"I'm still looking for my story to grow organically at its own pace, even if it is a bit beyond the beaten path," says the photogenic Greg Lauren when asked why he's not hitting the NYFW runways as hard as other designers. Self-trained as an artist, Ralph Lauren's nephew was born in New York but has been based in L.A. for 15 years. And he's decided to go low-profile, with only select fans and fashion insiders aware of his sprawling collection's intimate presentation at the Crosby Hotel on Monday.
The racks are numerous, but the pieces are unique. Each handmade with love and high-qualified craft in his Melrose/Highland studio -- which served as his art space in his former life -- by a staff of 15 to 20 seamstresses.
"I used to be a painter, then I did an exhibition of paper clothing in 2010, and people were so disappointed by not being able to actually wear them that I decided to learn tailoring. For me it's a continuation of my artwork," he says of his luxurious, Rauschenberg-esque pieces.
His favorite materials are army-surplus sourced -- think khaki duffel bags, army blankets and vintage cottons juxtaposed with uber-luxurious cashmeres that are treated and dyed to get the same preowned texture. And as Greg -- a gypsy at heart -- likes his jewelry rough, he sometimes enhances a distressed jacket with a sculptural component at the hem of a sleeve, made of surprisingly light resin "with an automobile chrome finish."
Rei Kawakubo, the mastermind behind Comme des Garcons, the Dover Street Market stores in N.Y., London and Tokyo, has been an early fan. This fashion week, she's hosting an original Lauren installation in her new New York flagship (160 Lexington Ave at 30th St).
Asked who else belongs to his burgeoning fun fan club, the arty designer goes mum, so we'll answer for him: Brad Pitt, Lenny Kravitz and Raymond Pettibon -- the pope of California conceptual punk art -- have been photographed in his clothes. We'll add John Waters, who recently admitted that he's joined Lauren's cult.
His pieces are available at Barneys and Dover Street Market.