There is a very palpable energy to a Rochambeau fashion show. Whereas most shows there is a buzz before the models start walking down the runway, at a Rochambeau show, it’s more of a rowdy commotion. It feels like a party, but one where you don’t exactly know what’s going to happen next so there’s an air of tension and mystery in the room.
Another part of that vibe comes from the people that Rochambeau designers Laurence Chandler and Joshua Cooper keep around them, both in the audience and on the runway. It’s essentially the cool kid table, whether that’s pro skater Eli Reed and Olympic fencer Miles Chamley-Watson modeling the clothes, or rapper Lil Durk and Public School designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow in the front row. What’s unique is that the boldfaced names aren’t gimmicky. These aren’t people that are only there to be seen. The folks in Chandler and Cooper’s orbit seem to genuinely be down with the avant garde brand, which was recently named a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award.
Then there’s the clothes. While certain pieces may seem a little out there at first glance, when you take a step back you realize that the garments are, at their core, designed to be worn, not fussed over. They may force you out of your sartorial comfort zone a bit, but not so much that you feel like you’re wearing a costume.
Prior to showing Rochambeau’s spring-summer ‘17 collection, we caught up with Chandler backstage to talk about channeling the Rolling Stones, collaborations, and why the brand continues to push the envelope.
What was the story you wanted to tell with this collection?
Our initial kicking off point was about creatives in exile and the idea that your environment influences your personal style. One of the things we focused on was the Rolling Stones in the late ‘60s. They were in London getting in a shit ton of trouble and their management was like you’ve gotta get out of here. So they went on this trip to Morocco and there’s this epic photo shoot [from that time where the band is dress in] silks, and vibrant colors and patterns, and their whole vibe changes.
You guys really hold it down for New York City. How does the city shape what you do?
It’s funny, I found myself in Copenhagen for this men’s fashion event last summer and I looked around and it was all L.A. brands. I was the sole New York brand. I was like, “What the hell?” L.A. seems to have a camaraderie where people are pushing each other. New York is still a city where everyone else is kinda out for themselves. That drives us. We use that intensity of the city to push us forward.
A lot of trends that you guys pioneered are starting to bubble up and be adopted by a larger audience. What is it like for you to see that catch on?
I think it’s great. Growth in the market is good for everyone. The thing that we try to do is stay ahead of it. What you’ll see this season is that when everyone was was going all black, we are all color. We want to try things that a guy can still feel comfortable wearing while staying in front of what the trend is. Once we walk down Broadway and see everyone do one thing, we know we’re going the other way.
Is it tricky to constantly be pushing the envelope?
That’s the fun part, especially when we’re working with great people that we respect. This season we worked with a great young artist Cody Gunningham on developing all the prints. It’s nice to see that develop.
Rochambeau is the product of both you and Josh. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having two creative forces behind the brand?
There’s moments when I want to do everything and go absolutely insane and Josh will pull back on that. That’s a nice balance that we’ve been able to realize. There are moments when we’re going to kill each other. But at the end of the day we know it’s for the greater good and we work through it and we’ve found a way to complement each other.
What was it like being named a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award?
It’s almost like we’ve been practicing for this. We always felt like we were the underdog. Now having this cosign gives us a little boost where the actual fashion world is paying attention. It’s exciting for us and we feel like we’re ready for it.
What does it say about the state of fashion when a brand like yours is recognized for such an honor?
It’s a nod to what’s actually going on and to what people are actually wearing. For so long, fashion seemed like this grand idea. I think there’s something practical about what we do and that the clothing that we’re making is designed to be worn by a regular guy. We play up pieces for the show, but the core of our collection is something that we’re comfortable wearing. Basically, we’re our guy. We’re making stuff for ourselves.
You guys haven’t done a ton of collaborations. Is that a conscious decision?
It is. We pick and choose. One of the struggles of being a young brand is you get opportunities and you know they’re not right. Saying no is harder than saying yes. The collaborations that we have done though feel like they’re true to the brand, like working with an artist like Aaron Curry. We just did a great collaboration with [British store] Harvey Nichols and and a British artist named Freddy Tuppen. We have worked on little things for Cara Delevingne and Jourdan Dunn. We work with people that we respect. On the corporate level, we’ve held back from doing too much.
What’s next for you guys?
It’s not like anything stops after the show. It almost gets crazier. We’re busy straight through the summer. We’re excited about the challenges. We have a few new collaborations coming up and we’re constantly creating. Tomorrow we’re talking about fall ‘17.