Colin LoCascio’s self-titled brand is not for the faint-hearted. As he's moved to Rhode Island after fleeing the pandemic in New York, he has been producing a series of saturated, sun-kissed, staple items for the very suitcase this woman would pack, presented for him for the first time on a digital runway for his Spring Summer 2021 collection.
Ever since studying at Rhode Island School of Design, Colin has been infatuated by the architectural aspect of fashion. In terms of identity, he began his career by collaborating with houses such as Marc Jacobs, and also freelanced in exclusively custom design work for the likes of Paris Hilton, Bella Hadid and Lil’ Yachty before going solo with Colin LoCascio’s first independent collection in Fall 2020. Riding this train of success, Colin designed a fully ready to wear collection with striking color and texture palettes from the golden sandy beaches of Rhode Island. We talk about his experiences in the fashion industry, who he would invite to his own Rhode Island pool party, and how he always keeps the New York woman, in the spotlight.
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Colin, your eponymous fashion label launched earlier this year and has prevailed amidst a global pandemic, an employment crisis and the absence of physical runways themselves. You have produced two outstandingly successful collections so far, and I’m sure you have more on the horizon for 2021. Could you summarize your emotions on this rollercoaster year for us after the release of your second collection?
What a crazy year for sure! I think it’s been a lot of pivoting and adapting. I initially felt like this is the worst time to launch a new brand in the middle of this, but honestly, I think there have been some really great things that have happened for me as a young brand that wouldn’t have happened if Covid-19 wasn’t happening. I think seeing how this virus has really flipped the industry and the overall global market on its head goes to show how vulnerable all of these systems were. I think more specific to fashion, every brand is figuring out what works for them, and that may and honestly probably won’t work for another brand.
For the longest time, there were clear rules young brands needed to follow to get recognition or to take their brand to the next level, and through Covid-19 it’s been clear nothing is stronger than a brand and their connection with their customers. I hope it’s an inspiring time for younger designers and brands to define their own terms and make their own rulebooks.
You moved to Rhode Island while designing the Spring/Summer 2021 collection. There are strong elements of the landscape, the sand and the sea throughout the entire. Was there a particular moment in your trip that solidified the color palette for this collection?
I was super interested in how salt from the ocean and sun could fade objects over time, for example signs, cars, boats etc. I became super fascinated by these really beautiful sun-drenched faded hues. I tried hard to replicate some of the colors particularly in my denim washes – I wanted this washed over almost salt damaged and sun-drenched color.
You have been in the fashion industry since college, how did having experience in big design houses, such as Marc Jacobs, and custom freelance work make you gain experience on what running your own brand requires? Perhaps you have been able to take some dos and don’ts into your own brand. Has this shaped Colin LoCascio into who it is today?
Yes, certainly. I am super fortunate to have had such varying experiences when working at brands whether it be the difference of aesthetic, price point, company size etc. I think all of my experiences have built this foundation or understanding of the big picture, and how all of these teams come together to design/manufacture/produce/ship clothing. I think that the biggest life and fund-saver was understanding production schedules and the timeline of when things need to happen to ensure timely delivery of the goods. I think my biggest assets are the people I’ve met while working. I still text and dm so many people from different companies and teams to ask questions. I think working helps you find the people who know what you don’t. It’s impossible to know everything and I think building a network of people, really helps you save time and money on figuring out how to do things.
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This year, more than any other has been one of hasty decisions, much like that of your frantic New York woman fleeing to the seaside to outrun a pandemic. This ties in incredibly well to the ready to wear function of the collection. Did you always plan to have this concept of ‘core’ garments such as denim jacket, silk skirt, etc. to begin the design process of the collection?
I think the notion of designing more core staples, was really a product of the lockdown. I think through seeing the industry and the world, particularly the United States, fall apart, it made me realize we all have to do more. I had time to reflect more about my work and what CL stands for beyond the aesthetic and I tasked myself with figuring out what sustainably looks like for my brand at this current point (I think this will be a constant revolution each season), but it was really important for me to think about how to make clothing that can be worn several times and become a staple in my customers’ wardrobe. I think previously I would define the brand as delivering a more novelty product range, which is inherently not sustainable if a garment life cycle is only being worn a handful of times. I wanted to introduce fabric platforms and products like denim, blouses etc., to become that staple the CL customer is wearing every week or every other week. I wanted to design into the piece that is getting a lot of action in our customer’s closet and on her/their constant Spring wardrobe rotation.
Color and saturation are constant throughout your work regardless of the season. Do you find making colour the staple all year round attracts a certain type of customer?
Yes, I think the CL customer is certainly drawn to color and print. She or they don’t subscribe to societal norms of only wearing certain colors in the Winter versus wearing certain colors in the spring. They are totally wearing neon yellow in the peak of the Winter just as much as they are wearing it in the Spring.
