Romero Bryan first broke into the fashion industry at the ripe age of 13. While most teenagers his age were adjusting to puberty, he was altering clothing. His first big moment came when singer and actress Samantha Mumba wore his design to the Brit Awards (UK’s Grammys). The red carpet moment landed Bryan’s dress in major newspapers and magazines like Vogue and Elle at the tender age of 15.
Seventeen years and countless celebrities later (Brandy, Usher, Cameron Diaz, and Kelly Rowland are just a few that have worn his clothing), the 29-year-old is working on growing his UK brand and making Romero Bryan a household name. He recently shared his journey to success with EBONY.com, leaving us inspired and proud.
EBONY: Vogue has called you the “boy wonder,” but your roots in fashion go back to your mother (a fashion buyer) and grandparents (a tailor and a seamstress). What made you decide to become a fashion designer?
Romero Bryan: It was natural for me because I always grew up around fashion-minded people. My mother used to buy collections and I’d see them ahead of time before they hit shelves so it always inspired me. More than anything else it was fun for me.
EBONY: How did you manage to turn your dream into reality?
RB: I started by buying secondhand jeans and customizing them into outfits for local girls in my area. I also wanted to be a TV announcer, so I would go to MTV studios in London every weekend. I met a TV presenter, June Sarpong, and she was the first client to wear my stuff on TV. She then passed my details onto Victoria Beckham, Christina Milian, Mya, and introduced me to a few stylists.
One stylist in particular, Cynthia Lawrence-John [Missy Elliott, Nelly Furtado], started using my stuff on her clients and got my pieces out there. I asked if I could shadow her, and that’s how I met loads of people on the entertainment circuit. She was also working with Samantha Mumba, which led to me designing her dress for the Brit Awards.
EBONY: You met a lot of celebrities early on. What’s one of your favorite celebrity moments?
RB: I grew up listening to Brandy and watching her on Moesha. Meeting her, having a bond with her, and being able to give her a private fashion show was great. I offered to give Brandy garments for free but she refused. She paid for them and gave me extra money with instructions to go to a university and study my craft. Cynthia Lawrence-John gave me money for that as well. She always made me promise I’d go to school. Funny because the same university I ended up going to is where I teach classes today.
EBONY: How did you keep your brand popular while in school?
RB: I was doing design for a few stockers in London. One was called Hells Bells on London’s Kings Road—one of the trendiest parts of London—and also Notting Hill. I was a concession within a store called Debonair. I sold denim jeans and chiffon tops and dresses.
EBONY: What is signature about your brand?
RB: Silk chiffon. My chiffon tops and dresses started getting really popular while I was in school. People began to call me the chiffon prince. Now I always make sure I have a few pieces in my collection. It’s a timeless material and I see it more as an investment piece. Every woman should have one and it’s flattering to every body type.
EBONY: Are there any difficulties with being a Black male designer in London?
RB: The fashion scene in London is very much a socialite scene that you have to get into. I face obstacles on a daily basis, having to prove myself in fashion being from a different background as those who are already in the industry.
EBONY: Is that what made you decide to come over to America and show your collection during NY Couture Fashion Week last year?
RB: I was flipping through a few American Black magazines and it struck me what a community Black people are in America. I decided to try out for New York Couture Fashion Week and got invited. It was then that I got to meet the likes of people like Bethann Hardison and Naomi Campbell.
EBONY: Where would you say your company is today, and where would you like to move forward in the future?
RB: It takes a while to get your fashion line out there, a lot of PR and marketing. As a result, I decided to enroll in business