LEADERS OF THE PACK
A Conversation with Fashion Designers LAURENCE CHANDLER and JOSHUA COOPER of ROCHAMBEAU
Style Watch with Eden Herbstman
Stand out, be a risk taker, and own an individual style is the mantra encompassing the men’s label Rochambeau. The creative minds behind the brand consist of Laurence Chandler and Joshua Cooper, business partners as well as long time friends. Since 2009, Rochambeau’s collections have showcased Laurence and Joshua’s talented design range, as well as providing men with fashion-forward and edgy clothing. The mark of a Rochambeau piece is always the underlying hint of an edge and risk. They’ve produced clothing that is more classic and clean cut, but their signature style lies in the structure, draping, and distressed tops and pants. Their Spring/Summer 2012 pieces uniquely stand out from their past collections. This collection’s presence gives off an authentic “fashion-grunginess” only found in the New York City streets. Darker palettes showcase the high quality structure, while still remaining effortless.
Eden Herbstman: Why did you chose the name “Rochambeau” for your brand?
Laurence Chandler: We knew it was insane to start the label in the eye of the recession, but we saw a real void in the Menswear market, especially with progressive labels coming out of NYC. Rochambeau, which is synonymous with the game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, was chosen as an homage to the risk involved in making this happen.
EH: The vibe of this collection, compared to your previous Spring/Summer collections, is a lot edgier and darker. What did you want to evoke in this collection that is different from your past collections?
Joshua Cooper: The Spring collection was built and driven by the theme of an urban wanderer. Someone that is engulfed in city life, surrounded by others–chaos to a degree–consumed by something larger and among the masses. We made an incredible film to document this feeling entitled Paralymbic.
Our new Fall collection is based in much darker ideas. Old Pagan ritual reminiscent of the origins of holidays that we celebrate today but actually were founded in very dark and mythical stories. When one analyzes the way holidays or traditions affect them as we grow from young to old the emotions and feelings evolve from jovial to reminicising for those times again.The design and fabrication this season is inspired by interaction with the elements and is illustrated through our use of rougher more substantial materials, raw edges, heavy wools, furs, leathers, concepts derived from being forced to survive in solitude.
EH: Architectural cuts are a dominating theme in your Spring/Summer 2012 collection. What is the significance of utilizing bold constructions in your collection?
LC: We work with a very dark palette so we take great pride in really elevating our detailing with unique cuts and twists on traditional menswear. The market feels very crowded with constructive, heritage-themed menswear–we are not that. We want to show that New York City can produce high design, directional menswear. Right now there is not even a true men’s fashion week in New York City!? That can’t last forever, and our partnership with W Hotels’ Fashion Next program is ensuring that it won’t!
EH: Are your pieces influenced at all by your own personal styles?
JC: Yes, our own personal style is interwoven in the collection season to season. This goes for everything from fabrics we source to trends and styles that have influenced us as individuals. We have all had different up-bringings and have been influenced by those environments.
EH: Even though you design for men, some of your pieces hint at androgyny, and could easily be worn by women. Is that intentional?
LC: We were able to play off the feedback we were receiving from retailers that both men and women were buying the pieces in our Spring 2011 campaign–we shot with Hugh Lippe featuring Natasa Vojnovic as both a male Jack & a female Jill. If women like the pieces, we only take it as a compliment!
JC: We do design for men that are thinking forward and not scared to take risks. The way men’s fashion is defined in the States, how the lines drawn in the sand here, can be a bit limiting. We find ourselves being more comfortable going against the grain. We don’t want the Rochambeau guy to fit in. We want him to lead the pack, and I guess women identifying with Rochambeau makes sense because women tend to take more risks and are less confined to a specific way of dress.
EH: Working with a partner in the fashion industry can be tricky at times. Do your individual visions ever clash?
JC: Sure, we all disagree at times, but this is essential for balance. I don’t think it is healthy to only see things in one way. Someone else showing you another way to look at something is invaluable. Obviously like any partners we have our disagreements, but we have a very strong bond, and we put our end goals in front of our momentary ego battles.
LC: We have a common vision, strong enough to override day-to-day issues. We both have different stress relievers. Josh goes to the gym religiously. Today, when things were getting crazy prepping for fashion week, I made a Twitter account for Josh’s beard.
EH: What is one thing you want people to know that differentiates you from other designers in the industry?
LC: The great people around us and supporting us is what makes this all possible! Going into a new season we always want to push the limits, down to every detail–we collaborated on our invite that we made custom wax seals for with the incredibly talented Nicholas Tazza, we are building an insane set for our Lincoln Center show with Ken Farmer, Phil Knott shot our European sales lookbook, and after fashion week we are doing something insane with Hugh Lippe. These are the people who continue to inspire us and ensure the brand is always evolving.
Laurence Chandler and Joshua Cooper are the two designers of the men’s brand Rochambeau.
Laurence Chandler and Joshua Cooper interviewed by Eden Herbstman
Written by Eden Herbstman
Photography by Coco Alexander
Design by Jillian Mercado
Laurence Chandler and Joshua Cooper at their studio in New York City, 2012, Photography by Coco Alexander