After taking an 18-month break from showing, Jerome LaMaar will return to New York Fashion Week Feb. 6 at Tumblr’s headquarters. Five years after he started his collection, the designer has spent two years building up his 9J online business and boutique in the Bronx. Through advising other designers, he said he developed a better sense for what to sell in the store, he said. “What I learned in this process was that customers didn’t really care about other brands. When they came to the store, they wanted pieces from me.”
LaMaar is all about figuring out what makes his customers come to the Bronx to shop. Beyoncé and Tina Knowles helped to raise his profile two years ago by wearing his designs and posting their support. Cardi B’s stylist Kollin Carter has pulled pieces from his line, and Carter recently told WWD that LaMaar is on their wish list. “And she’s from the Bronx,” LaMaar said.
Guests at his “very simple” presentation will find the designer’s fragrance, eyewear, bedding, chairs, furniture and unisex men’s wear. The plan is to show buy-now unisex styles that can be purchased immediately. The color palette has also been toned down, with black, ash and dark navy being some of the options. To signal this rebirth, he is using the symbol of the phoenix. “Think about how the Bronx is having a rebirth. I’m from the Bronx and my store is here. Since I took some time off, the industry has been changing so much. So I’m reintroducing myself, my brand, my aesthetic — my own rebirth.”
Following customers’ suggestions, LaMaar will showing a series of wardrobe-building items. “I’m building off the 80-20 method. We only use about 20 percent of our wardrobes, so I want to introduce items that can fill that gap,” he said, adding that outerwear will be the starting point for the nine-piece collection and additional items will be introduced in subsequent seasons.
The designer is counting on his followers, whom he calls “jreamers,” to buy the collection. He switched his focus from women’s wear to men’s wear, after determining through social media that most of his followers are men. “That’s why I’ve switched gears to creating more unisex clothing and that is allowing me to tackle the men’s wear market in my own whimsical, glamorous way. And the ‘jreamers’ seem to support it, which is cool.”
“Being very vertical is a new direction that I am taking. But this is the way the fashion industry is going,” LaMaar said. “We’re moving in this more genderless realm. The idea is to explore, ‘Who is this person. Maybe he wants to wake up and wear a slipdress and jeans. Maybe she wants to wear an oversized men’s coat.”
And LaMaar got another sign of rebirth Friday, when his landlord told him he will need to move at the end of February to make way for another party. The designer plans to celebrate with a big party. “This season really is about rebirth,” he said.