Christopher John Rogers Receives a Standing Ovation at NYFW

This must have been quite a special afternoon for Brooklyn-based designer Christopher John Rogers. Presenting his Spring 2020 collection for the first time at NYFW, it’s unlikely it could have gone any better than it did; and for those who attended, it might have been one for the books. From an impressive runway show composed of over 30 looks to a remarkably curated (and supportive) attendance – ranging from Rogers’ friends and family to established editors and an impressive number of designers, including Joseph Altuzarra, Adam Selman, Diane von Furstenberg, Alejandra Alonso Rojas, and Pyer MossKerby Jean-Raymond – everything added up to an incredible energy that culminated in a long enthusiastic standing ovation.

Christopher John Rogers Spring/Summer 2020 show in New York. Photo: Courtesy of PR.


A Savannah College of Art and Design alumni and finalist in the 2019 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition, Rogers has only been showing for a year. It didn’t take long for his (already recognizable) whimsical take on eveningwear to be noticed by the likes of defining clients such as Tracee Ellis Ross, Tessa Thompson, or Michelle Obama, who exposed him to a larger audience (and to an industry in search of fashion’s current ‘next generation’ of American designers).

Today’s collection certainly seems to indicate that Rogers will gleefully live up to the task and expectations. More importantly, he also made it clear that he would do so on his own terms. Finding inspiration in a multitude of artistic and cultural sources – from naive clown characters in Italian cinema to Paul Gauguin’s paintings of Tahiti – the designer bravely explored volumes and, above all, colors. While he also offered more wearable options, it was the unlikely print combinations, touches of shimmer, neon hues, and otherworldly silhouettes that made the show memorable; that and the incredible tailoring. 

Imbued with what feels like an irrepressible celebratory energy, the collection brought everyone into his world, an infectious moment of fashion where even the models amplified this sense of joie de vivre by spontaneously posing and spinning as they showcased the clothing, often smiling not just at the cameras but at the audience as well.

Rogers kindly took time after the show to talk to us about some of his influences, how fashion can play an important part in defining self, and why power can come from honesty.

Christopher John Rogers Spring/Summer 2020 show in New York. Photos: Courtesy of PR.


Please tell us a bit about the show, especially regarding its aesthetics.

Aesthetically, I was looking at Pierrot or Italian or French comedic relief in cinema. I was also looking at Gaugin’s paintings of Tahiti, minus the colonialism. I was also into Paul Poiret’s work from 1919 and 1920, throwing the body into a huge shape, or throwing it into an ‘almost doesn’t exist’ shape. All those elements defined the collection and were on the runway.

The music played an important part in building the ambiance, and yet it had little to do with the era or the themes you just described. How did you go about designing the show’s soundtrack?

Every season we try to build a world, but the music doesn’t need to correspond at all to the clothes, at least in the way people have traditionally thought about a specific theme or aesthetic. I love Bossa Nova, house and weird ambient music….so yeah, it basically tends to be whatever feels right. I generally work with one of my favorite DJs, Skype Williams, and this time around we went through 9 or 10 rounds of edits just to get the track right. The idea was just to make a single track that would feel good and also fit with the clothes, not necessarily with the concept or themes behind the clothes.

If you had to choose one or two pieces that crystalize the collection, which one would be it be?

There are two looks. The first would be the pink-based floral gown, and then the silk gazar clown finale with silk flowers and Swarovski crystals. The idea of the clown and of a 1920s seductress is really something I was looking forward to seeing on the runway.

You’re from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a place known for its rich, diverse, and unique culture, even within the American spectrum. Do you feel it has informed or influenced your work, directly or otherwise?

I think that other than the aspect of sincerity, there is also this simultaneous combination of an ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude with an ‘I care way too much’ attitude. People there seem to live these at the same time; they care a lot and they don’t care at all. The energy between those two spaces is transparent in my work. We’re trying so hard with tailoring, striving to make everything as beautiful, as perfect, and as elegant as it can be. But at the same time, we’re making dresses out of four-way silk stretch that costs $9/yard, that looks amazing, and we don’t care. We have casual pieces like denim skirts, but we’ve also created elegant cotillion debutant pieces...and girls or women in my home state might wear a track suit one day and dress up in a ball gown the next!

Do you believe fashion can truly empower women, or anyone for that matter?

I think fashion can make a difference. Especially in the work that we do which is about giving people the tools to self-actualize. If one day you wish to wear something quite conservative and the next day you feel like wearing the shortest dress in the world, that’s great. Those two pieces can exist for a single person and be worn on the same day. It’s all about addressing the specificities and individualized nuances, and providing people tools to express that through fashion.

So this is more about emotion and feeling?

Absolutely! We’re just making clothes to make people feel; I’m not trying to be cerebral. Someone can be intelligent or intellectual or not, it doesn’t necessarily matter. What matters is the person finds this thing and that this thing makes them feel the most themselves. You should find whatever makes you you.


Christopher John Rogers Spring/Summer 2020 show in New York. Photos: Courtesy of PR.

Beyond women that project power with fashion, you’ve been dressing women who represent power. They don’t just dress the part, they play the part. Why do you believe they were drawn to your work?

I’m not sure. (laughs) I would hope that it’s the honesty and reality of the work. It’s not always perfect, but it’s approaching; it’s trying its best, it’s authentic and optimistic. At the end of the day, I believe everyone wants to be the best version of themselves. That energy, however it’s realized, whatever the silhouette or color, is hopefully apparent in all the clothes. Ideally, those who find themselves in the clothes I make are happy. Like, “Oh ok, this is me. Amazing!”

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