Going backstage for Telfar’s AW17 New York Fashion Week show

“And the award for most time-travel-friendly, culturally adaptable, contextually annoyed, unisex specific, panic-onomical, worn equally by both offense and defense — goes to: Telfar. Fill in the fucking blank. Meaning is in the eye of the beholder; and it’s a responsibility. Fill in the fucking blank.” So says video artist Ryan Trecartin of Telfar’s AW17 show at New York Fashion Week. The designer’s long-time collaborator aptly sums up the collection’s non-conformist, anti-trend, yet entirely now approach to unisex sportswear. An aesthetic Telfar Clemens has coined “extremely normal,” his universal wardrobe is “not for you, it’s for everyone.”

Going backstage before the show, up close it’s clear though that his basics aren’t so basic. Yes the fabrics - nylon, knit, wool, cotton, fleece and denim – are expected. As are the colours – navy, khaki and black spiced up with bright reds and yellows. But his hybrid shapes deconstruct classic garments and their associated meanings to create entirely new forms. Puffer-peacoats; hoodie-dresses and trouser-knickers with devlish zip-me-up-zip-me-down detailing were worn with attitude by his diverse cast of boy and girl models. It’s not about upscaling urbanwear or jumping on the post gender bandwagon. Telfar makes the everyday special.

Clemens was born in Queens to Liberian parents and lived in their homeland as a child. He started customising denim at high school, studied business at Pace University and launched his label in 2005. Since then he’s kept evolving his “simplex” approach to non-fashion, picking up fans such as Dev Hynes and Fatima Al Qadiri and stockists including Opening Ceremony and Dover Street Market, along the way. He’s also kept it fresh by collaborating with everyone from the Berlin Biennale, for which he exhibited portraits of his family – to hosting after parties with White Castle, the US’s oldest burger bar chain.  Fill in the fucking blank? Total fucking freedom.

Words Helen Jennings
Photography Davey James Clarke

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