Meet Vaquera, the city’s latest DIY breakout: the product of an Alabama Christian school, a DIS Magazine mentorship, Tumblr kinship and cosplay culture
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Originally from Alabama and educated at a Christian private school, Patric DiCaprio – the stylist-turned-fashion designer behind Vaquera – spent his teenage after school hours hogging his mother’s telephone line on the home PC, making internet friends, watching Tenchi Muyo! and playing in various goth and screamo bands. Glancing through his resume, it looks like this Southern boy’s hit the fashion world jackpot: since arriving in New York, Dicaprio’s fallen under the discerning care and direction of many of New York’s rising art and fashion tastemakers including the founders DIS Magazine, the editors at VFiles and Telfar stylist Avena Gallagher.
Like other nu-NY underground labels such as Gypsy Sport and Moses Gauntlett Cheng, Vaquera embraces the DIY spirit and healthy dose of naivety featured in its designs – a magical, raw energy often lost amongst most final year degree collections. On being self-taught and creating homemade pieces, DiCaprio (who holds a degree in photography) cites cosplay tutorials, the deconstruction of old jackets and a couch mentorship by DIS Magazine’s founding members as his fashion education. He’s part of a generation of underground NY designers who are dismissive of the larger industry and NYFW schedule featuring over-trafficked show venues and agency models – these labels pride themselves on being determinedly self-sufficient with the city’s untapped and unique resources, personalities and opportunities. The bygone pressures of measuring up to clichéd standards of success have enabled this new generation of designers – DiCaprio included – to seek out other ways to make their mark, something he did when choosing to stage his AW15 show in a subway station.
You’re from Alabama. How was life in the Deep South?
Patric DiCaprio: In Alabama, no one goes anywhere. There are no flights in or out, everyone is just living in the same square mile their whole life. I went to the same private Christian school for fourteen years and wore the same uniform the whole time. It made me notice the way a girl at school would do her nails, or a keychain on someone’s backpack, a person’s shoes and how they stood out because of how the laces were tied. Really it was always about music, about being like Kurt Cobain, obsessing over bands and what they were wearing. I decided to be in a goth band so I could have my fingernails black, and then I’d straighten my hair because I was in a screamo band – in a way, so I was always justified. Looking back, it’s inspiring… it’s being in really oppressive environments that really makes you turn it out.
You were studying photography in college and then you decided to intern for DIS – how did that change things for you?
Patric DiCaprio: I studied photography down South – it was very technical and basically just me and a bunch of rich girls. I would come into class with a photo shoot “inspired by an acid trip” I had pulled off last minute the night before and it actually shocked people to the point that they would gasp. The teacher told me I wasn’t allowed to do that in class. It was boring, so I got even more into the internet and making connections there and then got an internship with DIS Magazine in 2011.
That was when they were really coming up. What was the DIS intern experience like?
Patric DiCaprio: They were working out of their house, it was still super small and not that many people knew about it then. I can’t thank them enough – they took me in, even though I was totally fresh off the boat and did not know what was up. Stuff like, “How do you spell Issey Miyake?” [They] said to me – come on, stay on our couch for two weeks, read this book, we’ll take you out – even though you’re wearing your khaki shorts.
It’s a special thing to have that kind of mentorship. What did they teach you?
Patric DiCaprio: I mean, everything. First, there was that whole thing of me being shocked in realising I wasn’t as cool as the group, that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. It was necessary for me to re-evaluate and start over. I tell my young Instagram friends all the time – the ones who are “thinking about going to fashion school” – I’m just like girl, just move to New York – forget it, you don’t need to do that. I went to school for four years and it ruined it for me – that’s why I’m not a photographer now.
So you think school ruins creativity?
Patric DiCaprio: I taught myself to sew with cosplay tutorials and cutting up my old jackets and tracing them. That was a year ago – the first Vaquera collection were the first clothes I ever made. If you want to do something well and new, you have to teach yourself to do it. Fashion school makes you obsess over the wrong things: you go to class and begin over thinking, all wound up in your head, planning the collection and drawing everything beforehand. Inevitability – because you’re using the same process, it ends up being what all the other people next to you are doing. Though I do want to make sales and make money from this brand, I’m so afraid of becoming one of those brands that crank shit out because it’s what the fashion calendar dictates.
“I’m so afraid of becoming one of those brands that crank shit out because it’s what the fashion calendar dictates.” – Patric Dicaprio
Why did you choose Delancey/Essex station as the setting for your last show?
Patric DiCaprio: It was inspired by the MTA fare raise. The subway system in New York is something that makes this city so unique – I was shocked and amazed by it when I first moved here. When I was broke, I would just sit on the subway and sneak pictures of people because you could get on the subway and see like 500 different people every time you get on, with so many crazy style references. It’s a shame to see them making it more difficult for people to take the subway – but you know what? I’m gonna get my money’s worth. I’m sick of fashion inviting the same people and the same magazines to the same spaces, having the same catwalk with the serious models. I don’t need to see that again and I don’t need other people to see it again. I’m interested in normal people seeing my clothes and being aware of what I’m doing because Vaquera is so inspired by everyday people.
Anything crazy happen during the presentation?
Patric DiCaprio: I expected us to get kicked out in the first five minutes. I expected people to get mad and start catcalling. That would have been good, too – I would have been into that. But there was a bit of a struggle with a guy who was playing the guitar on the platform at the same time. He accosted us saying, “This isn’t right, what you’re doing!” I took him aside and said “I’m sorry, can I pay you what you would usually make here, I understand that this is your wage. I’m not trying to step on your toes, but I’ve invited people here, and I can’t change at the last minute!”
Did you pay him?
Patric DiCaprio: I did pay him. It was 20 dollars… I feel a bit gross about it. I just realised it was a monetary thing and who was I to come in there and upstage him? So I gave him his wage and immediately he walked over to everyone in my show and was like, “You guys are beautiful” and then pointed at me saying, “Okay, SHE did the right thing.” Not even looking at me, he went “I love you guys, mwah!” got onto the subway car and got out of there. The show in the subway station was amazing, but it was wild, people were rolling around on the floor and the “Showtime” boys were doing their thing up in front. [Photographer] Thomas McCarty got there and just made it look like a Renaissance scene – he made it look so classy.
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