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© Dalena Le
© Dalena Le
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What This Emerging Designer Learned from His First NYFW

Picture of Jill Di Donato
Fashion Editor
Updated: 16 February 2017
For an emerging designer, taking New York Fashion Week (NYFW) by storm is a daunting but exciting prospect. But that’s just what Debo Salami of RED FLOWERS did this week. Waxing poetic on the experience, he says, “Fashion week is a fresh reminder that the industry is more about the clothes, the shows, the models, and the parties. NYFW is about the community.”

Salami, a Massachusetts-based designer, who launched his brand RED FLOWERS in 2014, came to NYFW with a duffle bag full of his pieces, one-offs that mix couture with streetwear, a trend that’s cropping up in the industry of late. Salami has an innovative approach to putting out looks—an approach that relies neither on trends nor the all important fashion seasons. A proponent of slow fashion, Salami launches ultra curated collections, “whenever I can.” He reasons that by dropping one-offs, fueled by intricate hand sewing, hand painting, and infused with sociopolitical messages, he’s maintaining the integrity of the label. “I’m not going to dilute the line with more product and run the risk of ruining my brand.”

© Dalena Le

© Dalena Le/RED FLOWERS

“There are so many brands that are big for a moment, and then trail off because they don’t have the resources to keep launching quality products,” says Salami. He references the streetwear brand Trapstar, which saw a surge when Jay Z, Kanye West, and Rihanna were all photographed wearing the label, but then trailed off because the label couldn’t keep up with demand. In a world of fast fashion, where large labels like Zara or H&M come out with looks on a weekly basis to sell at low price points, Salami’s approach is not only going against the grain, it’s full of integrity.

© RED FLOWERS

© RED FLOWERS

“To achieve longevity in fashion, it’s important to keep your brand niche. Take Supreme, for example, which is kinda like this gateway drug to high fashion and streetwear mixing. [Supreme] starts out as a brand just skaters wore. Twenty years later, they’re collaborating with Louis Vuitton. How does that happen? Really strategic product drops and collaborations, and never compromising quality.”

© Dalena Le

© Dalena Le/RED FLOWERS

RED FLOWERS has limited runs of specialized apparel. Most recently, he’s all about the motorcycle jacket. “I wanted to make one piece and customize it. I bought this leather jacket, shrunk it, tailored it, and hand painted it. The imagery blends American militarism, Irezumi (Japanese tattoo art,) and thought-provoking messages about what police are doing to African American communities. And then there’s some flower imagery to flip it.”

© RED FLOWERS

© RED FLOWERS

As Salami says, “flipping it,” or taking a cultural reference and subverting or twisting it, has been the hallmark of streetwear. Another hallmark of streetwear, much to Salami’s dismay, is a dependence of logos to carry the design. In his brand, you won’t find traditional logo work. However, in-step with most streetwear brands, Salami does release a T-shirt with every collection.

© Dalena Le

© Dalena Le/RED FLOWERS

As for Salami’s take on NYFW, he was inspired by the individual style. “It was refreshing to see people’s personal style, their interpretation of how to wear the coolest pieces they could get their hands on.”

If RED FLOWERS continues to revolutionize streetwear with integrity and unconventional design inspirations, there’s no doubt Salami will be showing at NYFW himself in a hot New York minute.