FADER NYFW, FALL 2014
Had he not kicked off his Kmart-sponsored #KnowNewTrends campaign at NYFW with this Chloe Wise-directed video, Liberia-born designer Telfar Clemens could have teased his takeover at the New Museum today with an infinite scroll of names from New York’s contemporary, tech-obsessed, downtown music and design scene. Among those I spotted in the crowded lobby, where visitors were greeted by a life-sized mannequin in the image of the pony-tailed artist, were Kelela, SZA, the ATL Twins, Mike the Ruler, Venus X, Ian Isiah, L-Vis 1990, Arca, Ssion’s Cody Critcheloe, Aaron David Ross, Boychild, Kevin Amato, Slava, Brenmar and even longtime FADER photographer Jason Nocito. The downstairs, fittingly, felt like something of an e-cig/gpen convention, but more like one convened on the ground floor of an extremely futuristic-looking, Telfar-themed department store, with racks of colorful T-shirts bearing images of the designs from his fall 2014 collection, classic East-West leather tote bags embossed with the Telfar logo and looping teaser animations by real TV post-production house NTROPIC, wherein models from the show itself were successively teleported onto a circular platform that looked like something straight out of a make-over-themed, photo-retouching app. It was basically an Instagram lover’s dream (hence the logic behind the Telfar statue, probably), but as the rare fashion week show staged within the museum setting, it had the unique self-awareness of caricaturing its own nature as a commerce-driven spectacle.
Upstairs in the Sky Room, Teengirl Fantasy’s Nick Weiss leaned over a laptop, weaving a constellation of sampled voices (“Telfar!” Telfar?”) into the ambient din. Once the room fell silent, this became the soundtrack for a runway show, which proceeded from a giant mock-up of a leather tote bag at one end of the room and parted the crowd in a stream of smart, bold color and chunky, nearly genderless silhouettes. Snuggie-inspired shapes abounded, fabrics consisted almost exclusively of fine fleece and the footwear fell somewhere on the continuum between classic Clarks and the feminine Ugg boot. Maybe it goes without saying that Telfar’s fall 2014 menswear collection is all about comfort, albeit the kind of comfort born out of a pimply, adolescent World of Warcraft addict’s den and spun out to heroic, cyber-punk proportions, merging Frodo Baggins cape-cool with mall goth, trenchcoat chic in one fell swoop. I am not a fashion critic, but I can’t really think of something more true to our contemporary zeitgeist (with its almost complete collapse of high and low culture, avant-garde and mainstream) than hosting a Kmart sponsored show full of high school nerddom memories in a contemporary art museum. I’m not sure how successful Telfar’s designs will be with the Kmart gamer demographic that he’s flirting with, but he’s certainly achieved that elusive something that market research gurus spend their lives trying to artificially concoct: actual grassroots support from a community of early adopters who find what he is doing to be truly meaningful.