Laurence & Chico Are The Parsons Dropout Designers You Need to Know
Dancing effortlessly between the ingenuities of Rei Kawakubo and Yayoi Kusama, the pair maintains a vivid and discernible vision. We spoke to the design duo about their creative dynamic, sources of inspiration, and future endeavors. Check out the full interview below, and make sure to take a peep at their F/W 17 collection in the slideshow above.
Let’s start with how you guys formed as a creative duo. Similar to the minds behind Proenza Schouler, you both met at Parsons, right? How did your relationship develop into a creative, collaborative one?
Laurence: We met at Parsons. However, we dropped out, not like Proenza Schouler. [Laughs]
Chico: I was inspired by Laurence’s illustrations and wanted to create something based from his scribbles. I printed Laurence’s drawings onto postcards and we put up a stand in Soho across from the Miu Miu store. We received positive feedback from the public and to our surprise, all the postcards sold out! This encouragement led us to expand into silk scarves, tees and sweatshirts, and eventually an entire collection, now known as Laurence & Chico.
What’s pretty unique about you guys as a pair is that Chico is the creative director, while Laurence is the illustrator and “muse.” Can you talk a bit about how that dynamic works when putting a collection together?
Laurence: So, I have this illustration diary where I draw things and people that inspire me. I draw them in a metaphorical form, like my dear friend as a tulip or unicorn but with the person’s signature features. Then, Chico and I select a portion from my illustrations each season to create a themed collection. One season, our collection was about the aquarium. The whole collection is about iridescent jellyfish, squids, clown fishes, polka dot fishes, and the magnifying round-looking glass in the aquarium. Chico then takes my prints and turn them into garments. I am a 2D person, and he is a 3D person.
Laurence, how has your background in fashion marketing and experience at the Barney’s buying department informed your perspective as a designer?
Laurence: For me, Barney’s taught me excel and how to look at numbers (sell-through). It is not always about what I like as an individual. Brands set their market to hit their clientele on a concise level. For me, runway pieces are one thing, they can be bold and tell a statement. However, the market for our commercial pieces is light-luxe with a twist of humor (lots of handiwork and prints) but at an affordable price, which we see as a white market.
Can you each touch upon your initial involvement in fashion? Was it something either of you were surrounded by or something more so that was sought after?
Chico: I grew up in a law enforcement family in Northern China, so I was raised in a conservative and strict environment. Since everyone in my family is a police officer, my upbringing was extremely traditional. Ironically, sewing and fashion was always intriguing to me since I was little. When I was really young, I would cut my mother’s long printed trousers to make new clothes for my doll, then would sneakily sew the hem so she wouldn’t realize I cut it. One day, my mom realized that her pants were too short and she figured everything out. Since my mother is a bad-ass policewoman, my punishment was quite severe. The older I got, the more certain I became that I wanted to become a fashion designer. This led me to drop out of high school and attend the Beijing Institute of Fashion in Beijing. Long story short, I was offered to come to Parsons after working in the design field for almost 10 years in China.
Laurence: I breathed fashion ever since my first Barbie. My first major was illustration/animation and then I moved to New York for fashion.
As a fairly new brand, you’ve only come out with a few collections but I’m sure throughout school you were able to develop a particular vision. What does Laurence & Chico stand for or aim to highlight?
Laurence: Laurence & Chico is a lifestyle. Whenever we stroll on the street, all we see is black, black and more black. It is almost as if people are wearing uniforms! We want to create a surreal experience for people to explore and try, not only through fashion, but through other categories we plan to expand into, like home décor. We always want our customers to feel unique, fun and chic.
Any particular inspirations aside from Laurence’s personal illustrations?
Laurence: Our life in general and the world we create.
Glancing at your collections, I picked up on some silhouettes reminiscent of Rei Kawakubo and also a bit of Yayoi Kusama in the F/W 16 prints. Would you say these are conscious influences? Any designers or artists you guys look up to?
Laurence: I love bold silhouettes, but Chico is more into John Galliano than Rei Kawakubo. He loves theatrical, bold statements. I personally love Rei Kawakubo’s work, however, I do not design garments.
As for Yayoi Kusama, it feels like every time there is polka dots, people automatically think of Yayoi Kusama. We love Yayoi Kusama, however the polka dots in our world feel different. For me, polka dots are the seeds in our world. For example, for our F/W 16 collection, I drew polka dots with giraffes growing out of them because in our world, we connect the parts we like from a plant or an animal to create a new species. Our PomPoms accessories are also inspired by polka dot seeds.
Can you describe who you’re designing for? The ideal customer purchasing your pieces—where is she going, what is she doing, what is she drinking?
Chico: We are designing for the woman who is bored by everyday corporate brands. She is always looking for the next, new, exciting discovery. She is either working in a creative environment or has the taste and capacity for eccentric designs and fun colorful accessories. She is drinking one Instagrammable cocktail after another.
Could you name three people you guys would like to dress and for what occasion?
Beth Ditto, Rihanna, Anna Wintour.
I know you guys will be showing at NYFW again this season. What can we expect from the upcoming SS18 collection?
Laurence: Lipstick. Blush. Mascara.
Chico: Prints, Textures, Craziness.
Any other exciting projects, clients, or news under way? Feel free to add anything you want to include that we haven’t touched upon!
Laurence: We are opening a Laurence & Chico Concept Cafe in Vancouver, Canada (our hometown) hopefully, by the end of year. We will let you know more once the date is set. Stay tuned, it will be WOW!
Images courtesy of Laurence & Chico
Stay tuned to Milk for more fashionable duos.