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How This Designer Paves the Way for Gender-Fluid Fashion

The future of fashion is fluid.

This was the overcharging theme Tuesday during the “Gender Fluidity in Fashion – The Conversation Continues” fireside chat at Project New York with Edwina Kulego, Informa Markets Fashion VP of international and business development and Jérôme LaMaar, designer, creative director and stylist. 

The conversation builds on Project New York’s—a contemporary men’s and gender-fluid brands trade show—previous fireside chat with Kulego, Rob Smith, the CEO and founder of The Phluid Project, a gender-free brand that specializes in selling clothing, accessories and beauty for the LGBTQIA+ community, and Travis Weaver, founder of the gender-neutral brand One DNA Clothing, where the trio weighed in on how the industry is making space for gender fluidity and what that means to fashion as a whole.

To be inclusive on a larger scale, Project New York invited LaMaar, a leader in the fashion-fluid industry, to see how they “approach fashion with fluidity.”

“Many people associate gender-fluid fashion with a particular community [such as LGBTQIA+], but that’s not the case. Gender-fluid fashion is for everyone,” Kulego said. “Last season, we kept it general and spoke about fluidity within fashion on a grand scale. Now, we have someone who embodies fluid fashion, and giving them the space to speak on their own behalf is very special.”

Jerome Lamaar Rice and Edwina Kulego
Jérôme LaMaar, designer, creative director and stylist, and Edwina Kulego, Informa Markets Fashion VP of international and business development. Rivet

Entering the fashion industry

LaMaar started their career at age 15, working for Kimora Lee Simmons, owner of the urban apparel brand Baby Phat. This “life-changing” opportunity landed on their lap after giving a speech at their high school’s internship program event. “I stood in front of a group of people to talk my crap and basically got recruited on the spot by Kimora’s team,” LaMaar said. 

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While working at Baby Phat, LaMaar was in a “fast-paced, loud and colorful” environment which they described as “the perfect place for me.” It’s here that the designer learned how to express themself, showcase their talent and help tell a “new narrative.” 

“I had a dream about working for Baby Phat, and I made that dream come true,” LaMaar said. “Being a little Black boy from the Bronx, it was so cool that they allowed me to express myself and showcase what was happening in the streets.”

But that was just the beginning of LaMaar’s career. After eight years at the company from 2000-2008, LaMaar began their own retail journey, creating their brand 5:31 Jérôme.

Channeling inspiration from “fluid” singers like Prince, André 3000 and David Bowie, LaMaar’s brand dove deep into gender fluidity, creating clothing that was “fashionable and felt comfortable” while still “playing” with the idea of what gender could be. 

Singer and actress Beyonce Knowles enters Cipriani Wall Street on Dec. 12, 2014 in New York City. Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images

However, success did not come easily.

In fact, it wasn’t until Beyoncé was spotted wearing a plum wool and crystal coat to Billboard’s Women in Music 2014 event that the young designer caught the attention of a wider audience. 

“I had just left two back-to-back meetings with Jeffrey’s and Barneys where neither of the retailers knew what to do with my clothing,” LaMaar said. “So, in my second season, I decided to give up and gave the rest of my clothing to Beyoncé’s stylist. Little did I know the next day she would be photographed wearing one of my looks.”

After the “Single Ladies” singer was spotted wearing the coat, LaMaar’s brand blew up on social media which they claim was “the moment Beyoncé changed my life.”

Shortly after, LaMaar started styling celebrities including Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Hailey Bieber and more.

A sold-out And Now This 5:31 look on Courtesy of Macy’s

Now, LaMaar has a new gender-fluid brand that reaches an even greater audience. And Now This 5:31 “made history” as Macy’s first gender-fluid brand to sell out within two weeks.

“Fluidity for me comes from playing with the spectrum,” LaMaar said. “I want to wake people up to the idea of something new, and I think we’re finally being liberated to tell our own narratives.”