Dressing everyone from The Weeknd, to Zendaya, Hailey Bieber, Michelle Obama, and Beyonce, Romeo Hunte has been tipped as one of the hottest fashion designers to land in 2021.
Adored for his luxe streetwear pieces, which draws on his athletic background and ‘mixed media’ signature, 2021 has been a big year for the Brooklyn native, attending the Met Gala alongside Lewish Hamilton and collaborating with Tommy Hilfiger.
From now till December 19th, Romeo is dressing an elaborate holiday window trio in the mecca of New York City fashion, SoHo. Almost one-third of small businesses in this iconic downtown neighborhood have closed during the pandemic.
Akin to the classic 5th Avenue windows, these vacant storefronts have been transformed into inspired ‘windows of art’ to literally turn the lights back on creatives this holiday season.
The windows not only spotlight diverse creative artforms but are designed to bring foot traffic to the respective businesses around downtown New York. Live for just a few more days, this elaborate trio of windows ultimately provides a platform for emerging creatives and brings people together this holiday season.
We sat down with the “Designer to Watch” to discuss where he’s been, what he’s doing now, and where he is headed.
You were dubbed as one of the hottest fashion designers of 2021. What sets you apart from the rest?
I think for me it’s my drive, passion, and perseverance for what I do. I’m always thinking outside the box and thinking BIG! I’ve been called a visionary many times, so I’m always thinking of ways to elevate any ideas or concepts in my own unique way that is innovative, fresh, and cool.
What role does your Brooklyn background play in your career today?
I was raised in Brooklyn, so a lot of the street style, especially from the ’90s, is compatible with the ethos of Romeo Hunte and the DNA of the brand. When I was younger my mother dressed me in very preppy clothes. I was first introduced to the world of streetwear when I started school – that’s when I began to combine preppy and street aesthetics. I’ve always strived to find a balance between sportswear, business, and street elements. My objective has always been to rewrite the narrative between luxury and urban street style through my designs.
How does your work pay homage to New York City? Does it translate to other cultural hubs as well?
New York City has played a big part in my journey as a designer and serves as an inspiration for the brand. For example, my latest collection with Tommy Hilfiger was all about bringing together our two creative worlds – Tommy’s Manhattan prep and my Brooklyn street style. We’ve woven these influences into the collection through some of the detailing. For example, for the preppy button-down shirt, we took Tommy’s heritage oxford shirt and reimagined it in the colors of the New York City subway.
Romeo Hunte pieces definitely translate to other cultural hubs. I’ve designed in a way for all and yet with a touch of my culture in it. If you take a look at my designs it's really all about classic, luxury streets with intricate details.
In addition to my collections, my most recent collaboration for the Bombay Sapphire holiday storefronts is absolutely a homage to New York City! I was thrilled to partner on this with the heritage gin brand Bombay Sapphire, as it aims to celebrate small businesses, emerging fellow creatives like artist Shavante Royster who created the stunning artistic backdrop and spray can bottles for our collab, and retailers in the city who've been affected by the pandemic - and of course the city's hustle and spirit in time for the holidays.
How is your work changing the landscape of streetwear as we know it?
My collections consist of many gender fluid and versatile pieces. These are big elements of streetwear today and my brand is further supporting this effort. I also don’t produce my collections in huge quantities. I strive to make each piece really special and really exclusive. Streetwear is all about the buzziest, hottest trends.
Can you talk a bit about your “mixed media” signature?
The idea of reinvention has long been part of my brand’s DNA. Whether it’s taking a trench coat and turning it into a dress by removing sleeves or combining business casual wear and sportswear to create a blazer-hoodie and denim-and-leather jacket-coat hybrid, I’m always looking for ways to break the mold.
I strive to change up narratives through mixed media. For example business casual to business street by mixing those roles together and adding some key things I love, like very sporty and very dressy elements. I want my pieces to be very flexible and gender-fluid, statement-making but also wearable.
You’ve dressed a wide host of influential figures, ranging from Michelle Obama to Hailey Beiber to Beyonce. Can you talk a little bit about the process of working with such household names?
It’s truly so exciting when I get to dress an influential person. I always try to create a look that makes them feel confident and creates a statement but ensures that it suits their personality. For example, when it came down to Michelle, she wanted me to be myself and stay true to my design but also make something that was tailored to her. She is a working woman so that was a lot of inspiration for her look.
How do you maintain a consistent brand image, but alter your designs to fit each individual’s style?
I think what works for me is the experience I had working in luxury retail at a young age. I've learned and understood what customers are looking for and what they’re not.
Can you talk about your experience working with Tommy Hilfiger? How is his very established brand helping you grow your emerging brand?
Working with Tommy Hilfiger has been such an inspiring and memorable experience. I integrated archival looks and fabrics that Tommy used over the years and transformed them into my own brand. Tommy gave me the freedom to go into the Tommy Hilfiger archives and reinvent and upcycle them into something entirely new, merging the narratives of both our brands. Tommy has been a wonderful mentor and taught me so many lessons. This collaboration provided an international platform for my designs but also an opportunity to share my voice as a designer. Brands have an incredible platform, opportunity, and responsibility to lead by example when it comes to diversity and inclusion and Tommy has been leading the charge.
What do you think the biggest trend will be in 2022? How are you getting ahead of the curve?
I think I’m always ahead of the curve. For example, when I collaborated with Tommy we created a huge impact in the industry. Menswear is picking up greatly and I’m glad to be a part of it!
What has been your biggest accomplishment in 2021? What are you most excited about in 2022?
My biggest accomplishment in 2021 was my collection collaboration with iconic designer Tommy Hilfiger.
In 2022 I am excited for all of the new projects I have coming up! Stay tuned!
Photography by: Courtesy Romeo Hunte