Miami's Rag Trade Serenade

Chorus: Gay is okay but it must sell or it's hell

"There's a term we use when we're designing," says Toro as Paris chuckles, acknowledging the seeming contradiction. "We ask ourselves: Is it 'gay enough'? Enough that a straight boy could still find it appealing and his girlfriend could say, 'Oh, now that's sexy.'"

Of such thinking are marketing plans made. As the Fashion Institute of Technology's Valerie Steele observed recently in the menswear publication DNR: "Gay men are probably the single most important trendsetters in fashion today. Even things like gym culture and shaved chests have seeped out into the straight population. But a lot of the time the straight guys don't even know where these trends come from. They just know it's the in thing, and it's what their girlfriends like."

Ever the dedicated journalist, Kulchur slips into a navy top emblazoned with two rows of stars and begins modeling in front of a mirror. The net effect is: Colombian army lieutenant ready for dance-floor action. Score another convert.

It's haute in here: Dulce de Leche's Rafael Paris and Luis Toro
Steve Satterwhite
It's haute in here: Dulce de Leche's Rafael Paris and Luis Toro

"There's nothing better than seeing somebody walking down the street in our clothes," Paris says -- as long as they're wearing those clothes correctly. Kulchur catches a frowning Toro in the mirror's reflection.

"You don't roll up these cuffs," Toro scolds gently, and before Kulchur can move he swoops in for alterations. "See?" Toro points to the intricate embroidery on the sleeves: "You don't want to hide the flowers."

You should put little instruction booklets inside each shirt.

"We don't have to," laughs Paris. "Luis goes up to people on the street all the time and fixes their clothes."

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