The Queens native discusses his show and the ‘Telfar world tour’ which is about to commence
- TextFrancesca Gavin
Telfar Clemens was only 18 when he launched his eponymous brand in 2005. This year he won the Vogue/CFDA award with genderless clothing sits between streetwear and couture. Telfar came to Milan with a bang. The brand’s exhibition at Spazio Maiocchi, presented by Kaleidoscope, opened with billboard of their logo and a giant 30ft nude photograph of the designer in the pose of Avedon’s naked portrait of Yves Saint Laurent. The monochrome nude overlooked a group of naked, distressed genderless mannequins, reworking their contribution to the last Berlin Biennial. Alongside this was an intimate film portrait by Finn MacTaggart, including a heavy bass sound piece by Telfar’s close friend artist Ryan Trecartin with Aaron David Ross. “I met Ryan doing the splits in a club that I was DJing in 2003. It’s all the music he’s been making for our runway shows. He’s a great musician.” Telfar points out.
At the launch the focus was on Faka, wearing sneak peaks of two of Telfar’s new looks. The South African duo performed heavy, futuristic noise in long black wigs, against found footage of African tribal dancing. One wore a red silk shirt on black leather jeans, the other a one shoulder cut out black knit dress over flared trousers. The clothes looked like a mix of the swagger of a sweaty Nigerian nightclub with the sexy fluidity of contemporary NYC.
“Art is really where the roots of the brand lies. I got support from the art world before fashion started to support me. I consider myself an artist. We wanted to build the momentum of people understanding what the brand is. We don't want to have traditional runway shows anymore. We want to have experiences. This is the first step. We’re having a Telfar world tour. It's a sneak peak of what you could expect in New York in February. Faka are going to be debuting the first couple of pieces from the new collection. We’re working with leather and silk; an elevated version of the brand’s message.
I feel like I have a global audience but I’m from New York. It’s home. I understand the jokes. I understand what people’s frustrations are. White Castle had my logo put into their big billboard for a month in Queens. We were planning to have the party there. It got shut down by the cops. There were a plethora of reasons but it boils down to a lot of bullshit. Not wanting a rap concert to happen. We found another venue in a day. It just added more meaning. We took the billboard from Queens Blvd to Milan.
I got the logo from my kindergarten teacher when I came from Liberia to Queens. You would get points next to your name when you would achieve something. That was the logo that went with my name to familiarise me with letters and symbols. My dad has impeccable handwriting, and he would always put a circle around his name. When I got a check book that’s how I wrote.”
Telfar: Nude is at Spazio Maiocchi, Milan, until February 28.