Designer Raul Lopez’s Fall/Winter 2023 collection takes inspiration from the women of his childhood, creating heirlooms for generations to come

Luar’s Raul Lopez is on a roll. The morning after closing New York Fashion Week with a show and afterparty at the Faurschou Foundation in Greenpoint, LVMH announced that Luar is one of the semi-finalists for the 2023 LVMH Prize. Fresh off the heels of winning Accessories Designer of the Year at the CFDA Awards last November, the designer is keeping the momentum going for Fall/Winter 2023. Lopez named the collection Calle Pero EleganteStreet but Elegant—a nod to the powerful women who hustled for themselves and their families in order to provide a little bit of luxury. Lopez explained the genesis of the collection:

“Growing up in Brooklyn, in New York, there were gangsters of all races. But then you had gangstresses: Women who had power, and knew how to command their room—and [their] men. It was a different lens. It was a lens that only a boss woman had. I loved to see… the respect they had, not just from me, but from everyone. That’s another level of respect: Where men can bow down to these figures, women who came from these disrupted habitats. It was climbing to the top, not only for power, but to prove that they can dress good, look like a million bucks. Calle Pero EleganteStreet but Elegant. They could walk into any space and [had] all eyes on them.”

Lopez, who grew up in South Williamsburg when it was a predominantly Latinx neighborhood known as Los Sures, clarified what he meant by “gangster.” “People associate gangsters and gangstresses with a negative connotation,” the designer told Document. “In the hood, we say, Oh, that’s gangsta. Like, That’s cool. Like, That’s fab. It was a different notion to what the word actually meant.”

Lopez designed his Fall/Winter 2023 collection with the theme Calle Pero Elegante in mind, creating pieces meant to outlast current trends—items that could be passed down as heirlooms for future generations. The women who Lopez observed growing up worked as cake makers, house cleaners, factory workers, drug dealers, sex workers, and in bodegas—whatever they could do to make a living. “These women—Puerto Rican women, Black women, Polish women—[were] hustling to show you, I worked, now you’re going to see how good I look, and I want to make and buy things that my kids can share.

In Luar’s world, a heirloom is an item that will be just as relevant in 20 years as it is now—for instance, a beige puffer Lopez pulled off the rack. “It’s a classic puffer with a hood, but the shape is so that you can’t [determine], Oh that jacket is from 2000; that jacket is from 2023. It’s something that you can wear for years.”

“Growing up in Brooklyn, in New York, there were gangsters of all races. But then you had gangstresses: Women who had power, and knew how to command their room.”

On show day, the production team worked until the last minute to create the set—a series of double-sided mirrors, recalling the mirror-lined bars Lopez visited when he was younger. Strategically-placed cameras allowed for giant projections of the models—and showgoers—screened on the walls of the venue. They remained on throughout the afterparty, so that guests could track enormous versions of themselves over their 15 minutes of fame.

As the models did final rehearsals an hour before the show, a mob surrounded the entrance of the Faurschou Foundation, vying to get in—and being that it’s fashion, they all were important and knew somebody. Attendees including Tyler Mitchell, Jeremy O. Harris, Ella Emhoff, J Balvin, Dascha Polanco, and A$AP Ferg poured into the venue, where the runway was set across two gallery spaces.

The show began an hour after its 8 p.m. start time, with 40 looks going out on the runway. Some of the models’ hairstyles were inspired by Spanish women dear to Lopez, in particular Clarabelle, who lived in his building and would style her hair despite blustery weather. “The wind was blowing so much and her hair was wet, and it was [blowing] forward. It was, like, freezing,” he recalled.

One structured, oversized gingham suit with exaggerated shoulders redefined the notion of power suiting, while an assortment of outerwear—tech jackets, sculptural double-breasted wool coats, and puffers—dominated the runway. Red-carpet-ready gowns, like a sequined number that could be draped in different ways, and floor-length, boulder-shouldered looks are sure to be snapped up for awards season.

Eager to prove his CFDA title, Lopez rolled out a number of accessories, including new sizes and colorways of his iconic Ana bag, bold, double-hooped earrings made in collaboration with Mejuri, leather belts with Luar’s cursive logo as the buckle, feathered asymmetrical top hats, and double-layered sunglasses inspired by another of Lopez’s neighbors, who would wear his shades over his eyeglasses.

Judging from the palpable energy of the crowd and the way that Lopez beamed after the show, Calle Pero Elegante—a love letter to the powerful women in the designer’s life—was a success. Lopez is holding on to his CFDA title—for now. “I just want my community, my friends, and everyone [else] to see [that] this is what 10 years can do,” said Lopez. “You really just need to hustle. Nothing is given to you.”