Abandoning your comfort zone is often the most effective way to unearth new inspiration. When Taylor Ross left his longtime home in Los Angeles to revisit his Southwest Colorado roots, the ROMEO designer was able to slow down and discover his personal aesthetic outside the fashion industry’s pressures—something so few rising brands allow themselves to do. As a result, Ross elevated ROMEO’s look, maintaining its original playful, genderless appeal, while introducing more refined silhouettes and focused textiles.
Ross designed his spring ’17 collection—the brand’s third lineup, ever—from a ranch, which inevitably informed this season’s western aesthetic. Using thrifted fabrics sourced throughout the Southwest—some from stylist Alanna Pearl’s mom’s New Mexico antique store—the designer played with tropical, sun-faded florals in boxy, angular silhouettes, from skirts to trousers finished with snap closures. Acid-washed denim had a presence, as well, on boxing shorts and slim bodysuits—styles detailed with the white lacing that’s become a ROMEO signature, now.
BULLETT caught up with Ross to learn more:
How do you feel this collection has developed from your previous?
This is the third proper ROMEO collection, and the second presentation, produced independently by Jarrett Edward, Alanna Pearl and myself. The brand has come a long way since my first presentation. Last year, I’d just learned to sew, and I was gluing things and cutting people out of clothes. I studied all year and seriously elevated [my] craft, and was able to utilize more techniques to achieve a more complete collection. I was able to get a lot closer to my vision this time around [and] I think the massive amount of progress this year speaks to the potential of the brand.
What design details define your brand?
It’s still about a combination of romantic elements, masculine and feminine details, and an overall feeling that is cool and slightly dark. One of my favorite bits of the collection were the denim boxing shorts with the tie corset waistband. They are very much indicative of the brand and what we are about. Being from the Southwest and designing the collection on a ranch, I, of course, had to tie in some western design details like oversized flap pockets with snap studs, and little references to chaps and garters.
Talk about this collection’s inspiration. Did leaving Los Angeles influence your work?
I have been inspired this year by being back in Southwest Colorado after years in LA. It was in part a financial decision to leave LA, but mostly I wanted to step away and learn more about what I was doing. I totally slowed down and was avoiding everything fashion-related, especially online. I stopped caring so much about producing things on a schedule—producing a full collection every season is not realistic for me at this point. Being in LA for so long, it was easy to get caught up in the newest brand or trend, or who did something first. So it’s been really beneficial for me to be out of that. I was in nature a lot this summer, and it made me realize I want to go with whatever I think is beautiful. Going to bizarre thrift stores has always been something that informs my work. I find fabrics or notice silhouettes from different eras or regions—at least 50 percent of the collection was made up of vintage fabrics from Alanna’s mom’s antique store in New Mexico, and other thrift stores in the Southwest.
How was your experience coming to NYFW?
It wasn’t until after returning to Colorado from NYFW, that I realized how gutsy it was for me and my team to independently produce this presentation. Romeo being so niche and off-the-radar, I often times have to create opportunities for myself. I wasn’t planning on coming to New York this year because of money, but one month before NYFW, the collection started coming together in my head, and I knew I would regret not showing it. I get a real kick out of making these clothes in my studio in the middle of nowhere in Colorado, and then bringing them to New York and just kind of saying, ‘Here you go.’
What’s difficult about being a young designer in today’s industry?
My challenges are mostly in my inexperience when it comes to the actual selling of clothes. It’s all fine and good to put on a show, but you can’t pay for the show without selling some clothes throughout the year. I struggled for a long time to find reliable production help, which I have still yet to find, so for now ROMEO will remain a direct to consumer, small-batch wholesale type of gig. I am excited about the future of the brand though—I hope to learn more about getting the product to wider audiences. The work can feel relentless, but I’ll get an email from a customer who is in love with their purchase, or I’ll be recognized by someone in the industry who I respect, and it allows me to keep going.
What void are you hoping to fill in fashion?
I think the space ROMEO can fill in fashion will become more clear as the work continues, but I am much more focused now on what people can wear to make a real statement, without being too gimmicky or overshadowing the wearer themselves. I will always love a dramatic, avant-garde moment, but scaling it back to sell to people who will hold onto it forever—that’s the goal.