definitely paying a lot more attention to it. What do you see for the future of menswear?

Yeah, and now New York has its own Men’s Week. They had a Men’s Day solely designated to have most of the menswear talent in one house, under one roof, for one day. This month, it’s going to be a week.

So it’s going to be the full production of shows and presentations?

Yup, for the men’s market only. And the thing is I even thought about moving out of the [United] States. The majority of the brands that I support, none of them are based here. And it’s for a reason. People don’t buy into it here. Men aren’t consciously focused on taking chances or risks. They just want to look good. And it’s so easy to look good. Guys have their definite places if they want to look good. And if you want to spice it up a little bit, then yeah, you might go to a high-end store and buy one or two pieces, but you’re not buying that lifestyle. Overseas, I feel people buy more into that lifestyle. And it’s also a thing of where it comes from in terms of art. It’s definitely more appreciated in other countries versus the U.S.

Yes, I definitely think the U.S. place much more focus on brands that are mass market however hopefully, we can slowly change the tide.

It’s funny because when I was working on this collection, when I was thinking what I wanted for the fabric choices…I’ve never been a fan of denim. This time around the reason why I wanted to work with denim, it was something completely out of my comfort zone. I didn’t know what the hell the end result was going to be, but that was in my mind at the time. I think the frustrations of being a young designer in America and seeing what’s succeeding and what’s not. That collection was my take on what I considered to be mass consumerism: the denim and the basic white sneaker. And it’s so subtle.

Like a critique of it while utilizing that same medium…

Right. Sometimes when I look at the message as a whole, it’s just really unfortunate the place that we are in. Unfortunately, this is the only thing that could be at the forefront—t-shirts and sportswear. And that’s the trend. I find it fascinating when I look at the trends that people follow and the things that people say, “Well this is definitely where fashion is going…”

Speaking of the future of fashion, what are your thoughts on the ever-increasing global nature of it?

It’s a gift and a curse.

Really, how so?

I don’t come from a financial background. And because of the way the market has changed, it forces you to study business. It’s great for a young designer to know how the business works and to understand it, but it becomes another thing when your talent gets watered down. We’re in the day where work based off of pure creativity is almost non-existent. Back then, you would have designers who were totally talented and who knew somewhat about business, but their sole purpose was to be creative and there were people who were supporting them. But now, that’s no longer the key ingredient in anyone’s success. What I equate fashion to is music—it’s almost identical. How many times do you hear people say that music isn’t the same or what it’s supposed to be. I think it’s a sign of the times or the direction that things are going in.

So given all that, what do you want our readers’ final take away to be about you and your brand.

One of the things, for sure I pride myself on, is the simple nature of the quality. I’m really concerned with quality. I like clothes. Good clothes are good clothes. Good design is good design. When I work on something I’ll go back and critique my own work. For me, it’s about staying true to the classics while still focusing on the future. I’ve always been the type of designer that wanted to grow and expand. I’m not trying to be that person that dresses the person that wants to be the same or look the same. I want to dress the person that wants to constantly change and expand not only their environment, but their mindsets also.

See our review on his most recent Spring/Summer 2015 collection.

Photography by Rufus Barkley

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