Sunday night at The Shed, LUAR creative director Raul Lopez presented “LA ALTA GAMA,” an SS23 show that served as an unapologetically glamorous tribute to the Dominican designer’s roots. Lopez treated guests to a real show, from the entrance crowd (family, friends, fans and industry insiders all jostling for a seat), to the high-powered collection featuring deconstructed costumes and elegant dresses adorned with sparkles and Vanjie swag. On the catwalk, models wore “Ana” bags in new silhouettes and colors (hello, cobalt), and stopped to pose in front of spot-lit oval mirrors just to show how much they felt about themselves. . For more on the inspiration behind Lopez’s energetic NYFW show, we call the designer for a quick chat about Latin ballads, teen bedrooms and Hollywood icons.
ERNESTO MACIAS: Hola, how are you?
RAUL LOPEZ: Who do you know!
MACIAS: How do you feel? Are you Always so high of all reactions to the series?
LOPEZ: Yeah, that’s really nice. Everyone really reached out and just expressed how good it was to be there. It was like a real meeting. It took about 35 minutes for everyone to be seated.
MACIAS: Everyone was there, all the good people. How many hours have you slept since?
LOPEZ: Not much actually. I still have anxiety.
MACIAS: What was your last meal?
LOPEZ: My last meal was scampi with shrimp and Rockefeller oysters.
MACIAS: Oh, oh, come on. Fancy. OK. I like this. So let’s go. You opened the show with this song “Llama Por Favor” by Alejandra Guzmán. For people who speak Spanish and who are Latinos and who know her, it is a very moving, almost heartbreaking ballad. Tell me why you chose to do this.
LOPEZ: Exactly what you said. I feel like as Latinos growing up – no matter what background – your mom, aunt, or grandma definitely played there on Saturdays or Sundays to clean the house, or if they got together. It was like a form of connection. Alejandra Guzmán’s music is so moving. You know how Latinas are, they want to feel it. They want to feel sad. It just immerses them in that experience, even if it’s just cleaning or mopping the floor. They want to feel fabulous, you know? Growing up, my mom used to play this song all the time. She was obsessed with Alejandra Guzmán and Ana Gabriel, all those very powerful Latin women of that time. I wanted to pay homage to him. Also the memory of her mopping the floor on Sundays, burning incense in that house, and I’m in bed so much on it. I have to go to school all week, and now it’s Saturday, and this woman blasts the music and cleans up and I can’t rest. [Laughs]
MACIAS: It was a very direct nod to Latino culture, and it really set the tone for the whole show.
LOPEZ: So the whole experience in the beginning was to have everyone transported to my room on a Saturday. That’s why all the lights were off and the opening was really moving. I wanted to bring everyone to the back and then point out that it was show time. With me, it’s hard to figure out why I’m doing it unless I explain it. But if you know, you know. When you came up to me and you were like, “Girl, Alejandra.” I was like, “Exactly.” The DMs are gone! Everyone loved it.
MACIAS: It was so much fun. So does “LA ALTA GAMA” have any meaning beyond the literal English translation of “high glamour?”
LOPEZ: It’s this Dembow song that a guy named Rochy RD did. He started making money and he’s like “bring me champagne, bring me seafood tricks.” He wasn’t really a nouveau riche, but rather a nouveau riche. It’s just ignorance. It’s like “Oh, I have money now, I want to show off.” I feel like that was the case with my family too. It was like they were cleaning the floors, they were doing what they were doing, being superintendent in a building, but the mindset was, “If I come to the meeting. I’m going to look fabulous, so they can think the glow is real. And they probably all lived in one bedroom.
MACIAS: In your show notes, you mentioned something about celebrating the immigrant experience. And I feel like what you’re talking about is really part of that. You may be in pain or doing something to survive, but when you’re with your family, you want to celebrate and look good while doing it.
MACIAS: It’s something you’ve done over and over again. And why do you think it’s still necessary in today’s world to embrace your duality, to be Latino, to be Dominican, and then also to be American and feel both at the same time?