The Frog Crochet Mesh Cardigan has become an iconic piece from your Spring/Summer 2021 collection and is currently sold out on your website (unfortunately). Why do you think this garment has become so popular individually? What is the story behind it?
I try to infuse memories from my childhood in all of my collections. As I kid, my favorite stuffed animal was Freddy the Frog, I brought him everywhere as a kid and continued to sleep with him well into high school, maybe I shouldn’t reveal that (laughs). I really like the idea of making these little easter eggs in the collection, for the customers from season to season. For Fall 2020 I did a frog argyle lurex vest that performed really well, so I wanted to bring the frog sweater back and thought let me go even bigger and bolder with my Freddy the Frog love letter, so I did an open stitch cardigan with twelve hand-crocheted frogs all over it. I sourced stuffed animal eyes for the eyes on the frogs and everything.
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Following on from this, would it be possible for you as the designer to choose one piece to represent the entire collection? A Spring/Summer 2021 ambassador, if you will.
That’s a hard one! I think, for me, it’s the dialogue between all of the pieces that make the best representation of what I was trying to say for the season. Similar to a photographer, it’s the conversations between their photographs in a series that really bring out the truest intention/representation of the work. I think also I really spend a lot of time working on the sequence of the looks and how I show them digitally. I really believe in storytelling through the looks and the experience of digesting the collection from look to look.
I understand this collection has a slightly more relaxed, quiet feel to it in comparison to perhaps the Fall/Winter 2020 collection, due to your move to Rhode Island this year. While designing there and taking inspiration from your serene seaside surroundings, was it easy to keep the fleeing New York women in mind, or was this something you had to remind yourself off in this collection?
I think in a lot of ways, I was living parallel to the narrative I created for myself to design into. I felt that even though I left New York, I was constantly thinking about it and I think New York City (perhaps because I was born and raised there) is something that never really leaves a person, as clique as it sounds. Think about Fran Drescher in the Nanny leaving Queens to move to Rhode Island because of a global pandemic. She’s still the flashing girl from Flushing, but just in Rhode Island (laughs).
I think, for me, when designing, the woman fleeing wasn’t trying to hide her identity of being a New Yorker, as a matter of fact, I think she was wearing it with pride. I think for so many New Yorkers it is how we identify outside of NYC. It becomes an explanation for why we are different from our surroundings. She very much felt like an outsider, which is also how I felt while living in Rhode Island. I think I was more interested in designing into her displacement and her identifying as an outsider versus her blending in.
Mediterranean magic meets inner-city girl in this collection. Was it easy to strike a balance between whimsy and wearability in the design process? 
I think it all comes down to the process of how I start to build the collection. I think it’s a really intimate process when I’m designing the collection and I’m constantly checking in with myself on how I’m feeling about the work. I think I’ve gotten the process of infusing wearable pieces down to a routine/science, and how I can do it and not stifle my creativity. I think it’s about merging the worlds of the more 'wearable' and the more 'editorial'. Those designs that fill that gap are the truest of my brand and the strongest. I think bouncing back and forth between both ends of the collection keeps it fresh, and helps me step out of my go-to silhouettes or styles.
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To finish up, what made you take the leap from exclusively custom work to a fully ready to wear style collection? Are you pleased for how this has been received on the digital runway?
I’m super fortunate to have built a strong custom/commission business and the people I got to work with are still a big part of my brand. I still think about the artists and their feedback/tastes/influences when designing, however, I did really want to invite more people to the brand, and the world in which the brand lives in. I think that it’s super fun being tasked with designing for a moment but I’ve been more interested in designing for her/their life. Designing the pieces that they wear when they go to work, or when they go on their first date, not just a music video or a performance. Expanding the line and bringing in new influences, perspectives and building out the world of CL is really what excites me the most.
I have to ask, after learning you spent time researching Helmut Newton’s candid iconography from Jerry Hall and Jean Pigozzi’s iconic pool parties over the last few decades, if you were to host your own Pigozzi-style pool party, who would be the star guests, and what would they wear?
Wow, what an amazing question! Fran Drescher is the number one on my list and honestly, anything she wants to wear it more than alright with me. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez in iconic cat eye sunglasses. Cardi B in vintage Pucci, Donna Summer in a Paco Rabanne chain metal bathing suit. Is it practical? No. Iconic? Yes. Issa Rae in Christopher John Rogers for cocktail hour. North West in full Yeezy, Gianni Versace in all black of course, Todd Oldham in an archive Todd Oldham and Rihanna in my frog cardigan from Spring Summer 2021. Wow, I could do this all day, I think this will be my new go-to if I’m feeling stressed or anxious. This game is awesome!
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