PYT: Raymond Natale and “Next in Class”

The emerging talent talks his hopes, dreams, and participating in the inaugural edition of Parsons' and PROJECT New York's new initiative

In July, Parsons teamed up menswear tradeshow PROJECT New York for the inaugural “Next in Class”  program, which afforded five of the school’s top graduates a chance to meet the buyers who help make the fashion industry tick. Here, the emerging talents selected by the Parsons faculty to participate share their experiences, hopes, and plans for the future. Stay tuned in the coming days to read the stories of his peers.

This past July, buyers browsing the PROJECT New York menswear tradeshow got quite a jolt when, amongst the faded jeans and rugged tees, they stumbled upon the “Next in Class” booth, which displayed five Parsons’ grads thesis collections. “I think our booth scared a lot of the buyers,” said Raymond Natale, a recent graduate. “But not in a bad way—it was good that they would come over and talk with us. That’s something that I still have to work through, because they don’t really teach you how to do that at Parsons.”

While he honed his craft at the prestigious fashion school, dealing with buyers was very different than creating in the classroom, which is why he felt so fortunate to participate in the inaugural edition of PROJECT New York and Parsons’ “Next in Class” program. “It’s hard to find a way to talk with the buyers about prices. But it’s great to tell them about the collection and get their feedback,” he explained. “Our crazy booth of student stuff was a bit out-there for some stores, but still really wearable garments. You’ve got to be just a little adventurous sometimes.”

For the Toronto native, the opportunity to meet with buyers in the industry was indicative of more than just New York’s support for students—it highlighted the strength of the city’s fashion community. “I think there are a lot of opportunities for young designers [in New York],” he said. “And now, with the CFDA doing this great new men’s week, and dedicating a day to emerging designers, it’s really inspiring to see that support. It pushes me a little bit harder.”

Conversely, his native Toronto just ended its fashion week. “There are a lot of designers that are here in Toronto, doing a lot of really creative, amazing stuff. But no one gives Canada and Toronto any real credibility outside of Canada. It doesn’t really make any sense on the big, international scale,” he lamented, later adding of the cancellation: “[It] forces young designers to look to other places where we can make a name for ourselves, like London, New York, or Paris. Those are the places where it’s happening for real.”

Natale’s road to a career in fashion wasn’t straightforward. He previously worked in landscape design, and even studied urban planning, which has worked its way into his aesthetic. “I love to design workwear that has an urban and contemporary feel to it,” he said. “I love that Canadian, heavy-duty workwear, and the aesthetic of the [Toronto] streetwear look—kind of baggy, oversized, a little bit disheveled, but still with some thought behind it.”

“Growing up, I was always really artistic,” he continued. “I always fiddled around with making stuff and altering pieces. Fashion just became a thing where I could take everything about design that I loved, and put them into one form that always evolving.” 

Natale’s thesis collection (which was shown at “Next in Class”) merged ideas of urban design and architecture, and played with fabric treatments, and the usage of building materials. “They’re really similar when you think about it,” he said of the connections between design disciplines. “I tried to think of it like building a house, and take those ideas and translate them into a wearable collection that was not too avant-garde, but new.”

Now that he’s out of school, Natale, who has interned with Robert Geller, and in the leather factory that provides work for Ralph Lauren Purple Label, hopes to continue building his brand and possibly show at NYFW: Men’s next season. He’s also considering collaborating with his brother, another recent Parsons grad who works in womenswear. “It’s something that people are attracted to nowadays,” he says of the familial dynamic. “People want to buy the clothes, but they also want to associate with the designers.”

Like most recent graduates, Natale is optimistic about the future of fashion. “It’s up to the new designers to [facilitate] change. We can make [fashion] more of an approachable thing,” he said. “Despite all the turmoil, there are a lot of interesting things happening, and young designers are stepping out of the box, finding new ways to make their collections work.” 

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