PHOTOGRAPHY: Ethan Alexander
ART DIRECTION, MAKEUP + STYLING: Sydney Zenon
MODEL: Essence Taylor
ALL GARMENTS DESIGNED BY RON LOUIS
BAG COLLABORATION WITH CHELLI OF SHOP CHC
Every city has a signature style, influenced by the natives that dictate the culture within it. Chicago is one of those cities and has been subtly but surely influencing the east and west coasts with our stylish approach to leisurewear—not for the sake of being trendy, but more so because it’s a wardrobe that works for the modern, on the go, artistic millennial.
Ron Louis, a Chicago native who has become known for his simple but statement making pieces via his brand Phera Co., has perfected the Chicago way of dressing. His clean hoodies with the intriguing “DESIGNER” embroidered across, remixed joggers and soon to be released leather goods are closet staples that are versatile enough to be dressed up, down and shown off.
We sat down with Ron Louis on the heels of releasing his most sophisticated collection yet, and spoke about what it’s like running a fashion brand in Chicago and what encourages him to keep going.
B: Obvious question, but important question, how did you decide to get into fashion??
RL: Really in high school. I was in a fashion-forward high school, it was a lot of pressure to be fresh. The more I got into women and girls, you know, I cared more about my appearance. I always noticed, I don't know, I guess I was always drawn to it but the girls who had nice style, I noticed they liked guys whose style was up to par, too, so I kind of started experimenting in high school, and then I took a class and was really good at it. During that class we had a project where we were doing pajama pants, and we got to shop for the fabric, make it from scratch. And I gave it to my best friend, and just seeing her light up, and really enjoying something that I created I was like, “Aw man I wanna keep doing that.” Not only for her but other people. So, really, I fell in love with the process and the service of giving people something I made from scratch.
B: Nice! How would you describe your line? What's the style? Streetwear, something else?
RL: It was inspired by the streets and streetwear, I will say that. I wouldn't qualify it as streetwear. I make conceptual pieces but it's not typical streetwear, where there's really a history behind it. Mine is really more conceptualized and your basic pieces: tees, hoodies, joggers, I might throw in a special piece here and there.
B: Of course! So, why did you decide to hone in on those classic pieces?
RL: I always think about comfort first. That's a main priority, during my design process and in my brand integrity. I try to pick unconventional pieces, or pieces that are trending, and upgrade them and make them better, within my concept of making pieces that you can wear up and down and be comfortable. I like to think that now, my direction, as far as creative pieces, is to make pieces for people... entrepreneurs, creatives, everyday people. So I think about loungewear in a classy way, if that makes sense.
B: Tell me about how you adopted the phrase "DESIGNER" that you've become known for.
RL: Well, actually, it started off as kind of a joke. Me and Valee were discussing pieces...I was doing samples with vinyl, putting different words on garments...I was inspired by Virgil [Abloh] as well, I've seen some pieces where he would just put, "for walking," these boots or whatever, and I'm like, “man, this is genius!” So I was joking around with Valee and I noticed by him customizing so much with things around him, he's really designing his life, and then I thought, “We all are! So, I'm gonna create pieces and just put ‘DESIGNER’ on them.” You know, a double entendre, it's a designer piece but you're a designer as well, and just kind of running with that concept.
B: Obviously you mentioned Virgil, are there other designers, or artists, or creatives who inspire you and your work?
RL: Yeah, I would say, it's a lot of people. Mostly my friends. But mainstream-wise, I like artists like Pharrell, of course, Vashtie Kola, and I'll say ASAP Rocky. A combination of all those people.
B: I remember seeing a quote that you were inspired also by your mom, because she did artwork. Can you tell me about that?
RL: She used to draw, and paint, when I was really young, and I remember going into the closet, and seeing one of her art projects from high school, and it was a picture of a rose that she drew with a pencil. I had to be like, four or five. And I asked her what it was. I think that was my first time seeing, or paying attention to, art. Like, okay, a person made this. And I saw my mom's name. So I said, “You did this with a pencil? This image?” And she was like, “yeah!” And I kind of just started obsessing with trying to recreate images with a pencil, like my mom. And I just asked all these art questions, things I'd never thought about before. But I was really, really young, though. And I was just so intrigued with how she created something I've seen in real life with a pencil, from an image.
B: I always ask other designers "What do you think of Chicago's fashion scene?" And sometimes a lot of them answer that there isn't one. So, I would love to know your opinion—do you think there is one? And if so, how would you describe it?
RL: I think there’s levels to a fashion scene, of course, so I can understand why some people say there's not, but I know so many designers, or people who are inspired to do it, and people who are creating, so I feel like we are creating one. In our own right. I'm really enjoying, just, this renaissance feeling from Chicago, in general. As far as art, and fashion is included, I would say I'm optimistic about the future of it. I see a lot of young designers and kids getting more into sewing and creating their own custom pieces. I'm optimistic about it.