IKEMEN #36: Jérôme LaMaar

November 27, 2017 12:00 PM

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

Name: Jérôme LaMaar

Occupation: Cultivator of Culture

 

Jérôme LaMaar's INTERVIEW

Jérôme LaMaar is the founder of the 9J boutique, has a fashion label 5:31 Jérôme, and even dabbles in music under the moniker DJ Jreamer. This fall, the up-and-coming creative graced the cover of the New York Times Style section with high hopes of shedding light on the beauty of the Bronx and inspiring his peers to feel empowered through creativity. TWELV sat down with LaMaar to discuss his roots, his ambitions, and some of the exciting things on the horizon for the self-proclaimed “cultivator of culture.”

  

You’re involved in so many different endeavors! How would you describe your occupation?

I’m a cultivator of culture! From owning a retail store, to being able to do fashion and working with designers, I think it’s important to cultivate as a person, and to cultivate different people, cultivate concept, color, everything! Tell a story! Cultivate!

What brought about your interest in design?

It started when I was a kid. My grandma, who has passed away, was the most stylish, and my granddad too; I still own a lot of his old pieces. A lot of my style comes from my grandparents and my parents. And I think that’s how I discovered that fashion can really, really work for me. I think around age 8 or 9, I really starting pursuing it, but it was before then– like 5 years old– when I saw this movie called “The Wiz” with Diana Ross. I didn’t really care about the storyline itself, it was more about the power of the wizard, and how he was telling people what colors are in, how the music changes, and he was basically showing people how to live, and I like that idea.

You often wear a lot of kimonos and garments inspired by the silhouette. What inspires you?

I love Japanese culture! When I was in Japan, the people were so welcoming toward my sense of style. And I also love hip-hop, so between the two of them, they create me! I grew up watching some really cool music videos on BET and MTV. Seeing great visuals from Puff Daddy, Missy Elliot, Jay Z, Beyoncé. The way they created those music videos back in the day was really cool, and it inspired me a lot. Also, I’m from the Bronx, so it’s a cool twist.

Does the Bronx have a lot of influence on your designs?

Absolutely! I call my look “South Bronx Luxe” and it describes the way I see myself, the way I carry myself, the way I design and decorate. It all describes this idea of what luxury could be in the Bronx and I think I’m a representation of that. 

Do you think the Bronx is changing?

Yes, definitely. The Bronx will be changing very very soon. After I got the New York Times cover, I realized it’s going to really shift everything. Lots of new developments are happening, lots of people are moving here, and my space lends itself to this change.

If you weren’t working in fashion, what might you be doing?

I feel like whatever I do, I’ll be good at it as long as my heart’s in it. I got into Brown University to study physics, so I love the idea of the universe. I think that’s what makes me happy. Maybe if I didn’t do fashion, I’d be doing philosophy. I love philosophy. I love physics. I think I use them everyday.

So why did you decide to change course after college?

When I was taking courses for the summer program in college, I realized how boring it was; I wasn’t stimulated. And I was already working at Baby Phat before I got into college which basically started my whole career. I figured, why change it when I’m already building something cool and new for myself. Fashion kept growing and my career kept blossoming. Of course, it’s hard to find really good or fun jobs, so why not start from the beginning and do what you love? Even sometimes I don’t have money, but I wake up and I know I love what I’m doing. I think if you keep making new ideas and pushing things forward, you will always create your own universe.

When did you decide to open your own store, 9J in the Bronx?

In 2015, I started to build out the store, and we opened by April 2016. And it was a perfect timing because I was ready for something new, and I was ready to show my perspective on retail and create an environment where other creatives can come hang out and work. It just made total sense for me.

What about your new career, DJ Jreamer?

Grandmaster Caz who is really well-known in hip-hop became my DJ mentor. And he showed me some cool ideas, techniques, and some great music which inspired me to keep going as a DJ. First, it was just a hobby. I started last year in Art Basel. I didn’t realize that I loved playing music so much, and people kept saying how great it was, so I thought maybe I should pursue DJing on the side. Recently, I did Jonathan Adler for fashion week which was great, and there’s other things popping up now. It’s kind of showing this idea that you can do it if you really want to.

As a fashion designer, what is your proudest accomplishment?

I think my best accomplishment was– I did Beyoncé, I did Rihanna– but the best was being on the cover of the New York Times for Thursday Style. I think that was the best because it showcased my world of The Bronx and that’s all I’ve always done. I’ve done everything to shine a light on what’s happening in the Bronx and how beautiful it is.

How do you see 5:31 Jérôme growing in the next 5 or 10 years?

In 5 years, hopefully the store and the brand will be significant. Hopefully, I can have more people working for me and other shops around the world. In 10 years, I want to eventually create some kind of design or creative incubator to use all the resources to empower the next generation to be creative and to be free, because sometimes we’re stuck in norms and we can’t be free. So, hopefully I can empower some people… and travel a lot!

Is there anything else exciting that you’re working on?

For now, I’m going to focus on skincare, beauty and fragrance. I think beauty and skincare will be the next chapter for me, for guys and girls.

Is there anything about yourself that people might find surprising?

Well, the funny thing about me is that I’m actually quite shy. I’m a Gemini, so I can be two people. I’m very introverted, I’m pensive, and I like to be by myself, but who I am as a person doesn’t really allow that. So, I’m larger than life! People who know me know that I just want to be by myself. I don’t go out, I don’t go party, but sometimes I pull out the other person so I can be out and can be seen. I pull strength out of my shyness to become the life of the party. But it’s hard sometimes. I’m very shy!

Do you have any advice for other young creatives?

Having ambition is attractive. That’s so important. I think sacrifice always pays off, and I know if you visualize what you really want, it will always come to you. 

What is your life-long dream?

Wow, it’s deep! My life-long dream is to create balance in the world. Everyone deserves opportunity. Everyone deserves freedom. Everyone deserves to be loved. There is so much hate in the world that we forget we’re all the same race, the human race. If we don’t learn to empower and support one another, it’s going to continue to be a disastrous planet. We all want the same things. I think that’s my big purpose– to show that hard work and being kind to people– it’ll really achieve a lot.

 

 

INTERVIEW BY YU WATANABE

EDITED BY HOLLIS DE LANEY

 

PHOTOGRAPHY: CHIAKI KATO

 

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