with Larayia Gaston

Larayia Gaston, former model-actress and now fashion designer, recently launched her brand, Apuletown, whose cool approach to street style has featured in Nylon. Design has always been her passion, and she’s the go-to address for musicians, models and hip New Yorkers in search of customized hats, shoes and shirts emblazoned with crystals from Swarovski. We met in LA, and she arrived in true street style—green hair and orange-patterned sweatpants. The girl loves color and isn’t afraid to be noticed.

Larayia Gaston
There’s nothing like it for taking the light. I have pieces that are old, and yet the crystals still have the same sparkle and shimmer. You can tell the difference. They represent a certain kind of luxury.

When did your passion for Swarovski crystals begin?
My father was a painter, and he used to customize my shoes and jean jackets with Swarovski crystals. I wanted Little Mermaids and Micky Mouses, and he did them for me. I started doing ‘luxury street’ in 2005, and by 2008 I was getting noticed. A $hat for $500, for example, was snapped up by my celebrity-based clientele—the athletes, rappers, singers and models who wanted to be identified by unique looks. A lot of crystals went onto dance pieces and items for stage and runway shows. I did a sweatshirt with over 2,000 hand-glued Swarovski crystals, and started doing one-of-a-kind shoes, shirts, hats and jackets. Next, it was functional art, like speakers, headphones and purses. Then I registered my brand on 11.11.11, and started affordable pieces as well.

Who were your first celebrity clients?
The first was Lil Wayne: he wore a jacket I made for him, and it was the first time anyone had seen a hardcore rapper all shiny. Also AzMarie from America’s Next Top Model.

What’s trending in customizing right now?
Making masculine fashion feminine. Women want Swarovski crystals on their Tims (Timberland boots). The girls can dress like their boyfriends, but I make theirs more feminine.

What will we see next summer?
I do drop-cut joggers, the traditional Turkish cut. You’ll see a lot of that. Also layered pieces. Sports bras will have a revival with all the sheer layering. Boho chic will come through in cotton and sweats. And compression pants (like the Nike running pants) will be huge, because they make everything look better—your legs, your butt.

Why were customized hats and shoes so big?
Men didn't have as many wardrobe choices as girls. A hat and shoes make a difference for a man. They wanted crystals, hand paintings, their names on their shoes, anything that made them stand out. It was part of the art movement: not everyone wanted to create art on a canvas, so they used everyday life. Rappers and dancers wanted to look different when people were seeing them for the first time—they didn't want their public to think, "Oh, I’m wearing the same outfit as you!" That's why it became so big.

Why did they all turn to Swarovski crystals?
There’s nothing like it for taking the light. I have pieces that are old, and yet the crystals still have the same sparkle and shimmer. You can tell the difference. They represent a certain kind of luxury.

Which colors and crystals do you use?
The number one is the AB crystal—it takes on light in different colors and it's multidimensional. The black crystals are big, as well.

Tell us more about streetwear.
Streetwear is all about understanding America’s pop culture. Everything you see on the runway was first on the street. It runs the whole fashion industry and started the entire t-shirt movement.

Which streetwear brands we will be hearing more about?
Jeremy Scott is huge, Joy Rich, Sean John is making a comeback. Helmut Lang is doing great in some of their luxury streetwear, and Adidas has had some good recent collaborations.

Potrait of Laraya Gaston photographed by Rafeal J (Faze), Make up by Candice Moten.

Swarovski Crystals Magazine #01 - Everyday Extraordinary

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