LOPEZ: Being Latino in America, you know what it’s like, all that cliché stuff. Many of us are undervalued and disadvantaged. But it’s also a way of simply saying, “Yes, I’m American, I’m first generation, but my parents are Dominicans.” I will always pay tribute to them because they came before me and thanks to them, I am here. Of course, I’m American and I’m from New York. So I want the people of the Dominican Republic, Latinos and everyone from everywhere to know that there is room for all of us. It’s not just about, “Oh, I come from this upbringing. I will never make it. My mother has no money. My father didn’t…” No. If you want it, you have to think about it.
MACIAS: It is very important for all the children watching you. How would you describe the collection in three words?
LOPEZ: Sleek, fabulous and iconic.
MACIAS: I also particularly liked the cast. It was very androgynous. It’s something that’s part of your brand, you leaned rather heavily into genderless fashion. Why is it always something you keep pushing into every collection?
LOPEZ: That’s right, I put cis men in heels. The more I keep doing it, they start letting guys do it. I feel like they understand a little better that it’s not about, “Oh, I’m a straight guy. Don’t put me in heels. It’s more like, “Who cares?” All models really like me. In fact, they kiss me. I am a family person. I like to create a community. Everyone is welcome. I think with the whole thing with my shows, it’s always a reflection of myself. I wear women’s clothes, I wear men’s clothes, that doesn’t define anything. It’s not just about trying to be like, “Make everyone non-binary, or gay, or queer.” No. For me, you have nothing to say. Keep it cute and keep it new. If you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say it.
MACIAS: Who do you want to see wearing this collection?
LOPEZ: That’s a good question. Obviously, Solange is a good, good friend. Actually, you know who I want to see in one of the looks? Meryl Streep. [Laughs]
MACIAS: Oh, work. She would tear one of those black dresses.
LOPEZ: I would like young girls, obviously, like a Kylie [Jenner]. I want him to hit every note where it’s not just, “Oh, it’s for that type of person.” I want grannies and young girls to get involved. Like all children.
MACIAS: And Meryl Streep.
LOPEZ: She will walk to the next show. [Laughs]
MACIAS: Do you think the “L’ALTA GAMA” lifestyle is for everyone?
LOPEZ: It’s definitely a state of mind. As I always say, luxury is not about money. Most of my closet is used. To me, it’s just how you carry yourself, how you present yourself to everyone. You have to put your best foot forward when you enter. You must close it. For me, luxury has evolved from the days when for something to be luxury, it had to be a high-end designer. Now, due to the fast fashion boom, girls are wearing SHEIN dresses with Prada shoes.
MACIAS: It all starts in the street. And you took it to another level with this show. You’ve also partnered with Diageo and Buchanan’s as part of their “Fluidity is Freedom” initiative, why did you decide to partner with someone and what do you think now that the show is over?
LOPEZ: I love them because they love genderless fashion, they’re cool with all that stuff. When Fidel [Gomez Torres, LUAR’s Product Manager] was like, “Oh, you’re gonna do this thing with Diageo.” I was like, “Okay, let me hear what they’re doing.” I don’t associate with anyone unless it makes sense. Because the money, I can get it from anywhere, but it has to make sense with my brand. If that doesn’t make sense, I know my followers and I know how people are. Buchanan’s is amazing. Dominicans love Buchanan’s. If we go to my mother’s, we have it in the bar.
MACIAS: Isn’t it? I’m Mexican and every party the Buchanan comes out. It is a must for Latin parties. Now that the series is over, what do you think of the reception from your fans and the people who have always doubted you?
LOPEZ: I’m going to be doubted until the day I die, so I don’t care. I don’t feed on that. Especially right after my show, you’re gonna get DMs, calls from everyone, and people who were never there and looked down on you. But it’s cool. My teachers doubted me, I’m not going to go back to school and say, “Look at me now.”
MACIAS: That’s true. You do what you want and it shows.