Luxury Leather Designer Michael Lombard Talks About Designing For Celebrities And Dealing With Racism In Fashion

The worlds of fashion and beauty have often been known and criticized for choosing a more neutral stand where social injustices and issues are concerned. This holds true especially when gender inequality, politics and racism are concerned. In recent years, we’ve seen several brands do better in a sense that they’ve actually attempted to directly address concerns often considered as delicate or controversial.

On the issue of eating disorders, we’ve witnessed how some major labels saw to it that they impressed a healthier sense of body image to patrons and followers. This somewhat marked the end of the “heroine chic” looking mannequins on our runways. Alternately, it also saw an emergence of stunningly curvaceous models who redefined our notion of what is beautiful and sexy.

When thousands took the streets at the height of the pandemic to protest racial injustice, it seemed impossible for beauty and fashion brands to not take a stand. For the first time in history, individuals, brands, organization and businesses acknowledged the need to speak up. On social media, a large collective including labels, celebrities and creatives in the industry participated in the Black Lives Matter movement. More than a campaign it expressed departure from apathy which, has been the default mindset of my generation and the industry I love dearly.

DM-ing With The King Of Leather

It was a direct message from New York based designer, Michael Lombard that inspired a series of stories surrounding the racism. Known as “The King of Leather” since he broke through during New York Fashion Week in 2017, Michael is a voice in contemporary fashion who says it as it is. Despite being the go-to for celebrities he admits that as a designer of color, getting a break takes extra work. “This is one of the biggest issues in fashion. You definitely do not see many designer of color in high end stores. It’s extremely hard to get an email or call back from buyers of high end stores regardless of how big you are becoming in this industry.” The maker of premium leather jackets and apparel cites the iconic Galleries Lafayette as an example. “I see out of 100s of designers in there, there is probably only one off-white brand.”

From Music To Fashion

Michael admits that his foray into fashion was supported by an extensive background in the music business. He had  Decision to go into design was informed by a love for premium leather wares. He recalls, “I was just tired of buying it. I would wear it all the time but noticed I couldn’t really find the type I wanted to wear so I decided to design my own.”

Leather has been the material of choice because of the feel and quality. He envisioned new ways of interpreting leather into garments, exploring patterns for shirts, trousers, sneakers and skirts. Michael has also gone into the creation of accessories such as backpacks and bags. Pieces in his collections are elaborate imaginings on a pad, beautifully made into fashion reality. He describes his creative process as an ongoing journey that accompanies him day and night. “I travel with my sketchbook because my ideas come at weird times. I could look at a statue and something creative will pop up.”

Building A Celebrity Clientele

Michael designs for a clientele that belongs center stage. His creations is as much a show stopper as the roster of celebrities he dresses. “I’ve always created unique leather collection that my client wants to wear,” he says. Vision and finding the right partners to catapult his brand also helped him build a prestigious client base. “I once partnered with HarpersPR and my A-list celebrity clientele blossomed to what it is today.” Celebrities like Paula Abdul, LELE Pons, Ovy on the Drums, Prince Royce and LianeV have been spotted wearing Michael’s future perfect leather creations. That he used to run his own music label also paved paths for him to access clients in the entertainment world. He has also dress professional athletes who know how to make an impression on the red carpet.

When Fashion and Politics Meet

The celebrity designer admits to compartmentalizing his craft from his political beliefs. He explains, “I don’t let politics guide my creative process for my collections. As far as social inequalities, I try to be the best I can be by showing other designers of color that you can make it in the industry.” The current crisis and social unrest is posing a challenge across all industries, fashion included. There were lootings, which were associated with the protests. Michael comments, “Looting is never a solution to any problem in society. It’s going to be hard enough for fashion brands to recover after COVID-19 and looting will only make it worse.”

When asked about the ongoing protests and the overall sentiment of the fashion community towards social injustice, Michael opines: “In the past, everyone stayed neutral for fear of being black listed. There have been big brands that have been accused of racism. With the killing of George Floyd, I’ve noticed a change. I see big brands, boutique brands all around the world coming together as one voice expressing outrage over social injustice kept silent.” Michael Lombard is one such designer who has utilized his platform and fashion draw to speak up. He ends, “I say we need to vote out politicians that want to keep us silent.”

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