The Designer Behind R13 Emerges from Anonymity With an Aggressively '90s Runway Debut

Angela Chase, is that you?
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A look from R13's fall 2016 runway show. Photo: R13

A look from R13's fall 2016 runway show. Photo: R13

In 2009, Chris Leba launched R13, a cool-girl denim brand that can now be found at top retailers like Barneys, Shopbop and Totokaelo. Only, not a lot of people knew he was behind it, because until December, he had a full time job as a VP at Ralph Lauren. All press around the brand noted that it had an "anonymous" creative director, à la Margiela pre-Galliano.

Leba has now stepped into the spotlight with R13's debut runway show, which took place Wednesday evening at an industrial loft space in SoHo. And he definitely made an impression. Against a soundtrack of punk and grunge music, models walked energetically in ripped, vintage-looking T-shirts, deconstructed jeans, flannels, floral maxi dresses and choker necklaces with — you guessed it — Doc Martens on their feet. I'm pretty sure there were a few looks directly copped from "My So-Called Life" and Kurt Cobain. Still, somehow, the collection didn't feel at all derivative. A sense of authenticity and a notably positive energy pervaded the show.

Backstage afterwards, Leba told me, "When you're young things have a much deeper impact on you. In the '80s and the '90s, I was really young and I was soaking everything in. It always stays with me, that feeling and sensibility, and it's also sort of timeless. Punk and grunge in different ways still exist in our culture."

After slowly building R13, Leba says he finally reached a point where he felt like he could "really make it into something." Most significantly, the show indicated that Leba, like so many other established denim designers, wants to move beyond just jeans. And for the girl looking for that perfectly ripped tee, duster coat or oversized sweater, I haven't seen many better than these. Browse the full collection below.