Telfar S/S 2016

Maybe it was the now legendary noise of his afterparty at White Castle, or maybe it was the trend-agnostic subtlety of the design, the lack of trans-youth on the runway or pop-stars in the front row — but the actual clothes which composed NY designer Telfar Clemens SS/16 runway show went largely unnoticed when they debuted last September.

Maybe real news is always what escapes the news — but this collection of minimalist basics is really, really new. So new in fact, that fashion journalists have for the past six seasons dubbed Telfar’s shows as ‘debut’ collections. For his part, the perennially emerging designer has had a remarkably consistent vision since having debuted in 2005, when he was still a teenager.

In an industry that thrives on the aesthetics of rebellion; air-kissing the socially, sexually and racially marginalized and orchestrating stage-managed transgressions of the norm as the norm — Telfar manages somehow to be truly unacceptable.

He does it by making manipulation of the ‘normal’ the core of his practice as a designer. To the bewilderment of the fashion world however, this doesn’t involve any studs, straps, harnesses, zippers or dry ice. The clothes are at once too familiar and too weird — or maybe just weirdly familiar? The looks don’t have the dignity of defiance — but the arrogance of victory. The models are not post-gender — they just seem to be over gender. They’re mostly black — but it comes off as just another skin color… Worst of all, everywhere you look there’s a fundamental ambivalence towards luxury: the medium through which anything can enter safely into fashion.

Nevertheless there’s a fan-base steadily growing around Telfar and stores world-wide are catching on with Collette and Selfridges carrying the line this season. Today Telfar’s success is probably inevitable, but the fact that in 2015 he is still too far ahead of his time is a success in its own right.

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