Telfar Clemens may be the most interesting, egalitarian designer you’ve never heard of

We first noticed his name popping up online and out in the world thanks to a particular shape and style of bag that bears the line’s trademark. The “Bushwick Birkin” is a standard, East-West shape shopper tote made of faux-leather (polyurethane) with a simple logo debossed into its front surface. 

telfar clemens italist bushwick birkin

Every few weeks, the designer drops new colors and sizes of the bag, and makes it easy for fans to collect several: the pricing is very reasonable for a designer piece. Thus, they’ve rapidly found their way onto the streets of Telfar Clemens native Brooklyn, but likewise around Europe, other less fashion-forward parts of the U.S., and even China, where the bag’s production is based.

shop heron preston on italistIt’s this casual approach to fashion that has earned Telfar a rapid cult following. Not only do his collections fall somewhere between the cheap minimalism we’re familiar with (names like Uniqlo) and exclusive luxury only some can afford, but he takes design inspiration from every corner of his universe and every bit of influence along his life’s journey.

telfar clemens italist bushwick birkin

After launching his label nearly fifteen years ago and winning the C.F.D.A./Vogue prize in 2017—the $400,000 prize from which he used to produce the first run of Bushwick Birkins—Telfar has seen a steady uptick in his profile, with write-ups in The New Yorker and a special presentation at Pitti Uomo 97 back in January. There, he presented his idea of “fluid and ‘simplex’ (simple + complex) fashion” during a 100% unisex runway show.

The interesting thing about Telfar Clemens is he’s not a one-note musician. While collections evolve and morph, the common thread is a new approach to fashion design and purposeful jabs at stereotypical Americana and American style, which was until very recently dominated by white, wealthy, and upper-middle-class sensibilities. Some may argue it still is.

Thus, you’ll find Telfar advertising campaigns and brand collateral that reimagine in a broader, more inclusive and urban color palette, well-known campaigns from the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch and Ralph Lauren. His collections take American iconography and pop culture to the extreme, iterating and iterating.

telfar clemens italist unisex ss20 spring summer 2020 collection
Looks from the Telfar Spring Summer 2020 Collection

At 35, he is still a young designer, and as he put it recently, “wants to design clothes for his friends, not a small group of out-of-towners.” It’s this sensibility that’s kept him grounded as a person, and his design inspiration fresh and fearless.

We have just a few Telfar pieces currently, but are excited to follow the brand’s upward progression, and to see what sorts of interesting things are still to come from this visionary designer.

shop heron preston on italist

For more designer names to know, check out Malone Souliers, John Lobb, and BY FAR.

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