Lucas Portman has grown up in the world of fashion. The 19-year-old is the son of supermodel Natalia Vodianova and had long been exposed to runways and clothes, even while in utero. (Vodianova starred in a Marc Jacobs campaign while pregnant.) Now the blonde-haired, bright-eyed teenager is formally entering the business of fashion with his own line. Today on Earth Day, Portman has launched Fashion Baby, a label that merges streetwear with nature. Pieces range from a T-shirt with a grandiose sprawling blue butterfly stretched across it, a hoodie dotted with the insect, and sneakers made from vegan leather.
The idea came to Portman during lockdown. He had taken a year off of school due to COVID-19 and found himself at home in Paris, spending his time holed up with several seasons of Friends. “I thought to myself ‘What am I doing with my life right now?’ I’m out of school. My exams just got canceled,” he says over a Zoom video in Paris, next to his mother Natalia. “I’m not just going to sit in my room and watch Netflix.” Portman, who had been accepted to Brown University for economics, felt the urge to do something more creative. “I tried writing and drawing and what I ended up loving most is when I sat down in front of my computer in front of photoshop and I started putting together a t-shirt and jumpers,” says Portman. “I eventually showed the first T-shirt I made to my mom.” The piece was a T-shirt that boasted a colorful butterfly across it.
When Vodianova heard that her son had designed something, her initial reaction wasn’t necessarily excitement but rather nervousness. “When he told me, ‘I designed a t-shirt’, in my mind was horror. I was like, ‘What if I hate it? How am I going to tell him if he already finished it, what am I going to do when he shows me the T-shirt?’” To Vodianova’s relief, she ended up adoring Portman’s creation and instantly recognized the tender backstory behind his use of butterflies. “Him taking this approach of a butterfly was an homage to his father and the activities they did together as a child,” says Vodianova.
Portman’s love of nature harkens back to his childhood when he spent his time in the English countryside. “[When I moved to Paris] I started to appreciate streetwear and streetwear culture and the feeling and the vibe that it gives off, but I thought what was missing was a rural inspiration, like animals and insects.” Hence, the butterfly motif throughout the collection. “Butterflies are one of these things in nature, which is both beautiful and architecturally perfect,” Portman says. Aside from a purely aesthetic standpoint, one way that Portman is honoring appreciation for nature is through his goal to create a zero-waste brand, as well as his commitment to using leather alternatives. “If I were to use real leathers on the shoes it would go against the whole purpose of what we are going for,” says Portman.
While the shoes are sustainability-minded, they also have a stylish kick. A sneaker fanatic himself, Portman was inspired by the AirMax 1 and Nike Dunks for the shape. The colorways are uplifting, ranging from bright yellows with creams, mint green, and reds. Each shoe boasts the title of the “Swallowtail”, a butterfly species. On the top is an abstract butterfly interpretation that is split down the middle and divided by the laces. The outline of the butterfly also appears on the sole of the shoe, so whenever a person walks, they make the imprint when they reach soft ground. For Portman’s mother, this has a particularly important meaning. “It’s also a message of your footprint on the planet.”