As spotted on everyone from Supreme skater Na-Kel Smith, singer Oyinda and Lil Uzi Vert, Telfar Global has fast become the ultimate gender neutral It brand.
Established by Liberian-American designer Telfar Clemes as a unisex handbag brand in Queens, NYC in 2005, Telfar Global has become one of the most inclusive brands at the forefront of the fashion industry, with the tag line “NOT FOR YOU – FOR EVERYONE”.
Since winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award back in 2017, Telfar will open this year’s NYFW, setting the tone for one of the city’s most anticipated weeks of the year.
Telfar’s presentations were traditionally held on the streets, where everyone from club kids to the Brooklyn downtown dance scene were treated like VIPs. Proving that the brand’s DNA is true to their ethos: garments made without the ornament of gender, class or race.
Heady with youth, their performance-based presentations always make a statement. The last presentation was entitled ‘Country’, and featured musical and dramatic performances by Butch Dawson, Total Freedom and Oyinda, who remixed country music with Curtis Mayfield and Janet Jackson tracks. As explained by Telfar’s creative partner Babak Radboy to The Cut, “The idea’s actually been evolving over the life of the brand. In the past it’s been about taking the language of appropriation and redirecting it, appropriating images of colonisation, of manifesting destiny, the narrative of natural rights. [All of these ideas are] really dear to our understanding of who we are in American fashion.”
As paramount to their last collection, in our times of political turmoil the brand has been questioning what it means to be American, and in turn who gets to dictate contemporary American fashion.
Whilst numerous luxury fashion brands have opted to appoint a diversity and inclusivity officer, Telfar have publicly chosen to step aside from the often PR-activated and bland identity politics of high fashion. “We don’t want to be the posterboy for that thing,” said Radboy. “It’s not just gonna be this gospel performance and this narrative of black excellence.” Black, queer and self-taught, Telfar has crafted an empire for all of us outside of the industry’s privilege.
Aside from their sleek leather handbags, Telfar is also a clothing emporium, working branded hoodies and wearable corduroy suits. Post-normcore, Telfar strips it back again to basics, working back into a clean slate where fashion’s expectations can be a healthy zero.