It’s people like Jérôme LaMaar—founder of the just-launched label 5:31 Jérôme—who make the rest of us look like lazy layabouts. Now 28, LaMaar got his start at age 15 (yes, 15) interning at Kimora Lee Simmons’ hip-hop brand, Baby Phat.
It was there that the Bronx-bred overachiever—a fifth-generation New Yorker who was recruited through the honors program at High School of Art & Design—got his start in fashion. It’s also where he became a reality TV star, thanks to his larger-than-life appearances on Simmons’ show, Life in the Fab Lane (which helps account for his 10,000+ Instagram followers).
“I was given a blessed position to travel, create, meet people, collaborate with amazing brands, and learn from talented stylists—all before I even graduated high school,” said LaMaar. “My day was filled with tasks such as coordinating and providing creative direction to all 30 licensees. Holding fittings, sitting in on sales meetings, conducting approval meetings, [overseeing] graphics, designing shoes, bags, jewelry: You name it, it came across my desk—and I loved it!! I truly was a sponge.”
After soaking up all that he could under Simmons’ tutelage (he was named senior designer by age 18), LaMaar bypassed the opportunity to attend Brown University, where he was slated to study physics, and headed instead to the Fashion Institute of Technology. There, he majored in fashion design and fabric styling (aka, the study of trends and colors). This led to a seven-month apprenticeship at Ralph Rucci, followed by jobs as a trend forecaster at the prestigious Paris-based firm Promostyl and as a personal shopper—both of which he still dabbles in while getting his collection off the ground.
Ah, yes, the collection. Dubbed 5:31 Jérôme in honor of the “valuable and powerful element” of time and his May 31st birthday, LaMaar’s namesake line debuted during New York Fashion Week in September and had industry insiders buzzing. After all, it’s not every first-timer who nabs glowing reviews.
His spring 2014 outing was inspired by finding the balance in contrasts, which he summed up as “a thunderstorm over a garden party”—or two things you don’t want to occur at once.
“I live in two worlds,” explained LaMaar. “The streets of the Bronx and the luxury of experiencing life in Paris and Tokyo as a consultant. [When designing], I like to keep real women in mind yet add elements of playful imagination.”
So in the world of 5:31 Jérôme, one might pair a funky pink paillette wrap skirt with a white curved bodice jacket and floral logo tee, or top sequin-strewn boyfriend jeans with a structured crop top and shrunken menswear blazer. And the designer has a real knack for cleverly cut pants, as can be seen in a pair of knee-length cobalt blue shorts that look like a newfangled gaucho-meets-Bermuda hybrid, or heavily pleated hip-slung, slant-pocket chinos with a tall tapered cuff, which manage to be both voluminous and figure-flattering (neat trick, that!).
Though he’s reluctant to divulge exactly what’s up his proverbial sleeve for fall 2014, LaMaar is experimenting with innovative technologies that can be applied to luxury fabrics. Which seems perfectly in keeping with 5:31 Jérôme’s old-world-meets-new-school MO.
The 5:31 Jérôme spring 2014 collection retails from $300 to $3,200. It is currently available by special order at email@example.com.
Read more: 5:31 Jérôme – Jérôme LaMaar Fortez Designer Spotling – ELLE
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