Connor McKnight, one of New York’s hottest new designers, unveils an innovative collection – WWD

Connor McKnight is not one to be pushed into a corner. After canceling his New York Fashion Week show due to a last-minute lack of funding, the designer is unveiling his new collection this week: a range of stylish outerwear, sweaters, pants and hats. props that further refine his vision of Americana told through the lens of Black history, community and craftsmanship.

Although initially drained by the cancellation of his show, McKnight quickly turned that anxiety into opportunity. It allowed her to think about things in a new way — and gave her a few extra weeks to get her samples, make a lookbook that exceeded her standards, and showcase her designs without the many distractions and scheduling conflicts of NYFW.

“That’s probably one of the best things we’ve gotten from the schedule change during COVID-[19]said McKnight of her newfound freedom. “There are times when you should wait and buyers are quite understanding – it helps internal operations and helps your business run better.

“I’ve given myself extra time this season for samples to arrive and to ship my bulk orders. It makes a big difference to present a very complete collection, which is really close to my heart. We have accessories now, we we have to go a little further. It creates a strong moment for the storytelling and it’s something that I couldn’t have done in the usual time frame,” he said.

McKnight is an introspective guy who, unlike many of his designer peers, prefers a low profile. This is reflected in her designs – which whisper with an understated silhouette, fabric and color choices, delivering casual wear with a lively mood. This season, as in past releases, there are neutral styles as well as select dresses designed for self-identifying women.

McKnight has had a full six months this season to think about how best to refine his larger vision, but stumbled upon inspiration in an unlikely place. “A few months ago, I did a ‘Twilight Zone’ kick. I was watching it, and they were parodying a luxury brand, a department store, and they were rocking this model wearing the prettiest pleated jacket on full length. I just thought it might be really cool to incorporate that level of craftsmanship into things that don’t necessarily have it often,” the designer said.

McKnight’s Spring 2023 collection emphasizes the notion of leisure and pays homage to the hobbies of his father and two grandfathers. Many of these hobbies were outdoor pursuits – fishing, hiking, swimming, boating, and trailing.

McKnight’s goal has always been to elevate the silhouettes and iconography of performance-oriented archival clothing. Now building on that idea, he’s tweaking track jackets, trench coats and track shorts in recycled nylon with draping and construction techniques more typical of evening wear.

There’s a line of partings – Henley rugby shorts and an elastic waistband – in a fine greenish-silver mesh developed to look like metallic silks. For a new track jacket, McKnight manipulated nylon into ethereal pleats that culminate in a crescent-shaped swirl at the lower back.

“I went to Parsons [to study fashion design] and I’m really interested in the design, the shape and the drape. And then where I come from, the things that I grew up with incorporate these crunchy, crunchy materials – it’s an interest for me to see what happens when you marry the two of them,” he said. said about the contrast.

They were all photographed in an artist-made ensemble designed as a tribute to legendary jazz club Club Caverns in McKnight’s hometown of Washington, DC, nodding to another favorite family pastime. Caverns are somewhat reminiscent of the Juke Joint DIY music halls of the black American South that represent the resilience and ingenuity needed to create a culture in the face of adversity, he said.

McKnight knows its clothes don’t exist in a vacuum and face competition when packaged alongside other brands at its retailers, including Matches, Ssense, Mr Porter, Frances May and Colbo. The designer has spent a lot of time working with factories to improve the quality and construction of his collection. This season, he also dug into features that would differentiate his clothes to convert sales.

What he called a “Gil Back Fisherman Jacket,” based on old fly-fishing prototypes, is stacked inside with pockets to increase functionality. A new form of trouser, devoid of a belt, cascades of pleats directly from the top, allowing a flattering fit between men and women. “We hid a coin pocket in one of the folds,” he said. “I think those nooks and crannies are what tell a story and, in a way, give the clothes a certain narrative.”

There are also McKnight’s early bags: a “Bongo” backpack that picks up on its pleated nylon pattern, and a simple black leather shoulder bag that draws inspiration from the canvas bags synonymous with the “schlepping” lifestyle. from New York. They add additional layers to McKnight’s fusion of references – the delicate balance of which makes his mark so fresh at this frenetic moment.

Now, with six intense months behind him, McKnight feels like there’s only room to grow. “I would like to do some of the grant programs this year and really focus on building this collection. I spent so much time developing it and it generally feels like the direction of the brand I want to build from here. I laid the foundation,” he said.