Recho Omondi, Designer, Omondi


"In design school, I wanted to learn how to create clothing. I was making things before school but didn’t know what I was doing, I was just cutting things I’d thrifted. I think in the beginning, most of us are often trying to copy someone–I look back at when I first started and I think I was trying to do what Rick Owens was doing a lot of the time. Now it’s not so much an identity, but more about what I’m feeling at the moment. A couple seasons ago I was on a totally muted palette, and now I’m almost surprised by all the color I’m using. [Laughs]

Starting my own label has been a very gradual, day-by-day process. We’re still learning how to move in a landscape that's moving for everyone–the internet has really been the thing that’s changed it all. It’s interesting with fashion, because it’s so often been pitched as this super glamorous, unattainable thing. But consumers today are smart and people want to see things that actually exist, myself included. I’m interested in fashion in terms of image-making and storytelling. I pull from that a lot, as well as the black experience since I’m Kenyan. We once did a show in Chelsea at the Steven Kasher Gallery with about 15-20 black models, and honestly, I think it garnered people’s attention just given that no one had seen that before.

As a black woman, the possibilities for your hair are endless–you can do it a million different ways–but it’s important to protect it, too. I had seen photos of these beautiful African people who grew blond hair and I was inspired to bleach mine…since it’s now been damaged to Biblical proportions, I will probably keep it in protective styles for the next year. Sometimes I’ll leave it natural but I’ve tried everything–I used to wear weaves a lot or get it relaxed. I’ll press it, or sometimes I’ll put it in a little ‘fro. I shaved my head bald once because I lost a bet–it’s just about experimenting. Post-damage I’ve tried a bunch of oils and moisturizers, and Jamaican castor oil is the best thing, which I put in either wet or dry hair. It always absorbs really well. I’ll put coconut oil on my ends, and then Keratin Complex is a good protectant–I’ll use that or John Frieda to cleanse. Then I have a leave-in conditioner from Simplicity, which is a hyper-concentrated oil that I use anytime, it’s amazing. And a wide array of combs is essential–you need a small barber comb to keep in your purse, and the one with the metal end so you can part your hair perfectly. You also need a tight brush. Mason Pearson makes really nice ones.

I have two concoctions I use to wash my face–the first is Glossier Milky Jelly mixed with St. Ives Apricot Scrub and the other is the Moisturizing Moon Mask mixed with this all-natural sea salt scrub from this witch doctor place. The Milky Jelly version is for every day, and the Moon Mask I do once a week. I just need to scrub my face. Sometimes I use this Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Cleansing Oil and when I’m done cleansing I mix Glossier Super Bounce with coconut oil because it evaporates right away. I love the sheen that coconut oil gives you, and the serum feels like it tightens everything. All my Glossier products are part of some concoction. [Laughs] It’s custom skincare. What I really want is laser scar removal for the little dark spots I get on my face. All I know is people get lasers done and it changes the texture, so that’s a long-term goal.

If I were stranded on a desert island and could only have one product it would be the Bare Minerals Loose Powder. I once had a panic attack at the Sephora on Broadway because they had discontinued the Deepest Deep shade I wear. Then one day I got a magical email saying it was back! The future is unpredictable, so I always order extras. I’ll do Bobbi Brown’s Concealer Stick in Chestnut and then the powder, with Glossier Boy Brow or YSL’s mascara–sometimes both. I keep all my empty tubes because they’re so pretty, and it’s the one product I’ve used exclusively since I was 15. When I’m wearing mascara, I like it to look like, 'That girl has way too much mascara on.' I’m that girl–clumpy!

I’ll use Glossier Balm Dotcom with some Nars Eyeliner in Mambo on my lips, because it stays longer than most lip stains and is the perfect brown nude. And then Urban Decay in Ransom is my secret weapon even though the packaging is crazy. Sometimes for a night look I’ll do a dark lip color, probably by MAC. I also love white nails or any pale color because it contrasts nicely with my skin. I usually do it myself–there are almost no nail salons in Bed-Stuy.

In spite of the clothes I make, I hardly ever wear color. I’d like to say I’m a walking, talking mannequin for the label, but in real life I usually just wear jeans and a T-shirt, maybe a sweater. It’s not that I don’t wear my own clothes, but I kind of treat them like an extension of me, and since our office is in my apartment, I don’t have to go anywhere. As a rule, I like things that are oversized, and I love wide leg pants—I’ve always had thousands of pairs. Occasionally I’ll put on a heel–I’ve been wearing these Acne heels a lot recently, or these Alexander Wang black boots. They’re a solid boot to pair with denim. People walk in the door at ten, so I try to get up around 7 or 8 so I can have some time to myself before they get here. After work, if I just want to relax, I’ll go to yoga. Or I’ll smoke some weed–can I say that?"

—as told to ITG

Recho Omondi photographed by Tom Newton at her home in Brooklyn on April 7, 2017.