America has a new fashion player.
Robert Liptak has introduced a new look for Los Angeles-based label RtA with his auspicious pre-fall men’s and women’s collections debuting for buyers this week in New York.
“RtA was very dark and gothic. I’m bringing more sexiness, playfulness and mystery,” said Liptak, who arrived at the brand three months ago after working as senior designer for women’s ready-to-wear at Tom Ford, and before that in positions for Saint Laurent, Anthony Vaccarello and Rick Owens.
Established in L.A. in 2013, RtA, which stands for Road to Awe, has had a rock ‘n’ roll streetwear vibe, with lots of leather, logos and crosses but not much character.
After launching its first womenswear line exclusively with Bergdorf Goodman, RtA expanded into menswear in 2017 and was named a finalist of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. At Saks. Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and other stores, it has been positioned primarily as a denim brand and hasn’t had much of a fashion profile in recent years.
Liptak is changing that, adding a higher level of workmanship and a luxury gloss to the advanced contemporary label.
The women’s pre-fall collection includes great-looking 1930s-met-’90s bias-cut and knotted devoré silk dresses, handkerchief hem skirts, playful silk georgette bra tops with ruffle details and slinky jersey pieces, all sexy in keeping with the moment, but also easy and sophisticated. “The idea is to make it tight where it needs to be tight and loose where it needs to be loose,” he explained of his vision of body con, adding that the collar bone was a favorite erogenous zone on the black, beige and chocolate brown lineup.
He elevated denim with cool swirling laser-cut zebra stripe velvet treatments and leather with plonge racer tops and drawstring pants with faggoting stitch embroidery details.
The designer introduced tailoring, which he’s been doing for the last seven years at other labels, with silk cady jackets and drawstring pants; brought a street-style spirit to outerwear with a mirrored trench and chevron parkas, and launched cut-and-sew jersey as a core offering, including liquid jersey T-shirts, hooded cowl tops and bias-cut skirts.
For men, Liptak referenced the film “Fight Club” and Las Vegas, where RtA has a store at the Wynn resort. He loosened up the tailoring, with a half canvas, half wool jacket and baggy pants; easy nylon suits; drop needle knit tank tops, and a fab allover trapunto stitched white leather bomber with poker chip, cigarette, martini glasses and Las Vegas skyline motifs.
On the more casual side, there are nylon parachute pants and parkas in sandy pink or pale blue, leather cargos pants and shorts, swirl jacquard sweaters and zebra stripe denim carried over from the women’s.
The collection hits stores, including the RtA boutiques in Las Vegas, New York and L.A., in April.
For the moody launch video, he tapped an impressive team, including Ricardo Gomes to art direct, Honey Dijon for sound design and Madonna’s stylist Rita Melssen for styling. “I want to always co-create, not necessarily a collaboration, but create something new. I want to make sure everyone who is in my videos or campaigns has a story, somebody up and coming who is just about to make it, someone like me,” he said.
One of his model muses in the video is Memphis Murphy, otherwise known as DJ Memphy. “I remember Anthony [Vaccarello] always told me he was inspired by Zoë Kravitz. And when I saw Memphy I said she’s my Zoë, but taller and edgier and more underground,” Liptak said. The other muse is Khalil Ghani, who has modeled for Burberry. “He’s Riccardo’s friend, and we got introduced and he was very goofy and funny. I wanted our menswear to be more playful and open. And I wanted to create a couple that would work together.”
Liptak moved to L.A. three months before the pandemic. “Tom is very smart and I got to learn a lot from him in terms of referencing, movies and visuals,” he said of his experience with Ford, whose future in women’s ready-to-wear is a question mark after he sold his business to The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. earlier this month. Still, Liptak was on the brink of leaving the city until he met RtA founder David Rimokh, whose family owns licensee company Signal Brands.
“I was missing Europe and I felt very disconnected here. And then I met David and it sparked something because I saw the potential….He said he wanted to bring it higher. It felt right inside,” Liptak said. “I know there’s a lot of creative brands right now happening in L.A. and the community is really growing. I want to put RtA on the map.”
Priority number one is emotion. “I want to bring a feeling to RtA.…That was the first thing that I said to David. I said I don’t think the brand has any feeling. You have nice clothes, but I don’t feel anything.”
The brand is elevating prices by about 20 percent, and shifting production from Asia to Europe, primarily Italy and Portugal. Prices for prefall are $145 to $2,995, and Liptak hopes it could sit in stores next to Jacquemus, Acne, Off-White, Casablanca and other edgier new brands.
RtA has global ambitions, starting with moving its showroom to Paris in January. (Aaron Stout, formerly director of wholesale for the Americas at Burberry, is the brand’s global vice president of wholesale.)
“It’s important for me to meet people in Paris and change their idea of RtA. I want to let them know there can be a brand that comes from the U.S. that’s not just commercial but is also elevated in terms of workmanship and visuals,” Liptak said.
He will host a launch party during Paris Fashion Week, introduce eyewear and accessories next year, and hold runway shows starting in 2024. Until then, new collections will be released via video.
“What’s exciting for me is having the freedom to do what I want…being able to work with photographers who have a cool crowd around them,” he said. “I want to create something people are talking about.”