An Interview With Designer Romeo Hunte Who Dresses Beyoncé and Zendaya
He is well on his way to becoming a household name.
Not many people would turn down a scholarship to college for track and field. Fewer would do so in order to attend fashion school. But for Romeo Hunte, forgoing his full rides to both Long Island University and St. Francis College to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology was a relatively easy decision. “Making that choice was kind of a fork in the road for me but I just knew I had to do fashion,” says the Brooklyn native, who was just as well known for his personal style as his athletic abilities in high school. “My grandmother taught me how to sew and starting when I was 13, I used to take my mother’s old vintage clothes, cut them up and reassemble them,” says Romeo. “Fashion was just always there for me. It was in me.”
While honing his technical craft in school, Romeo did something that is key for anyone hoping to pursue a career in fashion (take note!): he worked and interned within various sectors of the industry. “I had a part-time job in luxury retail as a personal shopper and also interned at Prada in their marketing department,” explains the designer, who says his time in retail later influenced his brand because he understood what real women wanted to wear. “The internship that was most interesting to me was at Vibe Magazine in the fashion department,” he continues. “I learned about sample trafficking and witnessed how much hard work goes into a magazine. I learned so much and it has all stuck with me to today.”
Upon finishing school, Romeo began booking styling gigs and creating custom designs for clients, two of which remain at the center of his collection today: a striped shirtdress and red checkered shawl. “The shawl is very transitional and can be styled in many ways. I noticed that both the younger and older customer were both attracted to it so it’s something I always wanted to keep present,” he explains. Pretty soon, industry insiders began to take notice of his garments when clients wore them at events, and Romeo decided to officially launch his line for pre-fall in January of 2014. Little did he know, he would gain his first celebrity client, Zendaya, that same year. “I met with her stylist, Law Roach, and he was digging everything in the collection,” says Romeo. “Zendaya had a press week coming up and ended up wearing Romeo Hunte three times during it. Seeing the way she carried each look with confidence and sophistication—I felt like I’d completed a piece of my vision.”
His label increasingly gained traction as he met more celebrities, stylists, and editors, and became known for having transitional outerwear and wearable statement pieces at its core. But it was a black and white striped wrap dress custom made for none other than Beyoncé herself that would truly solidify him as a serious young fashion talent. “That custom dress broke the internet. I wanted to do something very sexy yet classic and clean for her. Something very Beyoncé but also Romeo Hunte,” says the designer, who finished off his masterpiece by lining it with 300 brass buttons. “When she tried it on, it fit perfectly. It was so good.” The icing on the cake? “She wore it on my birthday,” remembers Romeo. “I was on vacation and was about to go to the beach when I got the text. I started flipping out, jumping around the hotel room.”
Though the aforementioned professional highlights are stand-outs, there have been many other freak-out worthy moments for Romeo since starting his brand, like seeing Winnie Harlow, Lupita Nyong’o, and Laverne Cox wearing his designs, and getting to attend the 2016 Met Gala. “Always believe in yourself and keep on pushing,” he advises to others hoping to follow suit. “It’s a tough industry, you just have to keep on going—you never know what’s around the corner.” Who knows, maybe one day it’ll be an it-girl wearing your creation.