Raul Lopez, founder and creative director of Luar, has always been inspired by his rich Dominican heritage as well as by his family, who all worked in the fashion industry. Lopez descends from a lineage of seamstresses. The designer started making his own clothes in high school, and years later, he created Luar, a progressive brand that he describes as pages out of his diary. The philosophy of Luar lies at the intersection of New York City and the Dominican Republic, promoting the constant curiosity of “tomorrow.” Raul describes Luar as a brand for people who are comfortable in their own skin. We speak to him about his brand, life, and the new collaboration initiative with Diageo, which has “created a space for fluidity and freedom.”
During NYFW, Luar partnered with DIAGEO and its brands, Buchanan’s, Smirnoff Pink Lemonade, and Tanqueray, to honor genderless fashion as a part of Diageo’s 3-part series celebrating the “fluidity of freedom.” This initiative honors fashion through the lenses of inclusivity, intersectionality, and self-expression.
Where He’s From
I was born and raised in New York, in Brooklyn. My family is from the Dominican Republic. They migrated here in the 70s and 80s. So I’m a first-generation Dominican born in New York.
Early Life and Start in Fashion
My family worked in factories here. My mom worked in the garment district, as did my grandmother and my aunts. I was always around industrial machines because they always had sewing machines in all of their homes. I was obsessed with how they could create these beautiful things for us to wear or even a pillowcase or a curtain for the home, which was nice to see this process of women who came from nothing making something with their hands. They weren’t taught by anyone; they were self-taught. They taught themselves due to the necessity of poverty coming as Immigrants here. I grew fond of it, and I started to make my own clothes in junior high school. From there, I progressed into making clothing for my friends and people wanting to buy what I was wearing when I was going to school. I wanted to stand out. It worked!
The Inspiration Behind Luar
Luar is a physical manifestation of my subconscious and my consciousness, and it’s just chapters of my diary. I just wanted to share my stories with everyone, and I feel like through my collections, I share these specific moments in my life that are either from the past, present, or future. It’s kind of like a daily log that I keep. Luar is just my name backward, so it’s just a reflection of myself.
I definitely want to go into furniture design, but I think the first thing I’m going to do is create a foundation. I’m trying to develop these schools in underprivileged neighborhoods. I feel like, growing up, I wasn’t allowed to go to fashion school, and I couldn’t afford it. It doesn’t have to be a huge school, but in many communities, if you’re interested in art, fashion, or anything in the creative scene, you have a place where you can go. I grew up going to a program called PAL here in the community centers. It was kind of like the Boys and Girls Club of fashion. That’s one of my main goals: to create that. Also, I’m obviously into furniture, and I’m into food, so just making it a global brand.
His Design Process
I have a really weird process. I’m self-taught, so my whole thing comes from looking at people and creating things with tangible materials and tangible garments. I’m more into draping and imagery. I don’t really do the whole sketching and this and that. I usually do draping, and then it goes into the sketching, and then it goes into the patterns. I’m more of a visual person, so I like to go sit down in specific areas in New York or wherever I am and look at people. I look at people, and people watch. I’m not like the people who are like, “Oh, I was in the woods, and I was inspired by the leaves falling to the left.” No. I need to see people. I’m like a true New Yorker. I like to get on the train. I like to walk around.
What Came First? The Bag? Or the Clothes
The clothes definitely, I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now. I came from Hood by Air, and from Hood by Air, which is my narrative with Shane, I wanted to share my own story. It was first the collection, then my bag. This bag has an idea that I’ve had for quite a while, but I didn’t want to release it until the right time. I knew once I released it, it was going to be a hit. I knew it was going to be good because everyone I showed it to was like, “Don’t show this to anyone.” But, yes, the clothes came first, and then the bag. I feel like the bag has its own identity. She lives in her own world. She does hers. She travels the world. She has a better life than me.
I’m just a person who lives day by day. I know this sounds cliche, but treat others as you want to be treated. I grew up like that, and my morals have always been the same. I don’t fall into the categories that the fashion industry wants. Since I sit out so much, I’ve always said I’m too ghetto for fashion and too fashionable for the ghetto. I wasn’t always understood. I love my community. I love my people. I love sharing spaces with everyone. You could come to my apartment when I was growing up, and the door would be open all day, and people would just come in and out. Different people. It was such a beautiful experience to be able to witness this whole communal thing.
My inspiration is my mother; she’s very wise and sweet, and she has the best style. My grandmother and my community also inspire me; I’m quite big on friends and family.
Favorite Designers Over the Last 2-5 years
I love Shayne Oliver and Telfar. I’ve known Telfar since we were 16. Then Shayne and I work on the same venture. The two of them are my best friends. I also love LaQuan Smith, Theophilio, and Brandon Blackwood.
Favorite Celebrity to Collaborate With
Solange, her trajectory in the arts is amazing. I love her style; she’s iconic and very versatile.
Fashion Bridging the Gap Between Femininity and Masculinity
My collections are usually just an extension of myself. I find it easy for women to wear men’s clothing, for example, “boyfriend jeans” or a man’s blazer, but I’m waiting for the day I can borrow my mom’s dress to go out. But in all honesty, I feel that clothing does not define a person.
Partnership With Diageo & Fluidity Is Freedom Initiative
It’s honoring genderless fashion in a 3-part series, celebrating fluidity in freedom. This initiative honors fashion and self-expression. We have this thing where we love to celebrate, and Diageo made the partnership feel more like us, as opposed to how many brands do partnerships where it’s all about them.
What Does Fluidity Mean to You, and How Do You Show That in Your Work?
Being your true authentic self means being comfortable and confident in your skin, and that’s what LUAR is about. It’s for people who walk out of their house feeling confident in their skin. When you’re fluid, you’re free and comfortable with yourself, and not for people but for yourself.
What Has Been the Most Rewarding Thing About Your Partnership With Diageo
With the whole initiative, I feel that Diageo came and created a really great space. They’re pushing forward the inclusivity and genderless points for people like us who don’t have a lot of space to coexist because, while it may seem we can exist everywhere, we really can’t. So I love that this partnership has created a space for us to just be; it has created fluidity.
What Advice Would You Give to Someone Breaking Into the Industry?
There’s space for all of us; do not let social media give you the impression that you can’t fit in and do what you are destined to do. Also, do not let your traumas dictate your future; be persistent, forget about everyone, and just give your ideas everything you have for them to blossom.
Raul Lopez’s perspective on life has inspired his design process and views on clothing and fashion as a whole. He continues to break the boundaries and stereotypes imposed on masculine and feminine fashion by promoting genderless fashion. The Diageo partnership will not assist Lopez in promoting his brand, but it will seek to propel inclusivity and the fluidity of fashion forward.