West Indian, Brooklyn born designer Romeo Hunte launched his namesake brand in 2014. He drew inspiration from the uncut activity he saw from outside his Brooklyn apartment during the 1990s, namely neighborhood residents sporting oversized, saggy jeans and hoodies while shooting dice on the corner. His life and aesthetic were also influenced by music videos from the same era; just think of the Ruff Ryders, Notorious B.I.G., Foxy Brown, and Lil Kim for reference. His Barbadian Bajan mother prevented him from wearing sneakers as a child which would force him to have to decide between a shoe or a boot before starting middle school; thus, depriving him of true self-expression through clothing.

Fast forward a few years…. Romeo, the high school athlete, break dancer and DJ, somehow found his way to The Fashion Institute of Technology after teaching himself how to sketch and draw at the age of 13. He attributes his increased interest in design to the late editor André Leon Talley. Although basketball was his first love, his short stature wasn’t conducive to successfully making it to the NBA.

Today, Romeo, the father who credits his mother and daughter for his main reasons for launching his namesake brand, is a full-fledged designer who has been featured in Ebony, Forbes, Vogue and has made appearances on national television but most impressively at the Met Gala. Zendaya was one of the first celebrities to be spotted in his designs soon followed by Beyoncé and even Former First Lady Michelle Obama who Romeo cherishes dearly. Lewis Hamilton, Vic Mensa, Chris Paul, and Nick Jonas are just some of the men who’ve been seen wearing Romeo Hunte.

In continuation, Romeo, who is widely known for his signature buffalo check, which is frequently featured within his collections, reflects, and reacts to the support he has and has yet to receive, his motivations, ongoing relationship with designer and mentor, Tommy Hilfiger and more.

Why did you want your own label?

When I was younger, I had a wide variety of amazing concepts and ideas. In truth, I prefer concept design and building the collection from there. At the time, I felt that working as a designer for a brand like Nike or Timberland was unreachable. I had the impression that those opportunities were non-existent for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, but not too long ago, it was challenging to get internships and/or design work for one of the brands or designers who had inspired me. I was aware could bring a lot to the table wherever I was, but before I could approach one of those brands, I would need to build a portfolio and establish my personal brand further because the initial questions they would ask me were “Who’d you work for before?” and “Where’s your body of work?” Doing things on my own felt easier and more realistic.

Where did the capital come from? How was the procedure carried out, what paperwork was required and what measure of time did it require?

Initially I had no resources, but just by being present in the right places at the right times and interacting with the right people, I was able to receive recommendations from previous internships for factories that were willing to produce my ideas and samples. Although this may sound cliché, I only had a little cash which I had saved up from my then personal shopping job. I had only $5000 to launch the brand. I also created custom bespoke items for select clients which also contributed to the increase in incoming capital. I really appreciated that because once they understood what I was trying to accomplish, they approached me with a purpose because they wanted to wear and support my brand but also invite me to special invite only/VIP events.

While attending these events, networking was very important to me in building the brand. It happened organically because people were either drawn to me or my outfit. In terms of the procedure, the initial step was registering my brand’s name and logo; once your paperwork has been submitted, it typically takes between eight and twelve months for it to be approved. Upon approval, you can start moving forward to the next steps of the process.

When we last spoke, you mentioned the word overlooked to me. Do you still feel that way?

Yes, I still feel there are difficulties present within some areas. I’ve grown a lot within the business and am grateful for the support from the publications, editors, and stylists. Having said that, I still feel that there is a shortage in the amount of support I believe I deserve. I admire some designers who do have that backing; some of them I know personally, and those people wouldn’t be who they are today had they not received the level of support they did. I’ve managed to survive as a namesake brand thanks to my mentor, Tommy Hilfiger who has given me a lot of advice and been in my corner.

Although press is great, I do not believe it makes a brand. It works well for establishing your label’s legitimacy, but it requires so much more. I’ve spoken with buyers, and one of them had even said, “If you were a part of this particular program, we would buy into your brand in a minute, but since you aren’t, I can’t.” Those policies have nothing to do with the merchandise or clothing, but simply politics. As a Black designer, we really must work twice as hard, and we are often pigeonholed.

What might the help you look for resemble?

