St. Louis-Based Designer Reuben Reuel On His Brand, Demestik
Designer Reuben Reuel’s love affair with fashion began at an early age in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he first became inspired by his grandmother, a stylish seamstress with a colorful personality. Best known for his avant-garde African patterns and artful use of texture and color, the designer’s popular collection caught the eye of Beyonce, who can be seen sporting several pieces from his line, Demestik.
While Reuel dreams of one day designing for Michelle Obama and Tracee Ellis Ross, Demestik is for women hailing from all walks of life. “Every woman feels like Beyoncé to me,” he says. After spending 10 years in New York City, Reuel was selected as one of six designers to participate in the St. Louis Fashion Fund‘s inaugural year.
You have a very distinct, bold design style. How has your aesthetic evolved over the course of your fashion career?
I’ve always had a love for print and color. Even though I was a New York-based designer, I didn’t want to fall into the realm of blacks, grays and other dark colors. I wanted to use traditional fabric in a more modern way. To do that, I use classic silhouettes mixed with very bold and bright colors.
What does your creative process look like?
I think about the women first, to be honest. It’s all about finding the right fabric and pairing it with the right silhouette, thinking about the woman and where she’s going to wear it. That’s my process.
What unique message does your clothing send to the world?
My clothing has a universal touch. Being an African-American designer, I didn’t want to put myself in a box of making things that could only reach one demographic. I wanted to make sure that my clothes could reach anyone and everyone. Some of the fabrics and textiles are designed and printed in Africa, but most of them are made in Holland. There’s this unique trade that goes on between the two cultures. I find that to be very interesting. I try to tell the story that my clothing is for all people.
Coming from New York City, how has working in St. Louis impacted your career?
There’s a huge art culture here that I’ve discovered. It’s a hidden gem. There’s so much great architecture here, and a lot of old art history. You have institutions like the Contemporary Art Museum and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, which house inspiration. St. Louis is also a less saturated area for fashion, which gives it a less competitive feel. New York is still a place for validation working in fashion, but it’s not a place for a young artist or a starving artist.
I feel like being a big fish in a small pond is more ideal in today’s fashion world. It really gives the viewer a different perspective of how fashion can be, where it can be, and how it can play a role in a global market. That’s how I see St. Louis. And it’s a place of peace. I was in New York for ten years. Again, I feel validated by living there, but it got to a point where I began thinking about the bigger picture and how I want to grow. St. Louis has more connections than people know.
What advice would you give to someone trying to establish their own unique voice in the competitive world of fashion? How do you stand out?
Listen to yourself. Trust the process. Be patient and study what’s happening in the industry. I think that’s something a lot of people don’t do. It’s easy to just assume that having a creative mind is all it takes, and that’s not exactly how it works. You do have to listen to your heart, but you also need to study what’s going on. Also, make an impact by having that one thing that no one else has. It cannot be from anybody else. That’s a major thing that I’ve learned. You must make a mark by doing something that people can only get from you. For me, it’s the marriage of print with a modern silhouette that can work for women of different sizes.
Photography courtesy of Geoff Story, TOKY and Demestik.