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ROAM Talks with our collaboration designers Parke & Ronen
Parke & Ronen is a contemporary men's fashion consumer brand, founded in 1997 by two distinct creative and entrepreneurial forces - its designer Parke Lutter and Ronen Jehezkel. As pioneers in the field, widely credited with creating the category of elevated swimwear for men, the duo have long established themselves as the leading brand in the category.
ROAM partnered with them to create a capsule collection of suitcases inspired by their spring fashion palette, blending ROAM's superior quality and performance with Parke & Ronen's daring colors and eclectic style, and ROAM sat down with Parke to learn more about their inspirations.
ROAM: How did you and your partner Ronen first decide to launch your eponymous collection?
Parke: We both had a lifelong love of fashion. Ronen was trained in haute couture in Europe, and I was trained in American ready-to-wear , so creatively it was a very complementary mix of opposing viewpoints from the outset. We both also have been pretty independent-minded and had a taste for entrepreneurship.
Ronen already had established a very successful business designing vests (it was the 90’s!) and selling them around the city at street fairs, and he was eager to branch out from that. And while I was finishing up my degree at Parsons, the two of us paired up to design and produce a couple of I guess what would now be called capsules collections, one of dresses, one of “club wear”. Both did very well, so when I finished school, we decided to go for it and Ronen found the storefront on 9th Ave. in Chelsea, and we opened the fall after I graduated in 1997, and the rest is, as they say, history.
ROAM: What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs thinking of launching their own fashion company?
Parke: Having a love of fashion, or of design is a great starting point, but is not a good enough reason to try to launch your own company. The key is that you have to really, really love the entire entrepreneurial process even more. It is potentially high reward, but mostly certainly high risk, so you have to be very clear-eyed about how much risk, what you can afford, and you are personally comfortable with. Also, you have to keep working to find the balance between the creative product and the commercial viability when you are an entrepreneur, and for us that has been part of the fun.
ROAM: How has your perspective on fashion changed since you and Ronen started working together?
Parke: There is so much beauty and excitement in fashion for a creative person it can be a never-ending source of inspiration, and it changes so fast that it can be dizzying. The biggest change has probably been the confidence in narrowing the focus of what we create. Not trying to be all things to all people, but being very aware of what your brand means to you and your audience. Then working everyday to be the best that you can in your space. Just focus on what makes your brand special and do that better than anyone else.
ROAM: Your Spring Summer 2019 is inspired by the 1980's in Malibu. What are some of your favorite inspirations from that time period?
Parke: The nice thing about retro inspirations is you only remember the good stuff with nostalgia. 80's excess feels fun and charming in a pre-internet, and pre-social media era. I mean can you imagine Madonna rolling around on the floor in a bustier on MTV was the most sensational thing in pop-culture of the year!
ROAM: What is your honest take on the current state of New York fashion?
Parke: It's our home, so of course we want to see it continue to evolve and to nurture new talent and support smaller brands both new and well-established like ours. I think the biggest downside is the barriers to entry have become much higher because it costs so much money to do business here. And that makes it harder for smaller talents to have the time and space to grow and develop. Also, the disappearance of the real proper Garment District plays a huge part in that. It was probably unavoidable in the name of progress, but it’s a loss to both the local NYC culture and the business that is hard to overstate.
ROAM: What is currently piquing your interest, whether it be musically, visually, or culturally?
Parke: Obviously in many ways, this is a very troubling cultural moment that we are living through. But the rise of diversity in many forms as a response to the darker, more reactionary ideas getting currency is remarkable. We are having conversations about representation and inclusion that were unheard of only a few seasons ago. And it's not just conversations, we are seeing real action across all channels in media and culture. As an LGBTQ-owned and operated business (not to mention a gay married couple) this strikes us as a shining light.