On Wednesday January 20th 2021, Joe Biden officially became the 46th President of the United States at a ceremony in Washington attended by singers Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez and the young poet Amanda Gorman. Beside him was Kamala Harris, the first ever lady vice president, wearing a midi dress and matching coat in purple, a reference to the flyers distributed by Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to run for president in 1972. This sober and elegant ensemble was by Christopher John Rogers, a young designer who is busy establishing himself as the future of Made in USA fashion .
When Christopher John Rogers presented a collection for the first time at New York Fashion Week in September 2018, the event was plagued by the exile of several leading designers. Proenza Schouler and Altuzarra were in Paris, Alexander Wang was out of the official calendar, Tommy Hilfiger had chosen London and Tom Ford, Los Angeles. Vacant spots were quickly filled by a flock of young designers including Pyer Moss, Eckhaus Latta, Area and Christopher John Rogers. In just a few seasons, the latter, with his glamorous and exuberant collections, seduced the jury of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) chaired by Tom Ford, which awarded him the Vogue Fashion Fund prize in 2019 and the Emerging Designer prize in 2020. In April 2021, Christopher John Rogers caught the eye of the jury of the LVMH Prize, which has been awarded annually since 2013 to young designers on the international fashion scene, and he joined the list of 9 finalists.
It's impossible not to be impressed by Christopher John Rogers' creations, which evoke great designers such as Charles James and Christian Lacroix, blended with references to his African-American roots. Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the young designer studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design. "Growing up and studying in the American South gave me a different way of looking at fashion. I wasn't influenced by the need to make pieces that were too pragmatic," the designer tells Numéro. Mastering the art of draping and tailoring, the use of ruffles, jabots and pleats, bold volumes and sheath designs, Christopher John Rogers creates daring pieces with elaborate volumes and brilliant material effects that haven't been seen anywhere else. "The work I do is not necessarily couture, but I like the idea that it isn’t easy to replicate - I find that very exciting. We can draw inspiration from archive dresses as well as bin bags, shopping bags or artwork, all of which will have the same power to translate the idea of 'crunch' or 'crumple'. They have the same aesthetic power. It's more about the energy of volumes, offering something new, and working with fabrics that inspire me more than the idea of 'couture'," he continues.
Like a painter, the designer applies vibrant colours (fuchsia, burgundy, turquoise, yellow, green, orange), bright patterns, floral prints (abstract or figurative), wide stripes, rows of circles borrowed from the artist Victor Vasarely, or madras-style checked fabrics to his voluminous dresses and fitted suits. With the power of his creations, in just a few months Christopher John Rogers has carved out a place for himself in the wardrobes of American stars who delight in his theatrical outfits, including Zendaya, Lil Nas X and even Lady Gaga and Tessa Thompson.
While his excessive creations evoke the flamboyant world of the ballrooms (a counterculture of dance battles and runway shows, born in 1980s New York in the Afro and Hispanic-American LGBTQ communities), the designer denies being directly inspired by it. "I wouldn't say I'm directly inspired by the ballroom scene - it's something that a lot of people do relate to my work, but it's not a direct reference. I'm black, and American, and queer, so there's a deliberate desire to be seen and visible, and to occupy the space (both obviously and implicitly) that's very apparent in my work, so I understand the connection that's made," he justifies. Ultimately, through his fashion, Christopher John Rogers advocates self-affirmation and he strives to offer everyone the possibility of fully expressing their own personality.