Cinched around the stage like an accordion, attendees of Vogue's Forces of Fashion leaned in as mannequins were brought forward. One in a multi-colored striped fringe gown, another in an architectural red dress, four faceless figures wore the relentlessly colorful designs of Christopher John Rogers.
The designer took his seat with close friend and Vogue Runway writer Jose Criales Unzueta on stage to break down the philosophy powering the American luxury label of which Fashionista is an unabashed fan. Our editors have raved about the joy and energy in Christopher John Rogers collections, like the grand Fall 2020 runway or resort 2023 showing that marked his return to runway. Rogers himself is highly awarded, having received accolades from Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Celebrities like Beyoncé, Anne Hathaway, Jodie Turner-Smith and Sarah Jessica Parker have flaunted his fashions. His designs are true art.
"When I first moved to New York, I would come to Christopher's apartment — he lived with two other people on his team... And you guys were just making all the clothes in your apartment in Bushwick," Unzueta recalled during the conversation. "And those are some of the funnest days. We were sitting there eating Double Stuffed Oreos, listening to a podcast or being the podcast ourselves, talking about the industry, talking about fashion, talking about everything."
Despite what one might expect based on the sheer beauty of his garments, Rogers has made a habit of mistakes along the way.
"Our first few collections, we didn't have the funds to have someone professional sew them or make the patterns. So my team and I would make them in-house. We had just graduated college, so obviously we knew how to finesse, how to work it out," he said. "For example, if you have two seams, and you cut the pattern a little bit too long, and you're sewing it and you've already paid for the fabric, so you're going to pleat it a little bit. So there's like a little pleat, or a little bit of rushing a little ease, or something that you didn't necessarily anticipate."
This happy happenstance is the result of "having to go with it because it's all you have." In his 10th and most recent collection, this heavily influenced his design choices, he explained. His philosophy is marked by an approach to fashion that is genuinely his own. A mistake is not immediately met with scorn. And color is not immediately ignored for being too loud or improper. In fact, Rogers says he loves to revel in the colors he comes across in everyday life.
"I like sort of referencing things that aren't typical. So I love looking at a trash bag or a crumpled sort of carry-out bag that a car has run through the street. Not necessarily because it's weird, but because I honestly would find it really intriguing and beautiful," he said. "I'll take like a post-it or I'll take a chocolate smear and that'll be the color standard."
Rogers uses color to richly brings fabrics to life or challenge the common and neutral-toned New York uniform (of which I'm guilty of resorting to most days). It's not just visually pleasurable, but it also adds emotion.
"Especially at the time, when I started with the brand, there weren't a lot of people using color. And that was always a way that I found to differentiate myself," Rogers noted.
With a team of just seven, Rogers is now one of the most talked-about designers of New York City. From punchy evening wear to rainbow-striped knits, color conquers all with beauty.