New York designer Christopher John Rogers empowers women to take up space - with colours, patterns and a love of glamour. They´re following his call and the fashion world has taken notice
When US-Vice-President Kamala Harris wore a purple dress and coat by designer Christopher John Rogers to the Inauguration Ceremony of Joe Biden on January 21st of this year, it marked a new beginning in so many ways. A new year had started, a new presidency was about to unfold and people felt hope. Hope for a change in politics and a hope that an impending vaccine rollout might finally lead this pandemic into its last chapter.
Fast forward to today and it´s clear that the future remains very uncertain, but the optimism of Christopher John Rogers clothes has endured. Three years ago he started staging his first fashion shows during New York Fashion week, celebrating things that many of his peers and much more established brands were not: The colour, the drama, expressive prints and the over-the-top-cuts, glamorous dresses for a “night out on the town”, which, for many fashion customers, had become just another occasion to wear sneakers. The obsession with comfort and streetwear has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, but Christopher John Rogers, a young, African-American-, Louisiana-born 27-year-old, brought a different point of view to an industry betting on sweatpants. And it is exactly that that has made him stand out in a city like New York, which is constantly undecided whether it wants to follow the lead of fashion cities like Milan and Paris or just do its own thing. The success of Christopher John Rogers suggests the latter might be a better way to succeed.
Rogers was born in Baton Rouge, lives in Brooklyn and created his first collection in his apartment with the help of friends and family, while working a full-time job at Diane von Fuerstenberg at the same time. Mixing extra-large ruffles with checkerboard prints, metallic pink suits and water-colored ball gowns with tulle skirts, he proposed clothing that was joyful and extravagant, empowering women to take up space, both physically and metaphorically. Women like Tracee Ellis Ross, Michelle Obama and Lizzo took notice, as well as fashion editors and buyers: When ever do you see a New York designer sending a gown with a skirt as wide as a motorbike down the runway? Winning the top prize of the CFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund, worth a 400.000 Dollars, enabled Rogers to open up a proper studio in Soho, where he has been operating since then, selling his collections to Net-a-Porter or Bergdorf Goodman.
Running and building a business is crucial to make a young fashion brand thrive beyond the media hype, but it goes without saying that the latter is essential in this day and age. Dressing Kamala Harris proved a crucial high point in Rogers` career so far: Harris’ choice of look was symbolic of the new administration, one that embraces diversity and the beliefs and ideals of a new generation. At the same time Christopher John Rogers represents a new dawn in American fashion, one that already has a space in a Museum: The Metropolitan Museum of Art will celebrate American fashion this fall in his big annual fashion exhibition, and Christopher John Rogers is part of the show next to names such as Prabal Gurung or Andrew Walker.
At the core of Rogers clothes are emotions.
“We want these to be things our customers cherish, that they can wear and live in,” he said once to „Vogue“. “These aren’t pieces you wear once and forget; they’re meant to be treasured, clothes that can grow and evolve with you over time.”
That´s only one reason why calling them “happy” would fall short of the craftwork and knowledge behind them, the attention to cuts and drapes, which Rogers increasingly also translates into daywear, simpler dresses with long lean lines, tight-fitting knitwear and generously wide pants. Christopher John Rogers is evolving his repertoire, but the overall message of his clothes stays the same: That dressing up is fun, that fashion should be daring and bold, and that life is more beautiful if our clothes enrich it with colour and ideas. Whether a return to life and grand occasions will be permanent is hard to say at this point, but Christopher John Rogers is here to tell us we should stay optimistic.