main picturePhotograph by Dan Lecca
Telfar Clemens is one of fashion’s biggest rule breakers. The New York designer has spent his career breaking down intimidating industry barriers, creating genderless collections that proudly celebrate New York’s black and queer communities, while inviting everyone and anyone to be a part of it. of his world. For Clemens, “customers are more like collaborators” — an ideal that has spawned a democratic approach to going out, fun collaborations with brands like Ugg, and the global explosion of his ubiquitous logo-embossed shopping bag ( aka the “Bushwick Burkin”). Large-scale and inclusive in its essence, the space Telfar has built feels less like a brand and more like a party – and everyone is invited.
Unveiled during New York Fashion Week, Telfar’s latest show took the brand’s unorthodox approach to new heights. The live-streamed event kicked off a concept the brand has been developing for two years since they officially “left the fashion system”, where pieces will be made public on the brand’s website in weekly drops, from now on and “continue forever”. This new chapter for the label was celebrated around a film, Telfar the movie, on TelfarTV, the brand’s 24-hour live experimental linear channel. Featuring films from collaborators and submissions from the public, the freewheeling platform “aspires to be an alternative channel for black creativity.”
The collection itself showcased Telfar’s unique and ever-expanding language, drawing inspiration from the sportswear shapes and silhouettes of the New York neighborhoods he grew up in – “all looking stranger precisely because you you can already see them on the block” – which were cut in the designer’s signature twisted asymmetrical style. The collection established what Telfar describes as “a dress language that grows with each season – fashion to be completely unfashionable”. Here, in the aftermath of the show, four people share their passion for Telfar’s clothes and its anti-fashion approach:
Jamont Hanshaw, Artistic Director
“I first heard of Telfar in my early teens in high school. I went to a Hood By Air show, and saw a few people wearing these unreleased pieces with the eye-catching logo. At that age, I loved researching and reading about fashion and art, and one day I came across the brand and was moved. I knew Telfar was onto something big!
“I have an intense collection of Telfar pieces from past seasons and collaborations. I’m at a point in my life where I need to wear pieces that express unity, strong connection and upliftment. Telfar undeniably creates lasting trends that influence the next generation. Standing honest and radical without validation. Telfar remains humble and connected to its community. Beneath his extravagant accomplishments, there is always a handcrafted personality that revolves around appreciation.
Lynette Nylander, Executive Editorial Director of Dazed
“My uniform is a white tank top, I wear them all the time. I’m wearing one right now. I have this one [Telfar] tank top where it’s kind of subverted where the head hole and armhole should be – this is my special one I wear when I want to elevate by a white tank top. This is my first piece of Telfar, my most precious piece of Telfar. Of course, I have the bags. They have become such a symbol of pride and belonging for people. I always say the best thing about Telfar is that it gives people who have consistently stood on the fringes – not just of fashion, of whatever else they may be a part of – an entry point. And I think that’s so amazing. I wish more fashion brands were like this. Most fashion brands think, “How can I be more exclusive? He’s like, ‘I need every person never to wear it.’ And he’s serious when you talk to him about it. He’s like, ‘If an Upper East Side housewife uses my bag as a baby bag, while downtown Gworl wears it to a nightclub. I did my job.
“[What I admire about his approach] is that it’s so anti-fashion. I love that. He’s so interested in escaping the binaries of what the industry says you need to do, and with that he’s getting more and more successful. He wins the CFDA and finds a way out of fashion; it avoids fashion shows and only has a 24-hour TV streaming service, where you can watch people like you buy things; Where [he] merely uses the mark as a means of entertainment. The way he approaches it is almost like an artist’s approach, it’s transformed; it can be anything you want to be.
“Most importantly, I just have incredible respect for someone who is able to show up in spaces and be really, really unabashedly who they are and who they are. And that’s not bad if people don’t like him and don’t understand him. He just has his own radical self-confidence. And he’s that person.
Jorge Gitoo Wright, multidisciplinary creative
“I first met Telfar around 2013, when he and Babak were creatively directing a shoot for an African swimwear brand. I was a model and it was actually one of my first official shoots. Telfar and I immediately became friends, he was so kind and reassuring, and we had a lot of mutual friends – we were definitely in the same circle in New York, so it was only natural that we kiki.
“Telfar’s approach to fashion is his approach to life: everyone is included! Everyone should have a good time! It’s so admirable because as a black designer in this world of fashion, you’d think he’d be pressured by ‘coverage’ and acceptance from fashion houses, but no – he’s just here to doing his thing and having a good time doing it. It’s just real to be in a Telfar look. It’s so much more than my beauty, it represents black gay power all rolled into one.
Ana Kraš, photographer and designer
“I first met Telfar in 2016. I remember my boyfriend at the time had the ballet flats, the off-shoulder tank top and the logo jeans. I grew up in Belgrade, and Sergio Tacchini – which has a very similar logo – was big in Europe at the time. I remember when I saw the logo jeans I thought, ‘Wow, this new Sergio Tacchini line is cool’, but I I then learned that it was a New York brand called Telfar, and soon after I met Clemens.
“Telfar is a completely original brand. From silhouettes to catwalks, casting, unique ideas and his own authentic aesthetic, Telfar has truly inspired so many. I have a little retouching of his creations, but these are pieces that I wear a lot. Since the mini bag launched years ago, I’ve worn it more than any other bag because it’s the perfect size – it fits better [things] than any other small bag on the market – but it’s still stylish.
“Telfar’s approach to fashion is natural; it is an extension of itself. It’s so creative, layered and cool, and it all shows in every piece in every collection – there are always enough new, and almost weird, ideas to surprise you.