By Meredith Fisher
The word "preppy" might lead most to images of Connecticut country clubs, but for designer Jose Ramon, it reminds him of growing up in the Dominican Republic. "My Catholic school uniform was khaki trousers and an oxford shirt and a tie," says Ramon. "That's where my fascination not just with American prep, but also with its counterparts in Europe comes from."
Now based in New York full-time, Ramon has created a new uniform with his women's collection, Réyes. Instead of cotton Dockers though, the Réyes schoolgirl throws a three-quarter sleeved peacoat bound with Swiss shirting fabric over her seersucker mini-skirt. "I'm very much about balances: between boy and girl, sporty and loose, tailored but edgy." It is at this crossroads that one finds a navy cotton dress, slim-cut through the top but flared at the bottom, and detailed with beige taffeta and seersucker stripes.
Although he was always attracted to clothes, it was after working in fashion PR at Richard Tyler for four years that Ramon decided to branch out on his own. "At Tyler, I had the opportunity to be involved in every aspect of the business, from the marketing to the designing to the fitting." A bright red strapless number with deep pockets and cream piping from Spring '06 is a far cry from the T-shirts that were the first incarnation of the Réyes label. "I wanted to start with a very specific item—T-shirts crafted with beautiful fabrics and elements like tuck stitching." So, while the complete '06 season may be a departure from tees, it remains committed to classic everyday prep-wear and the idea of sporty luxe.
His inspiration for Fall was Gwyneth Paltrow's dour but infinitely chic character Margot Tenenbaum (from the film, The Royal Tenenbaums). "I just think she is the embodiment of laid-back glamour," he says. "Someone who could pair a Lacoste dress with a fur coat," or in the case of his collection, a puffy vest with a raccoon collar and a pinafore dress constructed with men's shirting fabric. Other contrasting details work together in a pair of tweed trousers, piped in velvet to create a trompe l'oeil effect, while a pleated trapeze coat strikes an exaggerated A-line silhouette in felt cashmere. Naturally, Réyes also reflects Ramon's personal style. "I'm still wearing khakis," he says. "But now they're from Marni, and I'll throw on a shirt but it will be from Junya Watanabe."
A stint at Richard Tyler prepared Jose Ramon for launching his own collection, but when it came to providing inspiration for the label, the designer went back to his school days in the Dominican Republic—meet fashion's newest prep star.