I’ve never met Dr. Romanelli. I’ve never spoken to him on the phone or read an interview with him, but I have been following him for years. Here’s why I’ve avoided getting to know the many behind the designs: I picture the Los Angeles-based designer as a mad scientist of street wear – as a dangerous, irreverent artist – and I’m afraid that if I actually met the guy, I’d find out that he’s really nice, that he’s a human being like the rest of us rather than a madman.
If you haven’t followed DRx’s work and haven’t seen the collaborations he’s done with companies like Disney, Nike, Coca-Cola and more, you have no idea what I’m talking about. But if you have, then you understand the aesthetic that Dr. Romanelli brings to everything he touches. How to describe it? Well, think raw edges. Think visvim on steroids, or vintage Americana recycled and recut into modern day streetwear clothing and objects.
Dr. Romanelli’s creative process for his 2013 Stussy Taipei Capsule Collection is instructive of his artistic vision…
Dr. Romanelli for Stussy Taipei Capsule Collection
Here’s what he did: DRx searched through Stussy’s warehouse, pulling out a diverse collection of pieces from the brand’s history, items that seemingly had nothing to do with each other. Then he cut them all to hell, rearranged their elements and stitched them back together to create brand new works of garment-art. Each new item was an amalgamation of Stussy’s archives, paying homage to the label’s over-20-year history, but all made specifically for the world of contemporary streetwear. It’s something that’s not supposed to work, but somehow Dr. Romanelli makes it work.
What he did for coke in 2013 as well is likewise instructive…
DRx X Coca-Cola
You might ask how DRx has the capability to create what he creates, how does he do it? The answer is simple, he understands vintage goods. Dr. Romanelli is, himself, a collector of vintage Coke clothing and goods, and he brought this knowledge of Coke’s history to create what turned out to be a 200-piece collection.
Essentially, DRx sourced many of the pieces that he ended up reworking himself and preserved the original feel of the deliverymen, factory workers and restaurant servers – by retaining the original garment owner’s names stitched into the garment. It’s a detailing idea that only Dr. Romanelli would think of, yet it simply makes the collection work.
DRx X Danny Brown X Carhartt WIP
It’s a collection of jackets … workwear torn to shreds then reborn into something utterly original. If you ask me why it works, why just looking at the jackets is infinitely fascinating, why with every look there’s something new to discover within the garments’ construction, I can’t tell you. Caulk it up to DRx’s black magic, because that’s the best we can do.
The Rest Of Dr. Romanelli’s World
And that’s just the work DRx has been churning out over the past year. His other works have been just as mesmerizing. His collaborations with Medicom, Toy Beetle Bailey, and Popeye Bearbricks were fascinatingly detailed. His Dr. Goodfellow figures for Hostem and Oliver Peoples, as well as his recycled Mickey Mouse jewelry, were nightmarish in the best way possible. His SENSE x Barneys Japan x Dr. Romanelli “Snake Oil” Elixir Jacket is of the masterclass in Americana streetwear.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that no one does it like Dr. Romanelli. If one day I cross paths with him, I’ll take a minute to shake his hand, look him in the eyes, and compliment his work. But before we can strike up conversation, before we can chat about his love of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock, before he can dive into what goes through his head as he sits in (what I imagine to be) an ‘evil lair-esque’ studio, I’ll quickly make my escape. Because I don’t want to know the man behind the Frankenstein beauty. His myth is too awesomely crazy, too creatively aggressive, too perfect.