Atop a lavish table littered with broken squash, dry wild boar bones, wilted flowers, and empty bottles of wine, 35-year-old Telfar Clemens staged a show that more resembled a Caravaggio painting than a fashion event. Known for his universal fashion for all, the evolution of Clemens’ gender fluid, race- and demographic-inclusive brand continued, this time with romantic Italian influences, at Pitti Uomo’s 97th edition on Thursday.
“Did you eat any of the food?” he asked laughing backstage.
All the angst, confusion, and disappointment in the geopolitical and environmental situation seemed to emanate from this collection that was unfurled in Florence’s Palazzo Corsini, a 17th century palace located on the edge of the Arno River. Models shouted impromptu poetry and underground singer Carrie Stacks rapped, stomping on last night’s opulent, decadent feast.
“I don’t know what it says about what’s going on in society, but I know what it says about what’s happening to me,” Clemens said. “I just go with my gut. It’s more my reaction about what I have been seeing.”
In a lot of ways, the Fall 2020 show was a continuation of the codes Clemens is known for, only this time it was infused with a romantic edge: one-shoulder shirts for men and women, deconstructed denim, logos, and flared trousers – punctuated with peplums, medieval drawstring tops, and fanciful pleats. Clemens said he drew inspiration from the artistic accents and effortless Italian elegance spotted in and around Tuscany, during his four-month stay here.
“I don’t know what artist that is up there, but know that’s a ruffled collar,” he told Nowfashion backstage, noting he opted for fabrics like velour, leather, and cable knit. “These are the fabrics of the country. The puffy coats that you see on the street here are like armor.”
Clemens, who was born to native Liberian parents in Queens, New York, is also a former model and was a business student at New York’s Pace University. Considered one of the most influential young designers in the United States, the creative also has a celebrity following, including Solange Knowles, who was found backstage flanked by an entourage. “I am just here to support Telfar.”
Since starting his label in 2004, Clemens has put on more than 20 fashion shows and his clothing is carried in major multi brand stores like Dover Street Market and Opening Ceremony. In the future, he said he hopes to stage shows that are more “real life” experiences. “2020 is all about putting things together, building up the past to create a future.” Next week, he’s headed to Paris to unfurl another event, though he wouldn’t reveal the details.
“I want to start to experiment... like not do a traditional runway show... maybe you’ll just experience the fashion in your life... I don’t want to say how.”