Romeo Hunte is Brooklyn’s foremost fashion designer. He has made his name for edgy, sophisticated, angular designs, and for his recent collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger for his 2021 collection. He featured his latest fall/winter 2022 collection in Lagos, while he recently dressed actor Winston Duke wears in an overcoat as part of Ebony magazine’s November/December 2022 cover featuring the cast of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Hunte recently dropped a nine-piece capsule collection with Amazon’s The Drop, which lasted for only 30 hours, and is known for having his designs worn by top-tier celebrities like Zendaya, Beyoncé, Selena Gomez and Laverne Cox. He spoke to Forbes at Black Enterprise’s 40 Under 40, where he was an honoree.
Forbes: How was Lagos, doing your fashion show there?
Romeo Hunte: This year, I was thinking outside the box, I wanted to bring my culture—from the bodega to the streets of Brooklyn—to Lagos. It was all hand sketched drawings, everything from the graffiti to the train stations, you’ll see that in my new collection. I took the classic polka dot and asked myself how would I recreate the classic polka dot today? A lot of the inspiration I get from Brooklyn is from the street slang, the urban dictionary.
Can you tell us more about the brick print you brought to your capsule collection with Amazon, for The Drop?
I wanted to cover the grey colored brick with multi-colored street slang. What I’m excited about is my silk sets.
The quarter water was a printed denim over silk.
The quarter water is all about appreciating the dollar.
I would get a quarter water, bubble gum and some chips. It’s about having it all hand sketched onto silk, taking it to the top tier of luxe. I’m meeting luxury, how innovative can we be?
Luxury fashion is no longer boring, it is a bit rock n roll, fun, right?
Yeah, you have to turn it up, it has to be fresh, what’s new? I think that’s why the industry is still trying to understand me. I want to be me, be authentic, but when it comes down to the culture, it has never been celebrated this way. I’m also telling stories about guys on the corner of the bodega playing dice—that could be misconceived, but I’m making it luxury, I’m making it art. I’m capturing those moments I see in my own neighborhood and making that art today. It’s a nod to Biggie Smalls, my first favorite rap artist. There’s an image of him rolling dice on a street corner. I asked, how do I make it now, fresh, modern?
What else have you newly released?
I also just started making underwear for both men and women. I started making the underwear with a cumberband waist. They’re unisex. You know how you wear a tuxedo with a cumberband? I’m recreating the tuxedo with the underwear cumberband. It gives it a chill, swag kind of vibe.
So would you say the look for the new collection is tailored swag?
Yeah, some would call it tailored street, or street swag, to sum it up. I’m here at the Enterprise Magazine’s top 40 under 40 for fashion and beauty. What I wanted to do on the beauty side was take dope looks I would see in the neighborhood, like taking a doobie hair wrap that women wear, and taking it a step forward and using it to cover their face. There’s many ways to wear each piece.
What inspires you these days?
Right now, my inspiration is me. I’m thinking about my mom as my biggest inspiration, my daughter, and how take things I saw as a child and make it art. I have a generation that relies on me and viewers that loves the culture. Everything from the grillz to how I take pictures, some viewers are obsessed with it. When I got off the plane in Lagos, everyone was like “Brooklyn, Brooklyn!”
I just want to keep pushing and I want people to just be themselves. Sometimes, fashion becomes ‘what is the trend,’ and I have to say, no I’m the trend. Be yourself. Nobody has your mind, but if you share what you know with the world, you never know—you could change people’s lives.