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.”