From fashion prodigy to fashion mogul: Jerome LaMaar has a career in the fashion industry that spans over two decades. They began at the very early age of 15 working directly under Kimora Lee Simmons as a Baby Phat intern, later transitioning to senior designer and creative brand coordinator. Their path since then has consisted of collaborating with more of the best of the best in the industry with their work being admired by some of the biggest modern day celebrities.
LaMaar was also a part of the inaugural generation of millennials that branded themselves during the infancy of social media — formerly known as ‘Style Monk’ for his stylish wardrobe, meditation practices, and spiritual essence. Furthermore, he contributed to the 2020 launch of the Ivy Park x Adidas collection as a creative director and designer, traveled the world as a creative consultant for prominent fashion companies, sits on the board of trustees for The Bronx Museum Of Art, and designed a stunning ensemble worn by Beyoncé in her Disney+ film, Black Is King.
Now, LaMaar is creating their own brand, 5:31. LaMaar initially launched 5:31 in 2013 — originally dubbed ‘5:31 Jerome’. The brand was centralized around elevated streetwear, maximalism, and sparkle. It was recognized by The New York Times and worn by Beyoncé (a supporter of Jerome’s work to this day), Missy Elliot, Rihanna, Swizz Beatz, Kim Kardashian and many more. During the early years of the brand, LaMaar also opened his own brick-and-mortar retailer, 9J Concept Store, in Bronx, New York. However, even with growing success, they felt that 5:31 Jerome was not getting the recognition it deserved, with many buyers still not fully grasping the concept. “No one was talking about maximalism and sparkle, but now we see that that’s the trend,” LaMaar tells ESSENCE. “That’s been my curse — being a little too ahead of the curve.: “But this time there’s a different story and I feel like it’s something we are all going to want to wear.”
Now that LaMaar is officially relaunching 5:31, they’re dropping ‘Jerome’ from the brand name. Reason being, this time around they want to focus on the collaborative effort that it took to create the brand. In this new era, 5:31’s new ethos also aims to reintroduce the art of dressing. With a mix of high-low fashion, fluid silhouettes, vibrant colors, and accessories that tingle your imagination, they’re doing just that. LaMaar explained that the concept behind the designs was the idea of what’s cool, what we liked as kids, and how can 5:31 can make that feel elevated and practical. We’re not just talking sweatpants and t-shirts here, though. The first assortment from 5:31 went live today at 5:31 PM and is officially available for purchase on 531pm.com. Check out what LaMaar had to say about transitioning to the next level of his career, ahead.
ESSENCE: Since you were formerly known as the style monk, who would you say Jerome is now?
LaMaar: I think who Jerome is now is a really smart businessman. When I left Baby Phat it was difficult to find a job because I was so young and employers questioned how I could have 8 years of experience already, so I had to become someone (Style Monk). Knowing that my business sense, fashion sense, and trained eye has gotten me to where I am today, I am very grateful for that, and I think Jerome today is a futurist.
ESSENCE: From what you’ve shared with me privately, this is a transitional period in your life. How would you describe this chapter?
LaMaar: I would use the terms practical, authentic, and extremely magical.
ESSENCE: You’ve experienced a few eras of fashion – what do you think is the future of fashion?
LaMaar: I see it two-fold. There will be no room for fast fashion and there will be more room for the world of couture and that fantastical approach to fashion. I see 5:31 as the middle ground, bridging the worlds and providing quality garments that feel artisanal but still wearable.
ESSENCE: Why the name 5:31? It first launched in 2013, when did you put it on pause?
LaMaar: 5:31 is my birthday. My grandmother who passed also told me that she would send me signs from the other side with the numbers of my birthday. Every time I’ve had an epiphany I would see the number on a bus, or on the clock — just very interesting places. 2018 is when I stopped the brand. I had a store in the South Bronx that also carried young designers that are doing very well now. But, I had to stop the brand because I didn’t think it was getting the attention it deserved.
ESSENCE: What do you wish to convey with this collection?
LaMaar: The main message is that you can wear whatever you want, there are no rules. Play with things that feel right for you. They may be right for someone else, but you can try it on yourself and see what it means for you. I want people to rediscover the art of dressing. And a good shirt goes a long way!
ESSENCE: What would you say helps create longevity for a career in fashion?
LaMaar: Work ethic. Put in the work honey. I think it’s very important that people remember that this is not overnight. When it is your time, you want to be prepared.