Ramin Karimloo (Les Miserables’ current Jean Valjean) sits down to discuss his personal style and the how to’s of keeping it cool in NYC’s bustling Broadway scene. The Broadway Style Guide’s Christina M. Pastor gets a glimpse into the pressures of the industry and a peak into the life of this city’s rising stars.
CP: Having been born in Iran, with Iranian parents… do you feel like it has had any impact on the way you dress?
RK: I don’t think so, actually. I left when I was months old and moved to Italy. That may be when I first started being aware of culture in any way.
CP: So when do you think you became more fashion conscious? Was it in Canada?
RK: I would think so, yeah. It wasn’t actually, to be honest… it wasn’t until I moved to England that I started really paying attention to clothes and dressing up. More towards my mid-twenties.
CP: What did you wear before that? Don’t tell me it was a plaid shirt and jeans!!
RK: It’s funny ‘cause I feel like I really connect to country music and the fashion that goes along with it… really rootsy kind of clothing. So the whole plaid thing? Yes. But I like to snazz it up! If you wear a suit, with a plaid shirt and tie: that’s the look that really appeals to me now. More than ever. I don’t even know if I have a style. I like what I like.
CP: I get it. We’ve lost our sense of occasion.
RK: Sometimes when I go to work (the theatre), people will ask where I’ve come from or where I’m going after work and I’m like: I’m dressed. Not dressed up! Just dressed. You dress well, you feel good. That’s how I see it. It represents something about you.
RK: (laughing) You know, when I started working on cruise ships at eighteen, we needed certain things as part of the job. Like a suit. I had never bought a suit in my life. And I look back now at some of those suits and think: what was I thinking?
CP: Where did you buy them?
RK: I was actually quite lucky. I bought them in Italy! I was in Sicily and found this place where they hand made your suit and belt and even shoes to match from the same leather.
CP: So then you were basically buying bespoke as your first investment in clothes?
RK: Yeah! It’s crazy.
CP: Love it. So, being part of a major musical theatre brand like Les Mis or Phantom of the Opera… do you think that has influenced the way you dress in any way?
RK: Well, it definitely makes me think. The more high profile you get, I mean… I hate being photographed. It kind of stresses me out. After a show, I look so busted up, especially because of the roles I play. I make an effort to look stylish post show. It does make me think about being represented well coming out of of that stage door… especially in NYC. You walk around, people spot you…
CP: Does that make you feel pressured to look a certain way?
RK: Pressure I pretty much put on myself. I don’t consider myself a fashion icon but if I see an image of me and I think what am I wearing? I care. I care how I represent myself.
CP: How you’re perceived? Like on Instagram, I guess.
RK: Yeah. It’s so instant too. I’ve had people send me photographs they took of me on the subway and I’m like: you didn’t even ask to take that photo. Where were you?
CP: It must feel like an invasion of privacy in some way. So when you leave your house, does it mean you’re always worried about how you’re put together?
RK: It’s always a consideration, yes.
CP: I believe it… so as your success has grown, has your style changed at all?
RK: No. I guess I’ve been able to get better versions of the styles I like. I hooked up with a stylist in NYC and she opened me up to some cool things like RRL and John Varvatos.
CP: So, what advise do you have for other artists about image?
RK: You should take pride in it! We work on our craft, we think about what it takes to get a job but we take for granted what we wear or that it represents how we come across. I think that should take the same amount of effort as we put into everything else.
CP: I think so too. And when you’re getting ready for a public appearance, like the Tony’s, what do you gravitate towards?
RK: I always like to look sharp. I think at the Theatre World Awards when I won… I made a huge effort to look a million bucks without having to spend it!
CP: Smart thinking. And what about being a Dad? Has that influenced your style at all?
RK: Not really but you know what? My six year old is really into fashion! When they were both first seeing my shows, I was playing the Phantom and they loved me in tailored suits. I liked them seeing me taking pride in what I wore but it’s got to the point where my six year old wanted to go out to Carmine’s and insisted on wearing a particular outfit. I told him no, but he persisted. When I finally saw it on him I thought: I don’t know how but this works!!!
CP: You might have a future Tom Ford on your hands!!! So, I’m just curious: if you could only keep one item in your closet, what would it be?
RK: I guess it would be my Christopher Bates jacket. He’s a Canadian designer. It’s simple and black. You can build anything from it.
CP: And who are your major fashion influences? You spoke of John Varvatos and Ralph Lauren, is there anyone else?
RK: Yes. David Beckham and the Avett Brothers. They’re a bluegrass band that wears three-piece suits… kind of in the style of RRL. I love how they incorporate their country boy look with a kind of sophistication. Those are definitely my four biggest influences. If I got to go to the Oscars, I would definitely wear Christopher Bates. We could both make a premiere at the Oscars! But when it comes to guys’ clothes I never want to look like I tried too hard. It’s got to be one special thing: a button, a pocket square.
CP: And if you could describe your personal style in one sentence, what would it be?
RK: A small town boy moves to the city: keeping a bit of his past in his present.
CP: Yes. I can totally see it. A gentleman farmer of sorts.
Be sure to check out Ramin’s style on and off stage in Les Miserables playing at the Imperial theatre.
Styled by David Withrow.