Cream ruffle blouse and black cotton flare trousers both by VAQUERA NYC
“We want to keep surprising people,” Patric DiCaprio says as we wrap up our interview. Vaquera, the label, no, collective, launched by DiCaprio in 2014 is well-versed in the element of surprise, as its IRL exploits — namely staging fashion shows off-schedule — attests.
A photography graduate who went on to intern at DIS magazine and later worked as a stylist, DiCaprio’s Vaquera moniker is a recycled nickname from a stint paying the bills with kitchen work. “It came from Even Cowgirls Get The Blues by Tim Robbins,” DiCaprio explains. “I was reading the novel and my Mexican co-workers started calling me La Vaquera which means cowgirl in Spanish.”
With aims to “dissolve current fashion tropes based on gender, physical location, race and monetary value” — as per its VFiles profile – Vaquera is currently riding the wave of New York’s renegade fashion community. Spearheaded by contemporary creatives and collectives, it’s a state of affairs the designer credits to the wider industry’s stalling trajectory.
Spending his formative years in Alabama, Patric asserts: “I went to the same school for 14 years and wore the same uniform the whole time. I became obsessed with the small ways I could customise my look within the confines of our uniform. I would spend days preparing my look for out of uniform days – I realised early the power of not looking exactly like everyone else.”
The experience could be a metaphor for the position Vaquera takes within today’s sartorial landscape. Staging shows in subway stations, churches and Chinese restaurants, the cloth-as-costume analogy is likewise a relevant concept, while the label’s “corny” aesthetic make-up is similarly distinctive.
Quizzed previously on the decision to debut AW15 at New York’s Delancey St station, DiCaprio cited a proposed fare increase as the inspiration. Of the subject today he remarks that political discussion is inevitable when making clothes; “there is a statement inherent even in the most basic processes of starting and owning a brand.” The notion of community is similarly close to his heart. “New York can be so brutal – it is important to have your support system to fall back on so that you can take necessary risks,” he decides – later indicating the addition of David Moses and Bryn Taubensee to the Vaquera line-up as a natural progression.
“Basically everything has changed,” he states of Moses and Taubensee. “It is so much more satisfying to create something with friends than it is to do it alone. They were both a part of the brand before they officially joined, but after my fourth collection I was ready to share the brand with people that I respect and trust.”
At the time of our interview, the internet is saturated with articles analysing perhaps the industry’s best known (modern) fashion collective, the Demna Gvasalia-headed Vetements. Is their success something DiCaprio aspires towards for Vaquera? “It’s complicated,” he suggests. “I admire Vetements’ business model, but I think our priorities are completely different from theirs.” For now, he insists, he just wants to keep surprising everyone.