Christopher John Rogers cultivates a fantasy with his designs

Brooklyn based, Baton Rouge born designer Christopher John Rogers has had quite an eventful year but what can you expect from a Diane von Furstenberg protégé? Having gone from dressing the likes of Michelle Obama, Rihanna, and Regina King the designer has recently been recognized as a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist and debuted his Spring/Summer 2020 collection this past NYFW. Rogers who has fully embraced the dramatic rolled out his latest collection with elevated evening and workwear by implementing voluminous tulle, Italian silks, and lusciously vibrant colors. With images shot by Dennis Tejero, Models.com spoke to the rising designer to learn more about his creative process, his future plans and working with a tight-knit community of muses.

Photographer – Dennis Tejero for Models.com
Sittings editor – Irene Ojo-Felix | Hair and makeup – Sasha Nesterchuk
Models – Aba Mfase-Ewur, Julia Wheatley, and Danielle Mareka
Written by Anire Ikomi

Congratulations on being one of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalists! With such a prestigious nomination how will you apply this award to your business, if you win? In what ways do want to expand?
Thank you! It’s very exciting. Being able to pay myself and my team, along with moving into a proper studio are paramount topics. I’d also invest more into the development of the clothes using more elevated techniques afforded to us by the NYC Garment District.

You also just received a standing ovation this past NYFW, how was that debut runway experience for you and what made you emotional at the end?
We’ve had two presentations previously on the official CFDA NYFW Calendar, but this was our first runway show, and it was amazing to see the physical manifestations of my dreams and the dreams of my team manifested. That, and not having slept for 48 hours and seeing my mom who I hadn’t seen in months definitely made me emotional.

We live in a fast-paced world where people are drawn to newness; do you ever feel anxiety in your process and what are your plans for maintaining momentum?
Not really. I’m never want for inspiration, and I don’t feel pressured to deliver for anyone other than my clients or my team.

When did you start the brand & what inspired you to first start designing?
I started the brand in 2016 with my senior thesis collection. The transformational and intentional aspects of getting dressed (first demonstrated to me by superheroes and anime heroines) inspired me to start designing.

What do you want your customers to experience when interacting with your designs?
Optimism, courage, ~themselves~; an appreciation for the femme that doesn’t compromise intellect, or sacrifice wit.

You’ve manifested your clothes to be seen on the likes of Michelle Obama, Rihanna, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Regina King. How does it feel to know that your work is being worn by such influential black women? Who would you love to see wear one of your pieces in the future?
It’s great to know that all of the women that you’ve mentioned are vastly different, and yet they’ve all identified themselves with a part of the brand. I think that’s a testament to the diversity in our client base in spite of the works’ specificity. I’m dying to make something for my mother from my most recent collection!

Diversity has become a dominant topic in the last year with many even say it’s a “trend”. How have you approached inclusivity in your brand and business practices?
I haven’t. I just work with people who are amazing, regardless of their background or how they identify. We also cast our campaigns, lookbooks, in the same manner.

What is your creative process behind each collection? Do you have any muses?
I usually start with color and find fabrics with hues that I feel viscerally attracted to. In regards to silhouette, I keep a running folder on my phone of things that I’m obsessed with during a given period of time and look to those references when developing a collection. That runs the gamut from plastic carry-out bags to Sesame Street screen-grabs.

You have a close friend group that helped you tremendously with your collection. How has that elevated your brand and why is community so important?
We’re all working towards the same goal — a space where we can express ourselves and feel inspired by one another. The fashion industry has become so obsessed with margins and pragmatism that we’ve forgotten about cultivating a fantasy, and the possibilities for clothes to provide that. We’re not inspired by the looks on the street — we’re inspired by the looks in our heads, and the CJR studio is a place to push those ideas.

What was one of the biggest challenges when you started your own line?
Financing.

What changes would you like to see in the fashion industry?
Continued support for smaller brands who are trying their best to figure it all out. There are so many amazing young designers with strong points of view who just need the opportunity to speak to that.

As a young emerging black designer, what advice would you give to other young designers starting off their careers?
Listen to your gut and make the work that allows your heart to sing. Lead with that. Also, learn how to sew and pattern-make, please!

What can we expect to see from Christopher John Rogers in the next year?
Our clothes in stores.

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