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Telfar Performance
Telfar PerformancePhotography by Dan Lecca

Four People on Why They Love Telfar’s “Anti-Fashion” Approach

As Telfar ushers in a new era for his label, four people – Lynette Nylander, Jamont Hanshaw, Jorge Gitoo Wright, and Ana Kraš – share why they love wearing his clothes

Lead ImageTelfar PerformancePhotography by Dan Lecca

Telfar Clemens is one of fashion’s biggest rule-breakers. The New York designer has spent his career shattering the industry’s intimidating barriers, creating genderless collections which proudly celebrate New York’s Black and queer communities, while inviting everyone and anyone to be part of his world. For Clemens, “customers are more like collaborators” – an ideal which has birthed a democratic approach to releases, fun-loving collaborations with brands like Ugg, and the global explosion of his ubiquitous raised-logo shopping bag (aka the ‘Bushwick Burkin’). Far-reaching and inclusive to its core, the space Telfar has built feels less like a brand and more like a party – and everyone’s invited. 

Unveiled during New York Fashion Week, Telfar’s latest show took the label’s unorthodox approach to new heights. The live-streamed event debuted a concept the brand has been developing for two years, since they formally “exited the fashion system”, where pieces will be released to the public on the label’s website in weekly drops, starting now and “continuing forever”. This new chapter for the label was celebrated alongside a film, Telfar The Movie, on the brand’s experimental 24-hour live-linear channel TelfarTV. Featuring films from collaborators and submissions from the public, the freewheeling platform “aspires to be an alternative channel for Black creativity.”

The collection itself made a case for Telfar’s unique and ever-expanding language, riffing on sportswear shapes and the silhouettes of the New York neighbourhoods he grew up in – “all looking weirder precisely because you can already see them on the block” – which were cut in the designer’s signature twisting, asymetrical style. The collection established what Telfar describes as “a language of clothing that grows with each season – fashioning to be completely out of fashion.” Here, in the wake of the show, four people share why they love Telfar’s clothes and his anti-fashion approach:

Jamont Hanshaw, Art Director 

“I first learned about Telfar during my early teens in high school. I went to a Hood By Air show, and I saw a few people that were wearing these unseen pieces with the catchy logo. At that age, I enjoyed researching and reading up on fashion and art, and one day I came across the brand and was moved. I knew Telfar was on to something huge! 

“I have an intense collection of Telfar’s pieces from past seasons and collaborations. I am at a point in my life where I need to wear pieces that express togetherness, strong bonds and upliftment. Telfar is undeniably creating long-lasting trends that influence the newest generation. Standing honest and radical without validation. Telfar remains humble and connected to his community. Under his extravagant accomplishments, there is still a homespun personality that revolves around appreciation.”

Lynette Nylander, Executive Editorial Director of Dazed

“My uniform is a white tank top, I wear them all the time. I’m wearing one right now. I have this one [Telfar] tank top where he’s kind of subverted where the head hole and the armhole should be – it’s my special one that I wear when I want to elevate by white tank top-ness. It’s my first piece of Telfar, my most treasured piece of Telfar. Of course I have the bags. They’ve become such a symbol of pride and belonging for people. I always say that the best thing about Telfar is that it gives people who have constantly stood on the fringes – of not just fashion, of whatever they may be a part of – an entry point. And I think that’s so amazing. I wish more fashion brands were like that. Most fashion brands are like, ‘How can I be more exclusive?’ He’s like, ‘I need every single person ever to wear it.’ And he’s serious when you talk to him about it. He’s like, ‘If an Upper East Side housewife is using my bag as a baby bag, while downtown gworl is wearing it to a nightclub. I have done my job.’ 

“[What I admire about his approach] is that it’s so anti-fashion. I just love that. He’s so interested in escaping the binaries of what the industry says you have to do, and with it he just gets more and more success. He wins the CFDA and finds a way out of fashion; he eschews fashion shows and just has a 24-hour TV streaming service, where you can watch people like you buy things; or [he] just uses the brand as a means of entertainment. The way he approaches it is almost like an artist’s approach, it’s shapeshifting; it can be anything you want to be. 

“Most importantly, I just have incredible respect for someone who’s able to show up into spaces and be really, really unapologetically themselves and what they’re about. And it’s totally OK if people don’t like it and don’t understand it. He just has his own radical self-belief. And he’s that person.”

Jorge Gitoo Wright, Multidisciplinary Creative

“I met Telfar for the first time around 2013, when he and Babak were creative directing a shoot for a African swimwear brand. I was modelling and it actually was one of my first official shoots. Telfar and I instantly became friends, he was so sweet and reassuring, and we had many mutual friends – we were definitely in the same circle in NYC so it was natural we’d kiki.

“Telfar’s approach to fashion is his approach to life: everybody’s included! Everyone should be having a good time! That’s so admirable because being a Black designer in this fashion world you would think he’d be pressed about ’coverage’ and acceptance from fashion houses, but no – he’s just here to do his thing and have a good time doing it. It just feels real to be in a Telfar look. It’s so much more than how good I look, it represents Black gay power all in one.”

Ana Kraš, Photographer and Designer

“I first encountered Telfar in 2016. I remember my boyfriend at the time had the ballerina sneakers, the asymmetrical shoulder tank, and logo jeans. I grew up in Belgrade, and Sergio Tacchini – who has a very similar logo – was big in Europe at the time. I remember when I saw the logo jeans I thought, ‘Wow, this Sergio Tacchini new line is cool’, but then learned it was a New York brand called Telfar, and soon after I met Clemens. 

“Telfar is a totally original brand. From silhouettes to runway shows, casting, unique ideas and its very own authentic aesthetic, Telfar really has inspired so many. I have a small edit of his designs, but they are pieces I wear a lot. Since the mini bag launched years ago, I’ve been wearing it more than any other bag, because it’s the perfect size – it fits more [things] than any other small bag out there – but is still elegant.

“Telfar’s approach to fashion is natural; it’s an extension of himself. He is so creative, layered and cool, and all that shows in each piece of every collection – there are always enough new, and almost strange, ideas to surprise you.”