Consulting! You are aware that there comes a time when a collection’s credibility is based not only on its clothes but also on its marketing, public relations, photographer, and stylist. Outside of the product itself, where it is stocked also matters. Additionally, financial backing; similar to me, there are many other designers who do not receive the necessary funding to be able to succeed. It is not a charity case; I have been doing this for an extended time, and I am aware that it is a hustle. It is disappointing because I am truly passionate about it. There will always be the possibility that I may not be the designer that those grant providers or investors are looking for.

The leather, the denim, and the oversized fits. It presents a vibe that is reminiscent of the 90s and early 2000s era of hip-hop, and even if no one knew you were from Brooklyn, it would present itself that way. Is that what you were going for?

It is without a doubt a reflection of New York. By referring to my previous lookbooks, every look showcased the presence of a yellow cab somewhere in the background of the shot. I’ve always been inspired by the New York woman who has a lot to do; the woman who is leaving work to attend an event. I have a way of designing whether it’s creating a hybrid or through deconstruction. I will say that the clothes I make for that woman were drawn from men’s closets, which explains the feminized masculine appeal made to be effortlessly sexy. The same way that certain designers view the Eiffel Tower; is my perspective of the Brooklyn Bridge because that is where I live; it’s the foundation point of my existence.

In another interview, I read you had an infatuation with the Urban Dictionary. Can you expound?

It’s a form of self-expression. People have their own way of marketing, such as how they walk and talk while presenting their collections to their audience. Everyone is always talking about shop this, do that, go here, new look you’ve seen it; it’s that fashion lingo. “Fly, fresh, etc.,” on the other hand, is my personal preference when I’m describing looks or items within my collections. That was my generation and how we showcased our individuality: Think about the phrase “What’s Good…” it possesses multiple meanings and can change the direction of the response or outcome depending on the tone in which it is used.

Let’s discuss Tommy Hilfiger now. You are his first Black designer collaborator. How did it all begin? Discuss this relationship with me.

Tommy is practically like family; he is my mentor and my friend who I speak to once every two days or so. Believe it or not, we share many similarities; one of the most important factors is that, like me, he had to deal with a lot of trials and tribulations when he first launched his brand. It took the industry some time to warm up to him, and I also feel like I’m still getting used to it. Tommy’s been in my corner for quite some time now and we really met via his family and have maintained a connection. He’s always telling me to keep going and not to let certain things distract me.

Prior to the pandemic, we collaborated on our first project together in which I was given access to his archives and reinterpreted those looks for today’s audience using my vision. We held that show at FIT, which was amazing to return to as an alumnus and demonstrate to current students that “You too can do that one day.” There were approximately a thousand people, including students, publications’ editors, and writers in attendance.

If I may speak on his behalf, he recalls the difficulties he faced while developing his brand, making him “The God Father” as I call him capable of comprehending my situation.

Continuing with Tommy, how has he assisted you thus far?

I think that every young designer needs guidance and a mentor. Even if you feel like you have everything you need to be a creative or a designer, you may not know how to build the brand completely; things that are on the side that deal with logistics. He has assisted with that, but as I mentioned earlier, we have collaborated with one another which is remarkable because you rarely see that. He gave me full backing for our second collaboration which took place during the lockdown, necessitating a lot of Zoom meetings while working with his Amsterdam HQ team in a very short amount of time. When the world reopened, we launched that and inquiries about a third collection shortly followed.

You’ve also partnered with Amazon, what do you believe is drawing in these organizations to the Romeo Hunte brand?

I believe it begins with my design technique particularly if a specific brand is known for classic pieces and they want to take a moment to step out of their box, be disruptive or edgy and add some swag. If that’s the direction a specific brand is hoping to explore, I’m the kid to call.

Last one, what do you want people to know about you and your label?

One thing I want the industry to know is that my partnerships and collaborations with the businesses/brands I’ve worked with thus far have been excellent. I want people to know that I’m prepared to work as a creative director at a luxury brand. With the educational training and professional experience, I possess, I believe that I can provide support in both form and function. I am confident in my ability to deliver. Having said that, Romeo Hunte would continue to exist as a brand because it is my baby. I haven’t said that enough so thank you for asking.

I also want everyone to know that I am involved in all aspects of the business when it comes to my label. I had to build the label’s structure to make sure everything was seamless from design to PR to marketing. I do have a great team, so I want to give them credit because there are other designers on the team who help make the magic happen. My family in the garment district also provides us with the necessary resources to make a collection in New York City, which can be quite expensive.

IG (Brand): @Romeohunte

IG (Personal): @mr.rh



27 junio 2023 — Romeo Hunte
Etiquetas: CFDA