"I’ve been really into 42nd Street recently. The style there is off the wall," said Telfar Clemens when I asked him about his current fashion heroes. Telfar
's fall collection (his first at OC) takes what he calls a "deconstructionist" approach to American sportswear, reworking jean jackets and sweats in multi-wear jersey. Based in the NYC, Telfar has been designing his line for fifteen seasons now, teaming up along the way with his friends at DIS
, and long-term collaborators artists Ryan Trecartin
and Lizzie Fitch
To celebrate the arrival of the fall pieces at OC, Telfar took me to his favorite Vietnamese coffee shop on Broome Street, where we talked about Real Housewives
, real fashion, and his plans to take Telfar global.
Shop all Telfar here
Alice Newell-Hanson: So, I’ve been told to ask you about reality TV. If you made a show what would it be like?
Telfar Clemens: All I do is watch reality TV. I’m obsessed with fake reality. So I would want it to be really
fake: completely edited, really scripted, and starring everybody that I know. But I wouldn’t want to be that star. I think it should be more Melrose Place
-ish, where all of a sudden people are written off.
ANH: You could have a cameo somewhere.
TC: Yeah, I’d have a cameo and just be kind of judging from the sidelines.
ANH: What are your favorite shows this season?
TC: Right now, Love & Hip Hop
is top of my list but I watch all of the Housewives
. I love the VH1 shows. They set the tone for how a lot of people conduct their lives or think they conduct their lives. I’m really interested in the effect that that’s having on people, and on fashion and what people think is "in" or "out." It is hilarious and really, really important. It’s one of my big influences.
ANH: You've created a video with Ryan Trecartin to accompany nearly all of your collections. How did you guys meet?
TC: I used to DJ a party called “Something Tight.” We met there and it was an instant friendship. He could do the splits, so that was really fun. We also have a lot of friends in common, like the people from DIS
. It’s really funny, all of us know each other from different places—it’s like a community and we all work together.
ANH: Do you think about your collections as art?
TC: I do consider myself an artist. I’m having two exhibitions this season and I’m now represented in that context. Each time I make a collection there are video projects to explain the vision behind it.
I always want to present my work in a different way. For the last two years or so I’ve been hosting SHOP-MOBILE, a moving display of my collection. Ryan’s collaborator Lizzie Fitch designed the shop for me and it moves each time that I release a new collection. It’s a hybrid between a clothing rack and a shop—but you have to see it!
ANH: Where is it right now?
TC: It’s in Queens until the new collection launches, then it’ll be open in New York in September, and in Paris in January. I plan for it to go worldwide. It’s a Canal Street model of business. It’s like I’m on the street and I’m selling something and then I can pack it up move to the next block. I really took their model of business and wanted to apply it to high-end fashion.
ANH: What’s the next collection we’ll see in it like?
TC: I’m releasing it on September 7th! I’m splitting the collection into three different sections—a jewelry line, an underwear line, and ready-to-wear—and then they come together as one.
ANH: Have you and Ryan talked about what the video is going to be like?
TC: It’s going to be really cool—the inspiration is “What if I had a QVC channel?”. That’s the direction I want to move in. I think people need to see my stuff in the most raw context. I make purposeful clothing; nothing is just for a look or for a theme, it’s stuff that you actually use.
ANH: This season the pieces are all convertible, too.
TC: Yes, the fall collection is called “Pieces” because the clothes separate into different sections. It’s a do-it-yourself take on winter sportswear. It’s really similar to a collection I did a few seasons back where things detached using snaps, but this season I used a lace. You can either keep the piece unlaced or kind of hand-sew it back together.
ANH: What were your other influences for fall?
TC: A lot of my collections are very conceptual in themselves. My design concept changes based on what I think people need, so it’s different each season. One season it was really rainy and I couldn’t stand being wet so I made every single piece waterproof. But this season, I was obsessed with boot-cut jeans and an urban cowboy kind of thing, because it’s just so funny how that goes down to so many different levels. Almost everybody’s a cowboy at some point.
ANH: Are there a lot of nostalgic references to older American sportswear?
TC: Yeah, for sure! That was such a thing during winter for me. I wanted to recreate that basic American design but also deconstruct it. A lot of things are based on functionality.
ANH: What’s your favorite piece?
TC: I really, really like the shearling jacket that you guys have. It’s pretty much like a sweater. It’s actually like wearing three Snuggies. I’m really ready for my order. I’m also waiting for the sweatpants with the detachable waist. You can see what you have on underneath—they're “sexy sweats.”
ANH: If Telfar made Snuggies, what would they look like?
TC: I think the Snuggie is so good already that I wouldn’t want to step on any toes. I’m more focused on making things that don’t exist and things that make my life—and everyone else’s lives—easier. I’m inspired by what people need and what should be made.
ANH: You could totally be on QVC.
TC: I’m ready for QVC.
Shop all Telfar here
Check out Telfar's spring presentation, 'FORMAL;LIFE" in collaboration with Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch, this Friday, September 7, on view at Jack Chiles Gallery in NYC through September 14
JACK CHILES GALLERY
New York, NY 10012