How a Boston man keeps his father’s name alive through fashion
Father’s Day was always spent at church in the Rameau family.
The youngest of the Rameau kids, Stanley, remembers how his father, Paul, would pick out his clothes when he was kid. It didn’t matter if he was going to church or school, a suit was likely to be in the fashion forecast. Even if he wore denim, the jeans would be pressed to perfection.
“It was super stuffy,” Stanley says of the outfits laid across his bed. “But when I was done putting on my clothes, he would come to my room and say, ‘Look at how handsome you are,’ even on a day when we were celebrating him. That was special.”
Dressing well wasn’t all about looks. Paul believed in being your best self in all you do — the outside was a reflection of the inside.
“The whole idea of presentation is really big in Haitian culture,” Stanley says. “It’s more the idea of presenting yourself in a respectful way with confidence.”
Even while fixing things around the house, Paul wore a crisp white T-shirt tucked into his belted trousers.
Stanley would watch him work, his hands crafting benches and making broken things work again.
It’s been three years since Paul died of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells. Even then, the 78-year-old was nicely dressed, donning a burgundy Hawaiian shirt.
Stanley is learning how to make a broken heart work again.
“It’s very difficult for me to be vulnerable,” says Stanley, 29. “I didn’t really talk much to friends or family in regards to how I felt. I was very, very naive in wanting to believe he would end up getting better. I had a conversation with my sister and she said to focus on the good parts of my father and ways to honor his life.”
At the time, Stanley was working on the business side of his sister’s Boston-based high-fashion brand, I Am Kréyol. He loved fashion, got the passion from his family. And he had a degree in marketing and media arts from Bentley University.
He started thinking about his father as a creative. He was a carpenter, he loved to sing in his church, and he painted landscapes and florals. He was a man of style.
“I always considered him a Renaissance man, and he tried to instill that creative side within me, but I just wanted to play. I didn’t think of myself as much of a creative, but we did a lot of creative things together.”
Like play the piano. In the living room of the Mattapan home, Stanley learned to play the piano. And as he practiced, his father would watch, hand on his chin, happily listening.
“I played, like, ‘Jingle Bells,’ and I was learning how to play this Haitian gospel song and he would touch a key while I was playing. I really did it for him. I was trying to go outside and play basketball, but it was a special moment for us. He would play different keys and I said, ‘Maybe you should learn with me.’ ”
Memories like those drove Stanley to create a fashion brand of his own, in his father’s name: Paul Rameau.
Launched last fall, the collection is a mix of streetwear and classic basics. At his first pop-up shop, he wore his father’s burgundy Hawaiian shirt. And his mother, whom he described as a traditional Haitian woman who wanted her son to get his master’s in business and go corporate, was proud. She insisted on becoming a paying customer.
“She has a different view of what success can look like now,” he says.
And his vision keeps growing. But his goal is to keep the dream rooted in Boston, home, where the city is shedding its stigma of being old, white, and unwelcoming.
“We cannot wait for it to be welcoming,” Stanley says. “We have to support each other, reach out to each other, and know we deserve to be here.”
A group of seven people helps Stanley bring dreams of his father to reality.
“My team makes this experience better,” he says. “It’s my father, my legacy, and we’re creating in honor of him and they are 1,000 percent in it. It’s really amazing.”
Last month, Stanley’s line was part of a fashion show at the Museum of Fine Arts Late Nites. His T-shirts are available at paulrameau.com and pop-up shops. But the MFA fashion show was a preview of the fall collection.
Models wore upcycled denim, jackets, and utility vests painted with homages to Paul. A burgundy hoodie with “Rameau” on the back flipped Paul’s birth year and death year to read 2016-1938. The message: This is a celebration of the life he lived, and the way his legacy lives on.
“My Rebirth Will Be Registered” was painted in all caps across a flannel shirt.
“When we are reborn, we become the better version of ourselves within our journey,” Stanley says. “We have that confidence to face our fears and take that pain and turn it into power. When we register something, it is documented. You keep going through rebirth until you reach your fullest potential.”
His father’s death was in many ways Stanley’s rebirth, his push to find his calling and to see his father’s name live on.
As Father’s Day approaches, he’s planning his next collection, a capsule that is both blue collar and creative, the Paul Rameau way. He hopes to remake his father’s burgundy Hawaiian shirt and possibly put one of Paul’s paintings across the back. Burgundy is the color for multiple myeloma awareness.
Making these pieces and launching this line has helped him work through his grief.
“I wanted to take my time to mourn but also take the opportunity to be connected to my father on a daily basis,” Stanley says. “I also want to inspire others [and say] you can also take a moment of pain and make it into something powerful that can potentially heal you and heal others as well.”
On Father’s Day, he plans to listen to his father’s old voice mails and indulge himself with a gospel favorite of his father’s, “All Is Well.”
“Every time I listen to gospel, I think of my father,” Stanley says. “He loved to sing at his church. And ‘All Is Well’ means all is well in my soul despite different things going on, be it death or hardship, all is well with my soul because God is watching over me.”
And so is Paul.