LUAR: Diasporic Sartorial

Text by
Jeppe Ugelvig

A finalist of CFDA/Vogue fashion fund, LUAR is the reversed namesake label of Dominican-born, Williamsburg-based designer Raul Lopez.

If contemporary New York was a fashion brand, it would look something like Luar. Diasporic, corporate, glamorous, and femme all at once, the young label has in just a couple of seasons outlined a returning posse of delightfully heterogeneous personas who delight in power, fame and fun. From the offices of Midtown to the Hasidic Jewish community centers of Williamsburg, from the ballrooms of Harlem to the galleries of the Lower East Side, Luar reads as a scrambled, social topography of the city, a sartorial image that only a native New Yorker would be able to procure.

Indeed, Luar’s founder and creative director Raul Lopez hails from Williamsburg, where he still works and lives. A fashion autodidact of Dominican descent, he began making garments at the age of twelve and soon began traversing the clubs and parties of Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. In the mid-2000s, he helped Shayne Oliver establish Hood by Air, and it is perhaps his early involvement with the (now) ubiquitous NYC brand that makes Luar’s deconstructed, high-drama silhouettes feel so familiar, so appealing. Occupying various design roles in the city between the worlds of nightlife and fashion, he later launched his (reversed) namesake label Luar Zepol, but after taking a two-year hiatus, he was re-born simply as Luar. For his SS18 collection, the brand’s first formal presentation, he presented a subversive musing into High Corporate Aesthetics, manifesting through a portfolio of ‘80s power suits and crisp white button-down shirts, dis-and re-assembled and juxtaposed with Pony fur bodysuits showing lots of skin—all kept in a sophisticated palette of neutrals and occasionally embellished with rhinestone crystals outlining his romantically cursive logo.

While the Luar (wo)man may channel Park Avenue Exec, she is also avant-garde Belgian in the 1980s, your Dominican aunt, and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Aquaria. “She is complex,” Lopez explains of his un-specified muse, who occupies a variety of femme genders and non-white ethnicities. “She loves a night out on Dyckman Street [in New York’s Inwood area], but also lives for an elegant and classy moment.”

Unfolding in the very nexus of the art/music/club world, and fueled largely by the fast-paced virality of Web 2.0 (right now, fashion, it seems, is best consumed as an image on your phone), Luar joins New York’s revived underground fashion scene as its unacknowledged instigator: considering his early involvement with HBA, we might understand Lopez’s humorous, gender-bending sartorial vision to be serving as a cornerstone of the city’s current downtown fashion. But while many of his younger Insta-peers lack in technical ability, Lopez has, in just a little over a year, proved that his clothes are meant for beyond the iPhone screen; two seasons in, it’s already clear that tailoring is his strong suit, and that he offers seriously wearable product. It’s undoubtedly this self-assured weightiness, combined with an advanced understanding of how fashion interacts with popular culture, that has brought Lopez a celebrity following that includes Rihanna, Kylie Jenner, Future, Kendrick Lamar, Solange Knowles and Tyga—and a nomination to the 2018 Vogue Fashion Fund.

Image courtesy of LUAR, New York

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