18 December 2019
It is with agility and a touch of provocation that the american designer had brought a wind of change into fashion by creating R13 10 years ago, giving a punk impulse to basics that we thought would no longer be reinvented. Creative and irreverent, he mixes genres, styles, layers of clothing within a single silhouette, giving rise to a particular look, a daring quickdraw that made his success. Chris leba lives in new york, he never expresses himself in the media and speaks today exclusively to La grande boutique.
By the time I started R13, I had already been at Ralph Lauren for 19 years. Although I had a tremendous respect for the brand and Ralph himself, I felt restricted creating products for a mass market brand. Reacting to these feelings, I took action by starting R13 to initially act as an outlet to freely express myself without any constraint.
I had lots of ideas that repeatedly called out to me, but I knew they would not be appropriate for or accepted by the American mass market. I’ve always had a natural love and appreciation for timeless American sportswear and daily wear, but I had an inch to modernize it. My goal for R13 was to take something that is very familiar to the general public and transform it in a new and interesting without losing its authenticity and heritage.
When I was looking for a name, I searched for something that was foundational in American history that also had an edge. Though this process, I came across the “Join or Die” flag from the American Revolutionary War, picturing a rattle snake that has 13 separate pieces for the body, representing original 13 American colonies. The flag represents the need for unity to create the Union, regardless of the colonies’ differences, to fight for independence. This was metaphoric for the vision I had for R13. I wanted to represent the contrast in American beliefs, opinions, and style but show that we all come together for the love of freedom of expression and ideas. From here, I came up with the name R13, which is a backwards abbreviation of 13 rattles.
I kept my identity hidden mainly because I was also working at Ralph Lauren during the time I started R13 and I didn’t really want my two world to collide. I made myself public after I quit my job at Ralph Lauren and could dedicate all of myself to R13.
“Punk and Grunge” is an attitude is still very much with us. It might not have the same name, but the irreverent archetype can be found all around us today. I think the best indicator that punk, grunge and edge are still around us is to notice how many young people wear Dr. Martens boots, leather jackets, and shredded jeans today.
For me, it’s timeless because grunge is not specifically about any single piece of clothing, per se, I see it as an attitude my outfits portray in my daily life. However, we do see single pieces, like Dr. Martens or a Perfecto biker jacket, that expresses quintessential punk in one item that get recycled in trends. R13’s customers see punk as an essential of their lives, like me.
I think, from our very first collection, it would be a class pair of jeans, a perfect ripped white T-shirt, a black leather biker jacket and, if I can add a fourth, it would be a pair of black lace up combat boots.
Most of my inspiration comes from all the alternative bands that I listened to in the 80’s and 90’s – anywhere from Joy Division to Nirvana and all the other alternative bands in between.
The R13 girl is this imaginary fantasy girlfriend that I had since I was a teenager. Every season I get to reimagine her again and again to see what I should change and keep moving forward, while maintaining this image of her. We have a perfect love affair that have lasted for many, many years now. 🙂
My day right now start and ends with my 2-year-old daughter, Bella. I feed her breakfast in the morning and put her to bed at night. In between, I am at the office doing work, work and more work, but I love every second of it! I’m very grateful to be where I am now and currently be living my best life.
The future is always uncertain. Ten years ago, when I started R13, I had no idea that it would be where it is today. I just put one foot in front of another and ten years later, here we are. My main objective, for myself and R13, is to continuously look for ways to improve. I am constantly looking forward to all the surprises that are waiting for me in the next ten years. Stay tuned!