Telfar Clemens let the fashion crowd into his world, closing out New York Fashion Week with a stunning multidisciplinary event.
It was more than just a fashion show — yes, there was the debut of a full clothing range and updates to his bags, but that was anchored in activism, political commentary and a critique on the industry told through sound and video. Clemens’ show was performance art remixed through the lens of a Black-owned business, with a focus on his own community.
As guests weaved their way into Pier 17, the showmanship had already begun with strategically placed digital ads playing snippets of what was to come from Clemens, his collection and his visual collaborators. The night kicked off with an episode of Telfar.TV, a 24-hour reality TV experience, retail channel and alternative channel for Black creativity that Clemens introduced in September. It runs on its own platform and via app on Apple TV and Roku. The story was told through booming audio and impactful images led by his crew — musician Ian Isiah, artists Aya Brown and Kandis Williams, poet Fred Moten, model Trap Selyna and Clemens — chronicling the sale of bags to TV viewers while teasing what was to come throughout the night: Telfar fashion.
Isiah and Brown played host, inviting guests into the Telfar world, highlighting the brand’s unabashedly Black and queer ownership. His bags, the ubiquitous ones seen all over New York and beyond, were a focus, even spinning a game show-style wheel to help determine what color bag to give away to their TV viewers.
Once the episode ended, the curtain was pulled back to reveal a stark white landscape with hills, valleys and a live jazz band as the first fashion show began. The show notes explained the collection was the culmination of two years of work, and it came with a massive amount of looks. The deconstructed sportswear — maybe a nod to what he learned outfitting the Liberian Olympic team for the Tokyo Summer Games — included a mix of loose shapes and interesting takes on tank tops as both a top and a dress, sports jerseys with cutouts and long-flowing skirts, all bearing his logo. Shown on a mix of gender expressions, it felt like the next phase for the community Clemens has built — those who feverishly anticipate his next bag can now can partake in a whole Telfar lifestyle.
Not done yet: The video returned, with Isiah’s voice cooing, “Cool denim.” It was manipulated, stretched out in a dreamy and prophetic tone, a symbol of what was to come from fashion show number two. Once again, the curtain was pulled back and a robust assortment of denim pieces walked the runway and into the crowd. He focused on a supersized distressed wide-leg raver-style pant, pairing it with his new round T logo bag shape. Clemens was once attached to design for the Gap, and looking at these fresh new denim designs, they may be kicking themselves now for having let him go.
Rounding out the event, Clemens did what he is known to do — he sold bags. Done by using a massive QR code that was paraded around the room and on large television screens, the hosts told the crowd it sold out in moments.