He launched his career during the Fall of 2010, and has no reason to turn back. From write-ups in major magazines to hobnobbing with Oprah and Will Smith, to headlining major fashion shows, Ralph Leroy is enjoying the fruits of years of his labor.
Dividing his time between Montreal and Port-au-Prince, the designer recently launched his San Souci Collection, a tribute to the reign of Haiti King Henri Christophe.
Kreyolicious: Just who is Ralph Leroy?
Ralph Leroy is a book with different chapters so the answer depends on the chapter that someone would want to open. Even I have to browse over them sometimes to not only reconnect but to stay grounded. The Ralph Leroy that the public knows is a designer, a philanthropist, an artistic director, a goodwill ambassador for the children of Haiti. He can be a showman when it comes to shows and collections, but also he’s a man who’s not afraid to give himself for others without asking for something in return. However, when you take Ralph out of Leroy, he’s a private man, full of emotions, that just a few can claim to [really] know.
Kreyolicious: How did you get your start in fashion modelling?
In 1998, when I opened my advertising agency Indices Communications in Haiti, one of the things that struck me at the time was the lack of black and Haitian representation in most Haitian TV [channels], newspapers, magazines,and commercials. So I took the momentum by opening a modeling agency that was also a school that taught people poise and [etiquette].
In 2003, when I escaped my [own] kidnapping in Haiti, I flew to the United States without papers and started working there. That’s where I begun selling my image as a model and where the whole idea of branding Ralph Leroy started. I used the same principles of style and elegance that I used to teach at my school to portray a fresh new image of the successful black man.
Kreyolicious: You went to the Atlanta International Fashion Week. How was that experience?
It was completely different from what I was used to. I was happy to learn something different from that experience. I met some very nice people, with a lot of spirit. I had a great collaboration not only with the Atlanta International Fashion Week team but I was also amazed by the professionalism and creativity of the celebrity hair stylist and artistic director of the fashion show, Gocha Hawkins and her team. It was an experience that I cherish a lot because I had the opportunity to showcase a collection that was entirely made in Haiti. It was a moment for my team from Haiti to have another type of experience, and to learn and grow from it.
Kreyolicious: How do you usually prepare for a show?
I start by building the story of the collection, the story boards and leaving the moment to create an environment that I can connect with. Music is usually the main part of my work. The anticipation and the excitement that are crowned by many nights of insomnia are usually a part of the process. I get frozen in the moment, living in a bubble that I only can understand. Every time, every show is a time to be reborn. I never compare a show to another, I never underestimate a show or overestimate because for me there’s no such thing as a small show. Any show is a big show to me.
Kreyolicious: When you look back at…say…3-5 years of your career…what would you say is your top proudest moments?
Every move or step that I took always brought me pride because they all derive from tough moments. I don’t like to compare what I’ve done because each moment has their own story, and I’ve always dedicated myself with passion for each one of them. But if I had to choose something as my proudest moment, I’d say it’s the fact that today I’m able to give back to my country by sharing my knowledge and my work with others in the same field, by helping organizations who take care of children in difficulties and to be present for the artists of my country whenever they need my help and support.
Kreyolicious: What advice would the Ralph Leroy of today give Ralph Leroy when he was first starting out?
I would advise him to keep growing, to never stop dreaming and living his passion, to stay grounded, to enjoy life and take some [time] for himself, to learn how to get a good night sleep, to take the time to eat, and to enjoy, and appreciate life. I’d also advise him to be careful with his entourage because not everybody who’s around have good intentions. Finally, I’d tell him that no matter what happens to keep on going.
Kreyolicious: What’s next for you?
I believe in the now, but I’m also a big dreamer. I take or create my own opportunities so my “next move” always surprises me. I can’t tell you now, but I’m sure if you keep on following my work you’ll enjoy the surprise as well.