Reuben Reuel of De-Mes’Tiks New York

by Grace Bonney

Nothing makes me happier than finding an unexpected connection between design I love and my hometown. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that designer Reuben Reuel is not only from Virginia Beach, VA, but also went to my high school! I found his incredible dress designs while looking through another Etsy shop’s “favorites” list and was instantly struck by the bold fabrics and ladylike silhouettes he creates. I immediately wanted to get to know Reuben better and hear more about his process. And as an obsessive pattern hunter, I definitely wanted to hear more about those prints. Thankfully, Reuben was kind enough to invite us over to his Midwood, Brooklyn, home to check out his latest work and give us a peek inside his creative process. His latest collection will be available for pre-order on Etsy tomorrow, so bookmark the page here if you’re interested in picking up any of his designs. I’m pretty sure one of those zigzag bow dresses is going to end up in my Etsy cart. Thanks so much to Reuben for having us. I hope you enjoy his interview! xo, grace

Photographs by Maxwell Tielman

The full interview continues after the jump . . .

D*S: I’m always intrigued to see how someone’s hometown affects their style or influences, and you and I share the same hometown, Virginia Beach, VA! How did growing up there shape the work you do now?

Reuben Reuel: In Virginia Beach, I grew up in a Christian home, and going to church was such a major part of my life. Going to church on Sunday was like going to a mini fashion show. Everyone came in their best attire and looked their best. Seeing women dressed in very feminine dresses and suits in church really influences the work I do today. My designs are very reminiscent of the styles I remember seeing as a young child.

D*S: How would you describe your style? Are there any artists/designers that you particularly look up to?

RR: I would describe my style as chic and universal. I have always looked up to Yves Saint Laurent, as I feel he is the creator of modern-day style and fashion. Most styles that we see today are derived from the ideas and designs of this one designer.

D*S: Why do you design? What drives you? And how did you learn?

RR: I truly live by my motto, “Live to create, create to live.” I design because it is what I was created to do. When I am not designing or using my hands to physically turn a two-dimensional object into a three-dimensional product, I am not happy. Also, helping others feel good and look good through clothing drives me to design. I started learning my craft in my junior year of high school when I went to a vocational school to study design and sewing. I learned a great deal from the class and began to realize that I truly found my niche.

D*S: What was the first piece you sewed, and was it made for anyone in particular?

RR: The first garment I made was in high school. It was a navy blue and tan plaid cotton A-line skirt with front and back darts, a zipper and front and back facing (haha, I remember it vividly). I made it for a class project, and after I got an “A,” I gave it to my sister.

D*S: What are your work room essentials? What creative objects or tools can you not live without?

RR: My shears and straight pins are ALWAYS by my side when I am sewing. If I am sewing and I misplace my shears, I literally stop sewing until I find them. Without my pins, I can’t pin my pattern to the fabric, and without my shears, I can’t cut the fabric once the pattern is pinned.

D*S: What sorts of things are inspiring you right now? Where do you typically look for inspiration?

RR: I’m really inspired by textiles and colors. Before I design a garment, I buy the fabric. The fabric has its own voice, and it usually speaks to me first. I buy majority of my fabric from small fabric stores in the Garment District, and sometimes I stumble upon a fabric that I wasn’t even looking for.

D*S: You work with some incredible printed fabrics that have inspired our team here at D*S. Can you tell us about those fabrics and their history/heritage?

RR: The fabrics are actually made in Holland (hence being known as Holland wax cotton fabric) and somehow were adopted by the African culture, where it is most commonly seen. This is why most people know it as “African Fabric.” This article gives a great story on the origin of the print.

D*S: When do you feel the most creative?

RR: I feel the most creative when I am shopping for fabric. Fabrics speak to me. When I find the right fabric or an interesting fabric, I immediately know what I want to do with it.

D*S: What do you do to keep yourself, your space and your time organized?

RR: I keep my fabrics stacked and very organized, and I am always cleaning up after myself. Some things I can’t put away because I always use them, so I keep certain things in arms reach at all times.

D*S: How to you combat creative blocks?

RR: I combat creative blocks by keeping my eyes open and drawing inspiration from all cultures and styles. I live in New York, so I’m always observing what people are wearing, whether it is “in style” or not. I am constantly thinking of what to do next.

D*S: I love that you’re still sewing all your dresses by hand. Do you enjoy that process, and does it make you feel more attached to your work?

RR: I truly enjoy making the clothes that I design. Sewing the garments myself helps me to be super attentive to details. It has made my eye for quality control even stronger. Another great benefit is when I get positive feedback from customers on how well constructed the garment is and to know that my hands actually made it. I also feel that the customer feels that it was made special for them, and they have a real connection with the designer.

D*S: What is next for you with your work? What can we look forward to from De-Mes’Tiks?

RR: I really want to design and produce menswear. I want Demestiks New York to be a universal brand that everyone can enjoy.

D*S: Last but not least, what are the blogs, websites, apps and magazines that you can’t live without?

RR: Chic Men Magazine, L’Officiel Magazine, Dine-Dash.com, addicted2etsy.com, yoox.com (shopping), ebay.com (shopping), craigslist.org (EVERYTHING, lol). I’m also an Instagram junkie — it’s by far my favorite app on my phone.

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