Backstage at the New York Fashion Week: Men’s presentation, models were prepped in a naturally illuminated backstage Pier 59 Studios space, while Bad Bunny tracks filled the high ceilings and soundtracked the final preparations for all hands involved to bring the Luar Fall/Winter 2018 collection to life. Raul Lopez – the New York City-bred, Dominican designer behind the radical garments about to hit the runway – orchestrated final preparations, assuring garments were donned to his specifications, and the models captured the necessary pace and energy to showcase his creations accordingly. Since departing from now-defunct fashion brand Hood By Air, with whom Lopez co-found alongside partner Shayne Oliver, Raul has found Luar (his first name backward) as the outlet to reference himself and his own experiences in more profound ways.
“I’m referencing myself in a different way, this is more in depth. [With HBA,] I was referencing the things I was seeing and enjoying while it was happening,” he tells me over the phone following the show.
Raul broke down some of the themes and ideas driving the collection. The words “Feminine Destruction” rested on the back of one jacket in the collection – an ode, Raul tells me, to the name of a trans woman from the ballroom scene he adored. “She used to vogue, she still does, and I used to live for her, and just that name Feminine Destruction is so fab,” he says.
Even as models rehearsed their runway walks, not all were fashioned in Luar pieces just yet – one model, sporting a crisp white Polo undershirt, paired with maroon True Religions draped over a pair of white AF1s, along with another, rocking a jacket with an airbrushed heart-shaped design on the back reading “babygirl,” blended effortlessly amongst the avant-garde Luar garments even in their own uptown threads. This, a clear testament to the spaces Raul Lopez himself operates within in his personal life, and weaves together through his creations. Raul casts all his models, but he asserts that while diversity initiatives in casting may be on trend for runway shows and fashion house, his model casting decisions pay tribute to the diversity all around him in his life, “I don’t see diversity… I’m not into that little trend that’s going on right now. I’ve always been that, as I’ve always been in every scene.. it’s just me.”
The menswear collection, an unapologetically androgynous series of garments, can most aptly be described as Raul’s futuristic vision of inner-city fashions accessible today, influenced by Raul’s own Dominican heritage, his presence in the club and rave scene, and his New York City day-to-day living.
Luar’s Fall 2018 collection delivers a monolith of elements from previous collections, a result of Lopez drawing inspiration from all the spaces he exists within, in all capacities of time, even those yet to come. Raul says, “Luar is just an interpretation of my life, my subconscious and my actual conscious, so I just usually take everything from experiences from my present, past, future, and things that I want to do.”
Blazers in the collection are a nod to the formal attire in quinceañeras, while certain bottom pieces reference the bygone JNCO jean eras of Lopez’s youth. A few pieces played on an artful take on silhouettes, a black zip-up jacket with additional jacket arm sleeves protruding from the center zipper trim, along with a pair of faux leather trousers with a draped blazer sewn into the right leg at the hip, offering an updated take on the jacket over the shoulder silhouette. Some pieces sported bedazzled stones forming a playful calligraphy sporting the brand name, reminiscent of the mid 2000s Baby Phat aesthetic.
Raul Lopez brilliantly executes his vision through the proportions and the details of the garments he produces and redefines the too often gendered nature of individual pieces. This collection and its presentation persist to reference Raul and his experiences, as was most apparent through one literal stand-out model who smoothly walked the runway in stilts – inspired by all the scaffolding around New York City. Raul assures me that he can find inspiration from anything, even the most mundane: “There’s so much always going on in New York, from gum on the floor to somebody’s hair tie, I’m always looking at something.” With creations informed by lavish quinceañeras, gritty inner city living and the underground club scene, Raul Lopez is poised to continue to create garments leading us into his vision of a very fly, and very unabashed future.