Saturday, July 24, 2021

Christopher John Rogers: Heirloom and Throwaway?

Christopher John Rogers Fall/Winter 2020  Photo: Daniele Oberrauch / Gorunway.com

Christopher John Rogers Fall/Winter 2020

Photo: Daniele Oberrauch / Gorunway.com

Fashion designer Christopher John Rogers Fall/Winter 2020 collection carefully and deftly maneuvers around bifurcations like an athlete at the peak of their game. He just recently won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. Previously, he used the trope of pierrots to anchor his design with narrative gestures that he continues in his new collection after moving from the artistic community of Bushwick, Brooklyn to Soho in downtown Manhattan.

Pierrots which were stock pantomime and commedia dell’arte-“clowns”-from the 17th-century Italian troupe of players who performed in Paris is, indeed, still an influence on his new collection. Although, pierrots are not directly referenced, the mechanics of their display through the folding, gathering, and draping of fabric on the body continue to be a theme Rogers explores in his Fall/Winter 2020 collection. Speaking to American Vogue, the designer references curtains and the way they might brush against the floor in a Renaissance painting.

Pierrot, Called Gilles By Jean Antoine Watteau

Pierrot, Called Gilles By Jean Antoine Watteau


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Paul Legrand  as Pierrot circa 1855.

Paul Legrand as Pierrot circa 1855.

Studies in volume and movement of fabric in the canonical art act as a bifurcation against the everyday trash bag. Rogers is not restricted by traditional art in his new collection. In fact, he plays with the solidity of classical form by referencing, through contrast, the light disposable form and movement of the plastic bag. Trash bags become a formal device for Rogers just as much as Renaissance paintings, or even Pierrots.

In Pierrot le Fou, avant-garde French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard frames a scene with actor Jean-Paul Belmondo speaking to the camera exposing bifurcations such as “usual and unusual”. Rogers likewise works with bifurcations: heirloom and throwaway; accessible and inaccessible; expensive and cheap; few and many. As his stature grows, he is not interested in being able to afford his own clothes. Speaking to American Vogue, he says one day in the future when he is 40 or 50, he’d like to be able to afford ownership of his own clothes. Rogers is, ultimately, interested in making expensive clothes that will last.

In an age when sustainability in fashion is on everyone’s mind, it is interesting to make a few clothes that are passed on generation to generation: the heirloom. They take the idea of upcycling through reuse and re-contextualization into new areas of poetry bringing heritage into the DNA of the brand: the concept has been a mainstay in the branding of luxury goods first established in aristocratic families from Europe and the craftsmen who made goods for the elite class. So a designer who dreams of affording their own clothes in the future makes clothes that will last. Expensive and few become sustainable within the constraint of the history of luxury. This poses a question: are very expensive garments that will not be easily disposed of actually a solution for one part of a circular economy?

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