Last week, amid throngs of spectators including Public School’s Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow, DJ Vashtie Kola, and model Adwoa Aboah, Rochambeau presented its Spring 2017 collection at New York Fashion Week: Men’s. Then, Tuesday night, amid peers and jury members such as (once again) Osborne and Chow, Jason Wu, and TK Wonder, the Woolmark Prize crowned winners Gabriela Hearst for its top womenswear designer and Rochambeau, the brainchild of designers Laurence Chandler and Josh Cooper, for menswear.
One award under their belts, Chandler and Cooper weren’t done yet: This morning, they presented their final collection to the jury for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, for which they were named finalists at the end of June. (Buzzy designer Adam Selman, the man behind Rihanna and Sufjan Stevens’s tour costumes, is also among the finalists.)
“There’s a little more attention, and we love that — we welcome that,” Chandler said of the multiple honors his brand was up for, backstage at NYFWM last Wednesday. “It’s almost like we’ve been practicing for that stage.”
“We’ve never been much of vacationers,” Cooper chimed in. “We like to work.”
The pair has cultivated a dedicated following — including Luka Sabbat and Cara Delevingne — with their particular brand of streetwear-infused takes on ’90s New York skate culture. But lately, the designers have started to realize they can only dwell on their own teenage years for so long — for their latest collection, they looked across the pond, pulling from the Rolling Stones’s infamous trip to Marrakech, Morocco to fill out their mood board.
Photos from that era depict the Stones wearing louche silk ensembles in bright colors, Chandler said. On the runway, this “Artists in Exile” theme manifested in pops of lavender and coral, bombers paired with lineny shorts, and a monastic head-to-toe white look. Elsewhere, the global influences were more heavy-handed — one Stones-inflected model wore a beaded vest, heavy eyeliner, and piled-on necklaces.
Then, there were the accessories, added to the collection almost as an afterthought, about 72 hours before the show — “We thought the turban could be really masculine and the fez was basically just having some fun,” Cooper said. (Though, of course, the troubled history of the fez hat, dating back to the early Ottoman empire, is anything but “fun.”)
They cast friends like artist Grear Patterson and skate legend Eli Reed alongside established models including Neels Vesser, who Rochambeau broke two seasons ago, Herieth Paul, and Alana Zimmerman, who wore the same designs sized down for women. (Though several women populated the runway, Cooper and Chandler are adamant that they are menswear designers — “It’s something that we questioned for a long time as menswear designers, showing during women’s,” Cooper said. Fortunately, with the nascent New York Fashion Week: Men’s, they need no longer wrestle with that question.)
As evidenced in the sprawling array of designs and influences in their latest collection and at the Woolmark Prize, Rochambeau is still figuring itself out. The brand has found footing in New York — the designers referred to the latest show as a family affair, complete with their friends on the runway — and it has started to look beyond its skater roots for inspiration. For Spring 2017, this meant venturing over to London, while for Woolmark, this meant examining artists like Dash Snow working in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York.
“We’re growing up, even though we don’t want to,” Cooper said. “We can’t dress like we did when we were 20, so this is basically our take on growing up as we did. We’re kind of maturing.”