Jerome LaMaar was getting ready to call it a night recently, when Beyoncé texted to invite him backstage to her concert at Citifield.
“It was very cool. I was at home getting ready for bed when I got the text. I had to get my energy going again and get over there. It was about 15 minutes before the show. It was amazing,” LaMaar said. “Miss Tina had seen some of the pieces I’d done for Beyoncé backstage. She fell in love with it and wanted to know if it was possible to turn that into a jumper.”
That would be “yes.” And Knowles repaid the favor, so to speak, by Instagramming a photo of herself wearing Jerome 5:31 and suggesting fans “check out this young talented designer.” They have and, as a result, LaMaar has been fielding e-mails, orders and calls. He added, “That Bey, I have to say just changed everything.”
Beyoncé has been commissioning pieces from Lamaar for a few years. Stylist Zerina Akers connected them after checking out the 5:31 Jérôme collection in his store 9J in The Bronx’s emerging Port Morris area. After Beyoncé was photographed wearing one of his coats to the Billboard Awards and a Taylor Swift party on the same day, Patricia Field caught a glimpse of it, contacted Lamaar and later hooked him up with Dover Street Market for a collaboration.
Staging a show in Dubai for a client has created a following there. And U.S. stores are showing more interest, but LaMaar is moving forward with measured steps. “The important thing is that we don’t overextend. We want the brand to grow at a steady rate,” he said.
A fifth-generation New Yorker, LaMaar raced into fashion at the age of 15, joining Kimora Lee Simmons at Baby Phat for a seven-year run. After a stint at Chado Ralph Rucci, he got into trend forecasting with Promostyl. In spring 2014, he launched 5:31 Jérôme, a name that borrows from his birthday. In April, with his business partner Adam Pichirilo, he opened the South Bronx design studio and shop, which also sells art and fashion from Joe by Joe, David Cavaliero, John L. Goodman, John Paul O’Grodnick, Ron Draper and Prince Franco of Miny.
LaMaar will show again during New York Fashion Week in September, as he did in February through MilkMade. In October, he will present the collection in Paris to try to build the international base of stores. He also has collaborated with Samsung for the “Next Big Thing” project, an ad campaign which ran across print, digital and TV outlets.
“I’m in the South Bronx so how girly can you get? But my space is so polished it relays to people what I’ve been trying to say for a long time,” he said. “We keep pushing ‘Streetglam for the Hyperfemme’ — you know, the hair is done, nails are done, looking pretty, smelling good, feeling good.”