They say the revolution will not be televised, but secretly it has been. Perhaps not in the literal sense, but fashion’s tribal-influenced takeover (think Balmain, Dsquared2, as well as so many others) has certainly been broadcast via blogs, social media, and other forms of notable fashion press coverage.
Emerging from the globally glamorous universe of afrocentric-infused fashion is Brooklyn-based designer Reuben Reuel. Not yet 30, Reul, who launched his Etsy boutique Demestiks in 2009, shares with us his fresh perspective on the future of fashion, tracking trends, and working with Queen Bey.
The Lady Loves Couture: How did your career begin?
Reuben Reuel: I’ve studied fashion design since 2002 when I was in high school and once I graduated, I studied at Norfolk State University and The Art Institute of New York City. I was working for several clothing companies throughout my time in New York. In the spring of 2012, I was let go from a job and was receiving unemployment. I knew then that I had the choice to either seek employment or start working on my own brand. I decided to take the employment money and invest in my own brand that summer. I made a few designs, opened an e-commerce store through Etsy.com, and began selling my line Demestiks New York.
TLLC: How has it progressed since?
RR: Since the start of the business, the brand has grown over the past three years. It was a very fast transition from being somewhat unknown to becoming more known through social media and other media platform.
TLLC: What essentially is the premise for your designs?
RR: The idea behind the brand was to create clothing that made women feel beautiful, feminine, and good about how they look. I also wanted to make sure to offer the clothing for all different body types, which is why I offer all of the styles in sizes XS to 3X/ 0 to 22. My designs are definitely conversation starters and statement pieces. My customers constantly tell me how they’ve received compliments from strangers every time they wear Demestiks New York.
TLLC: Who are your personal style icons and why?
RR: Iris Apfel, for her sense of color and texture mixing, Anna Dello Russo, for her luxe, flamboyant style, and Solange Knowles, for her minimalistic yet colorful style.
TLLC: What are your most favorite pieces you’ve designed and why?
RR: The Minnie Bell dress named after my grandmother, Patricia jacket named after my mother, and Naomi top named after my sister were the first three designs I sold on my online store and still sell them to this day. They have become classic Demestiks New York styles and mean so much to me. Growing up, these were the three women whose style I admired, so I wanted to pay homage to them by sharing their style to my customers through my designs.
TLLC: Do you have any advice for mixing prints?
RR: My advice would be to mix classic prints with the Holland wax cotton (or ankara) prints. For example, plaids, stripes, and polka dots mix well with the Holland wax prints. It’s a marriage of traditional prints from different cultures.
TLLC: What did it feel like to see Beyonce in your clothes?
RR: Unbelievably AMAZING! The first time she was seen in my designs was July, 2014. She posted the picture of herself wearing Demestiks New York on her Instagram page. When I saw it, I screamed and cried with joy. It was definitely a memorable moment.
TLLC: In your opinion, what is the relevancy of African prints, designs, and culture in mainstream fashion?
RR: The beauty of the prints is what attracted me to use them in my designs. Although I’m aware the fabrics are mostly seen in African culture, I wanted people to see how the fabric could be worn by all cultures. Because fabrics are traditional, they will always be relevant; you can never go wrong with a classic. As a designer, it’s my agenda to create new classics.
TLLC: Who do you think besides Beyoncé is helping to forge this ongoing tribal relevancy/celebration?
RR: My customers who’ve been buying the line for the last three years are helping forge the ongoing relevancy of the brand. I have several repeat customers who I’ve become very close to. Sometimes when I read the feedback messages, I get pretty emotional because I’m really making a positive impact on how women feel when they wear Demestiks New York. And sometimes I receive random emails from women who just tell me how much they love the line and encourage me to keep up the great work. As a creative, that is needed!
TLLC: Which celebrity are you dying to dress next and why?
RR: Michelle Obama and Oprah. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but these are two powerful and stylish women that I admire so much. I’ve even named a dress after Michelle O. in my most recent collection.
TLLC: What was the moment when you thought to yourself, “I’ve made it?”
RR: To be honest, when I was able to have employees and still afford to pay myself is when I realized I made it. That fact that I can get up in the morning and be my own boss was also an aha moment. I am living the life that I dreamt of living: Being creative and independent on my own terms.
TLLC: What is your vision for your brand in the future?
RR: I see it as being somewhat of a lifestyle brand in the future. I’m currently working on a home goods line using the fabric, which is exciting. I just see Demestiks New York being the go-to place for consumers who want to look and feel fabulous at all times. This brand is my outlet to spread a little beauty in the world.