GQ: Let’s start with the beginning. How’d you land Baby Phat at 15?
Jerome Lamaar: Well, I loved Baby Phat early on because I saw my mother wear a plum Baby Phat shirt that had the iconic crystals on it. My first job ever was at Key Foods in the Bronx and I would sketch on people’s receipts and say ‘This job is cute, but I’m gonna work at Baby Phat.’
While I was a student at the Institute of Art + Design in New York, Christina Lee, who at the time was the VP of Branding at Baby Phat, saw my sketches and asked, “Who did these?” I thought, “Me, duh.” and when I mentioned that they were mine she said, “Because Kimora is looking for someone just like you.”
Yes, manifesting! So what did they have you do?
Well, I was an intern for a year, and then I was the Junior Creative Director and brand coordinator. So, I reported directly to Kimora. I used to even watch the kids.
But workwise, I was the guy who cruised the streets and reported back on what I saw and what I thought was cool. I was the one saying, “No, not this shade of blue. No, this needs to be here.” I even took part in the production of Kimora’s reality show.
Funny story: while I was working for Kimora, I saw Kim Kardashian at a party in L.A. Now, this was before her moment so I had no idea who she was. But she was wearing Herve Leger and Louboutin heels and the only other person who was dressing like that was Kimora herself. So I ran over to Kim and gave her a little spin and said ‘You are giving JLo the run for her money’ When she told me her name, it went one ear and out the other. And now she’s Kim Kardashian.
Ok, so fast forward to now. Is it fair to say you’ve spent most of your career in fashion and design on the advisory side?
Oh, yeah. I’ve played the role of guiding and directing for many years. I started out in trend forecasting, so I’ve always been the guy who people come to for advice, color, concept.
And I love it. Working with amazing companies and people who are always looking ahead. But, you know, with all this experience, I’m just ready to offer the Jerome perspective and call it my own. I’ve always been brave enough to walk into any situation and own it enough to make others feel that they can execute a plan. But now I’m ready to say, ‘I can design. I can direct. I have a dope aesthetic, I’ve fixed my timing (clicks tongue) and now I’m ready.’
Does the transition to “I’m ready” come out of frustration, or is it a trust-in-the-universe kind of thing?
Trust in the universe, baby, that’s how I flow. My brand is 5:31, which is based on time. The timing of everything is important to me. I thought I was ready before, but now I know for a fact that whatever I’m putting out there next will be significant. I’ve built my following. I’ve earned the respect of many of my peers in the fashion industry. I have a peculiar perspective that people seem to like.
And now I’m focusing on menswear. It’ll be fluid—like hoodies and tuxedo shirts. I can choose one or the other depending on what I’m feeling and I want that to reflect in my brand.
How do you think that’s different from a lot of fashion now?