Raul Lopez of Luar knew that we were hungry for a showstopper, so he gave us just that. On Sunday night at The Shed, hundreds of fans and family members rushed the doors to pay witness to the designer’s spring/summer 2023 show, titled “La Alta Gama” (translation: “high class”), a reference to the Rochy RD song of the same name.
Born and raised in Los Sures, Williamsburg’s predominantly Dominican neighborhood, Lopez would get together with his immigrant family every month at one of their apartments for a reunion—a potluck of sorts, as Lopez describes it to me—to stay in touch and pledge to look out for one another in their foreign surroundings. The designer would watch his family from the couch, hiding like a turtle in a shell, a “super flamboyant gay boy with a super high-pitched voice.”
His moment of inspiration for this season’s collection came when his aunties sauntered inside, dressed in old Spyder jackets layered over bias-cut dresses, and tossed their coats onto a bed before joining the party. As Lopez says, “oversized coats make no sense with eveningwear, but actually make the most sense.” This juxtaposition of high and low, leisure and glamour, community and family, defined what we’re officially calling the knockout show of the season (so far, that is).
Lopez is first and foremost a designer’s designer. Martine Rose and Telfar sat front row to pay witness to his singular mind, one which mixed a variety of references from classic Mary J. Blige New York fierceness to Michael Kors, who to this day defines American sportswear, to his family and the community around him. The opening look was his creative riff on the aforementioned party moment, with a patchwork sport top and a tan bias-cut skirt combining to create his modern version of luxury. The dress took eight different iterations to get just right, and this attention to detail followed in the other glamorous silhouettes, which melded flowy fabric with sequin details that never once felt overworked.
Elsewhere, Lopez’s leisurely sportswear found new heights with the ultra-exaggerated “turtle-esque” shoulders he spoke about hiding in, watching the world from his corner seat. Sharp-cut embossed leather jackets, strong denim tops, and maxi skirts were street- and boardroom-ready, with his signature Ana bag blown up to tote and weekender sizes. Oversized goggle-like glasses and chunky heels completed each look, along with dramatic feather and flowery headpieces that harkened back to the glamour he grew up around—“the era of making it work, looking like the Latina Elizabeth Taylor.”
This take on sportswear comes from decades of the industry defining and redefining trends, while also staying true to family. It’s refreshing to have a designer on the schedule who is so in tune with himself and committed to bringing his vision to a new generation of people who, just like his own, are coming to this city with hope and a vision of a brighter tomorrow.
The passion for fashion, glamour, drama, and community was palpable last night, especially as the models walked the finale and Lopez emerged with his niece in tow. For someone who felt so out of place in his childhood, he has come into his own, while honoring his childhood self who was too scared to speak. When I met with Lopez at his studio, we talked about how putting your horse blinders on and going forward is the only way to watch your own back. He seems to be watching it well.
Kevin LeBlanc is the Fashion Associate at ELLE Magazine. He covers fashion news, trends, and anything to do with Robyn Rihanna Fenty.