ROMEO HUNTE IS LIGHTING UP SOHO FOR THE HOLIDAYS
In partnership with artist Shavanté Royster and Bombay Sapphire, Hunte's trio of window displays in NYC capture the post-pandemic holiday spirit.
TEXT: TRISHNA RIKHY
As New York City eases into a recovery from quarantine and isolation, SoHo is coming back to life—and Romeo Hunte is lighting it back up.
The esteemed NYC-based luxury streetwear designer (with a cult following and supporters including Zendaya, Michelle Obama and Beyoncé) is collaborating with visual artist Shavanté Royster this holiday season, celebrating the intersections of fashion, festivities and the creative pulse of the city with a series of window displays in lower Manhattan, where almost one third of small businesses have closed due to the pandemic.
“This was all about reimagining and bringing back Soho, really,” Hunte told V Magazine. On the first day of the Holiday Window Series, Hunte sips an original-recipe cocktail—made with Bombay Sapphire gin, ginger beer and cranberry juice, finished with a lime wedge—at AMA West Village and reflects on the holidays and his trio of Soho displays.
“Soho really went through a shutdown, and I was thinking, how could we make it bright? How can we celebrate and bring in the holiday? I thought this was something that was needed, and it’s also a way of getting people to look at the windows, to get outside and really kickstart the holidays.”
The Holiday Window Series is everything Romeo Hunte stands for: bold, dynamic, unique. Inspired by the city’s iconic 5th Avenue displays, The Holiday Window Series captures the magic of uptown and brings it downtown for the holidays, infusing the displays with the edgy and versatile energy of Hunte and Royster.
Working with Bombay Sapphire, the three window displays are scattered through Soho, repurposing empty storefronts with original artwork and designs, while models in the window—wearing two new exclusive holiday designs by Romeo Hunte, set to be donated to charity after the display ends, as well as looks from Hunte’s FW21 collection—look out through the glass at pedestrians and perform contemporary choreography in the midst of Royster’s eclectic, bright, winter-wonderland backdrop.
Live through December 19, the trio of window displays is a burst of much-needed energy in the city, a spirited, lively celebration of the holidays and the reawakening of Manhattan’s winter spirit, linking together independent creatives and shoppers downtown.
“Family comes first [to me] for the holidays, and health, taking care of each other and checking in on your family and friends,” said Hunte. “But I think everyone really wants to see people and they want to get out of the house. They want to shop again, they want to be in the store and feel the experience of the holiday. I think this is a great collaboration for us to encourage people to feel life again, to give them a breath of fresh air, and of course, shine a light on Soho.”
Check out the Romeo Hunte x Shavanté Royster Holiday Window Series in collaboration with Bombay Sapphire at the locations below:
- “NYC Dancer Window” at 25 Howard Street
- “Romeo’s Fashion Window” featuring two exclusive Romeo Hunte holiday looks at 423 Broadway
- “Shavanté’s Art Window” at 65 Spring Street
Romeo Hunte On His Greatest Inspiration: The Urban Dictionary
Romeo Hunte is a rising star in the fashion world. The Brooklyn-born designer has created his own wave in fashion, even before he became the protégé of Tommy Hilfiger.
Hunte has been changing the game with a mix of high fashion and streetwear, having stars like Zendaya, Beyoncé and former First Lady Michelle Obama wear his designs.
“Strong women inspire me so much,” said Hunte. “My mom is a single mother. I’ve been working with amazing women like Michelle Obama and Beyoncé, it’s about tailoring something polished and yet it is street, it has some sort of culture. I’m so adamant to push the culture forward.”
Just this past summer, he launched the Tommy x Romeo capsule collection as part of Hilfiger’s People’s Place Program, an initiative launched in 2020 to advance underrepresented BIPOC communities through fashion. “Tommy is not just a friend, but family,” said Hunte.
“He has given me so much feedback about work ethic and business. As they say, I’m his protégé. There’s so much more work we need to do. We’ve done something that has created history. It’s a real collaboration. We’ve started a new wave.”
As Hilfiger said in a recent interview: “I’ve been supportive of and worked with Romeo for over five years, and I see a lot of my younger self in him. I want to nurture his incredible talent in a way that gives back to an industry that has given me so much.”
More recently, Hunte and visual artist Shavanté Royster unveiled the first ever Bombay Sapphire holiday window displays in New York City, where models (a collaboration with New York City dancer Nicole Von Arx) wore Hunte’s winter apparel, while Royster’s designs provided the backdrop. The windows are up until December 19.
Despite the ecommerce boom for luxury retail we saw during lockdown, this is one example of how there’s a revival of in-person shopping. “It encourages people to feel life again,” said Hunte. “It’s about being optimistic, thinking outside the box. People want the real-life experience again in stores.”
Ever since he launched his brand in 2014, Hunte has been carving out his brand, which fuses together high art and accessibility. He’s currently working on his fall/winter 2022 collection. “The game has changed a lot,” he says. “We’re in a new era.”
Hunte, who was born and raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn, started out designing womenswear, but quickly noticed men were attracted to the pieces, as he used men’s fabrics in several cases. So, it was easy to organically shift and build a men’s collection.
“I think everyone is looking to me for a message, I think they want more,” he says. “Graffiti, tagging, street slang. I believe in the urban dictionary; street culture is really about self-expression.”
He recently wore a sheer, black veil at the British Fashion Awards celebrating Tommy Hilfiger for his Outstanding Achievement Awards, which garnered buzz.
“I wanted to represent Brooklyn so I wore a Yankee baseball cap, and attached to the bill of the cap was a floor-length veil,” explains Hunte.
The veil was embroidered with several phrases. “It had ‘Pop out,’ which, to me, means be yourself, express yourself, and ‘What’s good,’ which is always a terminology I believe in, its like ‘how are you doing,’” he said.
The veil paid homage to Brooklyn, which the designer says “went through so many eras.”
He’s talking about the 1990s. “One era I appreciate is the hood era, with Biggie Smalls, Lil Kim and Foxy Brown; they spoke to me at a young age about how they styled themselves,” said Hunte. “It’s about creating a narrative, my own way, with my own language of clothing, breaking barriers and starting a new wave—what is formal? What is black tie?”
He recalls a memorable moment from attending this year’s Met Gala, as well. “The first person who came up to me at the Met Gala and said they loved my look was Anna Wintour,” he recalls. “Once I got that compliment, I thought ‘I’m set. What’s good?’”
Recently, Kevin Hart wore one of Hunte’s pieces in his Netflix show True Story.
“So many people can relate to it,” notes Hunte. “I’m not trying to follow anyone’s path, I’m not one of those designers who is copying and pasting everything that’s going on, I really want to create my own wave.”