Jerome Lamaar is like the Donald Glover of the fashion industry. With an endless supply of genius, energy and determination the lifestyle futurist has landed some of the most coveted positions – and if there wasn’t one available – he created his own.
Some people are prolific in their careers, and then there is Jerome Lamaar. He is prolific in what seems like every career. While most of us were picking up acne medicine at the local pharmacy, Lamaar was working with Kimora Lee and Russell Simmons. He is as comfortable with couture as he is with household brands. His first women’s wear collection, 5:13, received accolades from both the fashion industry and legacy media companies like the New York Times for a line that mixes “maximalism, glamour and South Bronx Street style.”
In 2016 he opened a design and retail concept space “9J,” and brought in new designers, and creatives galvanizing a neighborhood.
“He really ignited a fire that ended up coalescing people,” said Henry Obispo, founder and CEO of Born Juice, in the South Bronx and a friend of Lamaar. “I think that he inspired the borough. The way he brought in the store and how he promoted the Bronx -in many ways it was a reminder of how great the culture is here.”
Tell us about your favorite moment within the (fashion) industry?
I have had multiple favorite moments from getting a bunch of features in the New York Times, executive producing a web series for Uniqlo, dressing Beyonce, Rihanna, Missy, partnerships with brands like Puma, Nike, Lyft, etc… and even opening my store in the South Bronx that sparked a whole new conversation about culture. But I will have to say in 2013 when I introduced my spiritually glamorous, maximalist, high end streetwear brand (9J) for the first time,it changed my life. It was the first time I got to express my point of view and it was well received! I will never forget that feeling of looking out at the girls standing and hearing the thunder sounds of the tropics play. There was a stillness of clarity of purpose that has stayed with me.
If you could go back in time what would you change?
I’d actually try to figure out who was the person that thought enslaving was okay and try to remove him from the picture. Everything starts with a thought, let’s remove that thought all together. I feel people of color were never given a far chance…I think it’s because we are too creative and lovable which make others envious. Imagine how balanced this world would be if everything was switched and people of color ruled the earth again. There would be less negativity. What would our standard of beauty be? What would our cities look like? And how would we deal with other races? Maybe I’m thinking of Wakanda.
Do you regret anything you’ve done throughout your history in the industry?
No real regrets, or I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I am happy I took a different path than other designers. I’m honestly self made from it all and still growing into the man I want to be. I do however wish I took things less seriously and enjoyed doing all the wrong things that my friends would do. I was and still am very type A, and strategic. I only deal with a very small group of friends who understand that I’m not the one to get messy in a club. But, I’m the friend you call on to get shit-done efficiently and creatively…I don’t mind not fully fitting in either.
What inspires you to create?
I am inspired by the quest for knowledge and balance of myself. Everyday is a battle of the ego. I love knowing that if I work hard on being a good person with pure intentions I will always achieve my goals. The daily journey I love most is self growth and discovery. I always ask myself, “will I be just as happy with absolutely nothing?” If the answer is “yes” that day….I’m good.
What can we expect from you in the next couple years?
I am currently rebirthing myself into the person I really want to be. I love the idea of discovering new paths others are too afraid to experience. Who knows, maybe I’ll executive produce a few things, or creative direct a brand I don’t know. I have never seen a glass ceiling in my life so opportunities for me are endless. I am always growing into a better version of myself so who knows where that would lead me. I just pray it’s meaningful to our planet and humanity in some form, because my vision has always been bigger than fashion for me.
What are your takes on racism within the industry and do you think it is temporary or permanent?
I’m going to be frank, I have been in the game since the age of 15. I have literally worked with every noteworthy [person] from corporate to luxury. I have even expanded outside of fashion. I haven’t been treated very poorly at all because of my track record of consistently excelling. I’m met with more awe than hate from people with less melanin. The issue is not really about racism in the industry, that’s going to be here long after we leave this reality because of the past. It’s more about having folks wake up and stop spending so much money on buying things from non-black businesses but instead focus on rebuilding our community. Spend less on material things and focus on buying land and real estate as investments into our own legacy. I’m talking generational wealth. That gives us all a leg up against the nonsense.