We’re all familiar with the hero’s journey–the beloved protagonist ventures forth from the world of common day into supernatural wonder. Interrupted by a call for adventure, the hero faces arduous challenges and is put to the ultimate test–this portion of the journey is where we meet Nicholas Raefski. This season, the up-and-coming designer utilizes this tried-and-true story template as the inspiration for his latest collection, which imitates his journey in the industry thus far. As the designer writes in his show notes, this Fall/Winter 2023 collection (aptly titled “Leap of Faith”) is just the first of his three-part hero’s journey.
“Leap of Faith is the first step in the hero’s journey,” Raefski shares with us via DMs, which are the “best way to contact me.” “Taking that leap of faith is so important. No other parts of the journey matter if you don’t start.”
Along with twelve other designers, Raefski presented his sophomore collection during New York Men’s Day. This year, the bi-annual event was housed in a large industrial building, occupying three floors. For Raefski, this marks his largest undertaking to date–with 13 looks. Of the 13 looks, many of them paid homage to some of his personal heroes, the likes of John Lennon and Maya Angelou, “who have broken the mold and catapulted into near-mythical territories,” Raefski writes. Some of these references were more literal with the hero’s faces printed across his designs while others were visualized in more subtle ways like silhouettes.
This collection can be seen as a “leap of faith” in other ways too, as it marks his first foray into womenswear. And with his leap into the unknown, as someone who’s been firmly rooted in the men’s day calendar, he brings an exciting air to womenswear–the feeling where anything goes. His two looks are playful and fun, while still retaining Raefski’s casual cool aesthetic. Backdropped against the classic arenas we typically expect heroes–cloudy blue skies, expansive sand dunes, and hazy forests–Rafski transports us to a whimsical land, somewhere just within reach where the brightest dreams come to life. A land soundtracked by only the greats: Frank Ocean, Dua Lipa, and Rihanna–whose songs played throughout the presentation. That’s what Raefski does best, his imagination dares us to dream past our wildest dreams and push ourselves that little step further.
“The title leap of faith also connects to how I feel about my current journey in fashion. I feel like I’m taking a leap of faith with my own career,” he adds. “And as scary as that is, I trust enough in myself and those around me to believe we can pull this whole thing off.” And with this collection, the designer not only cultivates his own innate sense of exploration, but calls each to their own adventure, whatever that might look like. After all, life is a journey, not a destination.
For more insight into Raefski’s latest collection, read our interview with him below.
V: First things first, how are you doing? How have these past few days leading up to the presentation been?
NR: I’m doing well. The days leading up to the presentation have been filled with so much excitement and chaos, but I’m learning how to manage. The first presentation I ever did–an off-calendar presentation in September of 2021–ended up with me having a kidney infection due to stress. So since then, I’ve really worked on learning how to balance all the stress. I’ve been really lucky this past season to be surrounded by so many friends that have helped me learn to enjoy the process and have helped lift the weight of everything off my shoulders just a bit.
V: What would you say is the biggest inspiration for this collection? Why?
NR: This collection is all about the hero’s journey. Essentially there are like eight ways to tell a story. One of them being “the hero’s journey.” Think like The Odyssey, or Hercules. This collection is the first of a three-part story about the hero’s journey. And I wanted to focus on establishing the hero. To do that I looked to childhood heroes I had growing up. People like John Lennon, Tiger Woods, Maya Angelou–and a ton of characters helped set the stage for this collection. On a deeper level this collection is about my own hero’s journey I’m on in fashion. I love to tell these multi-level stories that tie back to where I am personally and mentally at. Right now being in fashion and having a brand, feels like I’m on my own hero’s journey. Navigating the hardships and everything. I look to these great heroes the collection is based on to find inspiration on how I should navigate my own journey.
V: Why did you decide to title it “Leap of Faith”? What’s the significance behind it?
NR: I decided to name it “Leap of Faith,” because that’s the first step in the hero’s journey. Taking that leap of faith and starting that journey is so important. No other parts of the journey matter if you don’t start. The title leap of faith also connects to how I feel about my current journey in fashion. I feel like I’m taking a leap of faith with my own career. And as scary as that is, I trust enough in myself and those around me to believe we can pull this whole thing off.
V: Yeah you can totally see that. So, who are the main characters of the collection– in regard to fabrics, textiles, and silhouettes?
NR: The coolest fabric we used this season was this embossed vegan leather. We used it on a puffer jacket and it made for a super cool texture that I felt really added depth to the piece. On top of that, I find myself coming back to some staples. I love corduroy so to do a suit in it this season felt like I took a fun fabric and matured it into something a little more serious. I tend to lean into a very lean silhouette. Which I’ve appreciated, but exploring new silhouettes is certainly something I want to experiment with moving forward. Having not gone to fashion school or having a real extensive fashion background means I have a ton of room for growth. And silhouette is certainly something I want to get a little more into moving forward.
V: Yeah I love that you’re always exploring and pushing yourself. Why were you drawn to using these materials for the new collection?
NR: I was drawn to using these materials because I want to make fashion fun. Take the vegan embossed leather, that’s super fun and playful. Or the corduroy suit, once again it’s something comfortable that you can actually wear. Fashion is the intersection of art and functionality. That’s something I always keep in mind when designing, I can be super creative but I still need to make sure people are going to wear my clothing.
V: How would you describe this collection in a few words?
NR: Fun, whimsical, playful, dare I say inspirational.
V: What do you hope people who wear your designs feel when they’re in them?
NR: I want people to feel like the best version of themselves when they wear my clothing. I want to be the guy that makes your favorite jacket or favorite pair of pants. Everybody has that one piece that they wear when they need to feel and look their best. I want to make that item of clothing for people.
V: What was the biggest takeaway from last season? How do you think you’ve grown since then?
NR: I’ve learned that success doesn’t happen overnight, and the work you do today takes a year to pay off. It’s so easy to log onto social media and see people doing wild things, and think “When will it be my time?” I am learning that the journey is kind of the destination in itself and that I can only really focus on what I can control. Social media isn’t real, and the only real validation I need is from myself. I’m growing into being the person I want to be, and that takes time.
V: Yeah, overall I think that’s a great message to imbue. I feel like a lot of people are going to relate to that one. Anything else you want to share with readers about you or your work?
NR: If you like what we have been doing, you’re going to love what we do next!