Raul Lopez is one of the designers we look up to, known for his work as co-founder and designer for HBA (Hood By Air) & starting LUAR to embrace his “inner cha-cha”. LUAR is Raul spelled backward, similar to our reversed “i” for idioma it represents an attitude of turning things on their head. Raul has always inspired us and we only hope this conversation leads to positive insights.
Tell us about your creative ambitions for Luar.
Right now I’ve made it my agenda to see how I can shift the focus of the fashion industry. This includes getting off the NYC calendar and pivoting to new ventures and strategies. If and when I decide to show again, it might be in Paris. NYC isn’t really feeling the same anymore. The city was once a fountain of inspiration for me, but lately it feels as redundant as the fashions that are happening there. I want LUAR to be a global household name with a DNA that will live after I’m gone.
How does your process begin? Do you start with materials or a sketch?
I love to work with tangible objects. I prefer to begin with materials, fabric swatches, trimmings, and printouts. From there I deconstruct garments and materials to drape on a form. I then will transfer it onto my sketch pad and begin the production process.
What is important for you to communicate with your clothing?
LUAR is a reflection of life. I want people to understand my story and to be able to carry a piece of me wherever they go. I’m not a writer so the only way for me to share my story is through my garments and collections. LUAR is for all walks of life.
How do you balance business and creativity?
It’s pretty difficult to juggle both and still be creative. I have been blessed to have a team now that allows me to focus more on the creative. If I could point to any one thing as the most helpful, it would be that organization is definitely key.
Yes! The organization is key, we have noticed that as well. Would you ever work as a creative director for a brand that is not your own?
My dream is to direct a House. Isn’t that one of the highest accolades one can receive as a designer? Thankfully, I’ve had the opportunity to design and consult for major brands, for which I have preferred to remain a ghost designer. The attention of cameras and press actually annoys me!
I feel both love and hate for fashion. I see it’s creative and destructive potential. Do you feel the same?
I love fashion. It’s like the oxygen to my lungs – I just can’t live without it. The way it feels to see my creations come to fruition and move through the world is one of the best feelings I have ever felt in my life. Ever since I was a child seeing my mom sew as I sat beside her, it was like a kid in a candy store. I honestly don’t know what to do other than expressing myself through my garments.
There are times when students come in to intern and I ask them WHY FASHION? It’s an industry that literally makes you give up everything you know. I always say it’s like having a baby – nurturing, feeding, and just giving it your all. In all honesty, not everyone is cut out to be a parent. The demand in fashion right now is ridiculous and pretty much atrocious. Fast Fashion has stifled creatives and essentially prohibited them from expressing themselves due to high demands and consumerism – which in my unfiltered opinion, is just in the name of creating more trash and filling landfills.
What are your thoughts on Dominican Republic’s relationship with fashion?
Where should I start….. Dominican Republic has always been one of my biggest inspirations when designing. To me, there is nothing like riding around on a motoconcho (motorcycle cabs) in this island / urban dystopia full of insanely incredible and original style. The absurd part of it all is that they definitely don’t even realize how cool they actually look and how under appreciated they are by their surroundings. I’m so intrigued by how people who have fewer resources consistently create forward-thinking and innovative silhouettes. Men wear women’s garments because it looks cool, not because it’s mens or women’s. DR has to be one of the most gender-fluid places I’ve ever been – there isn’t anything like barrio style. The way the men and women carry themselves and their mannerisms, it’s like a walking canvas. This is where all the style and inspirations come from for most designers and their mood boards in this internet age. Yet most would never step foot in any of these places nor give the people the credit they deserve. Especially NY Dominicans, it sometimes feels like they go there to look down on those with less and shame them for the way they carry and express themselves. Those same people then turn around and mimic them and love their music, but can’t give them the appreciation they deserve…
When I think of your work, it makes me think of a mixture of futuristic aesthetics & Dominican Catholicism. Would you agree that with Luar you have developed a sensibility that makes your work lighter than at HBA?
When I was creating HBA it was Shayne and my story – it’s definitely lighter. It’s my own story now. It was a different era, you grow and your storyline shifts as you get older. Being raised catholic and having this obsession of living in the future. It definitely plays a huge part in the airiness and shaping of LUAR.
Do you collect art? What contemporary artists are important to you?
I recently started collecting pieces. I commissioned a long time friend Dalton Gata with a gorgeous piece he made for me. I’m looking to commission friends and POC artists. There are some young Dominican artists who I’ve been really interested in working with and collecting. To name a few: Bony Ramirez, Ariel Barett, Edward Frias, and Tiffany Alfonseca. Then we have artist friends: Hulda Guzman, Gustavo Peña, Natalia Ortega Gamaz, Laura Castro, Theresa Chromati, Tschabalala Self, Aya Brown, Armina Mussa, Stewart Woo, Akeem Smith, Maroon World the list can go on lol.
Would you say your work is more technical or conceptual?
If you put both these concepts in a nutribullet, you will definitely have an amazing LUAR smoothie.
How do you personally measure the success of a collection?
When the collection is going down the runway the attitude, the hair, the makeup, the accessories – everything telling a tale from my past and future thoughts in real-time. It’s tapping into a specific moment in my life and letting my hands just take it and make it real. When that story is brought to fruition, then it feels like a success.
Can you tell us about your unrealized projects? Projects that were perhaps too large or small to be realized, or that were censored or self-censored. Is there a project you wouldn’t dare to do?
The quarantine has really inspired me to step out into the art world in a different way. I love furniture design which has been one of my biggest ambitions recently. I’m also working on some more sculptural art pieces. There are some other projects I can’t talk about right now, but there isn’t any project I wouldn’t take on unless it goes against my morals and beliefs. Other than that, throw them my way and let’s play a game!