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Telfar brings black punk rock hip-hop to New York Fashion Week

Black. Queer. Street urchin. Punk. Telfar Clemens designs for the kids.

11:38 AMNEW YORK — Thursday night at Irving Plaza, the Manhattan music venue, had all the trappings of a typical punk show: plenty of ripped hems, safety pin earrings, tattoos, Doc Martens, Manic Panic multicolored hair, uncomfortable-looking piercings and unconventional makeup.

But there were two important differences:

  1. The crowd was almost entirely black.
  2. It was actually a fashion show.

Leave it to designer Telfar Clemens to once again upend the mold of just what a fashion show — a trade exhibition, first and foremost — can be. This year, Clemens debuted the fall/winter collection of his eponymous brand in a show created in collaboration with Slave Play and Daddy playwright Jeremy O. Harris. With all the sonic and atmospheric flourishes, the clothes were, frankly, the least important part of the show.

Designer Telfar Clemens walks the runway at the Telfar Fall/Winter 2019 Collection on Feb. 7 in New York City.

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Rather than sending models down a traditional catwalk, Clemens sent his models lifted through a crowd that magically parted like an Afro whose sides have been divorced with the expert flick of a rattail comb.

It was difficult to see the clothes, but Clemens’ message for “COUNTRY,” the name of this year’s show, was absolutely clear. The stage at Irving Plaza was framed with a hollowed-out American flag. The models were beckoned with the deafening sounds of trains — whistles and a chugga-chugga-chugga enhanced with the sort of bass one might expect from Hank Shocklee, conjuring associations with the Great Migration.

Out they came, to the sounds of Total Freedom, followed by Robert Randolph, Oyinda and Butch Dawson. Strums of an Afrofuturist country guitar melded with strains of Janet Jackson’s “Any Time, Any Place.”

With his wares presented, Clemens came onstage and threw himself, back first, to surf the crowd of adoring fans.

In his presentation statement, Clemens wrote that “we are all a little bit country. So all our music is country music, like all our bodies are objects. If you can carry that weight — then you know what it is to have an objective. Pick up a stone and throw it.”

The show concluded with performances from the hip-hop punk group Ho99o9 and Na-Kel Smith providing the soundtrack to a jumping, sweaty, testosterone-powered mosh pit, most immediately, but also to the untamed rage of a new, black punk rock generation. It, too, sings America.

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11:38 AMNEW YORK — Thursday night at Irving Plaza, the Manhattan music venue, had all the trappings of a typical punk show: plenty of ripped hems, safety pin earrings, tattoos, Doc Martens, Manic Panic multicolored hair, uncomfortable-looking piercings and unconventional makeup.

But there were two important differences:

  1. The crowd was almost entirely black.
  2. It was actually a fashion show.

Leave it to designer Telfar Clemens to once again upend the mold of just what a fashion show — a trade exhibition, first and foremost — can be. This year, Clemens debuted the fall/winter collection of his eponymous brand in a show created in collaboration with Slave Play and Daddy playwright Jeremy O. Harris. With all the sonic and atmospheric flourishes, the clothes were, frankly, the least important part of the show.

Designer Telfar Clemens walks the runway at the Telfar Fall/Winter 2019 Collection on Feb. 7 in New York City.

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Rather than sending models down a traditional catwalk, Clemens sent his models lifted through a crowd that magically parted like an Afro whose sides have been divorced with the expert flick of a rattail comb.

It was difficult to see the clothes, but Clemens’ message for “COUNTRY,” the name of this year’s show, was absolutely clear. The stage at Irving Plaza was framed with a hollowed-out American flag. The models were beckoned with the deafening sounds of trains — whistles and a chugga-chugga-chugga enhanced with the sort of bass one might expect from Hank Shocklee, conjuring associations with the Great Migration.

Out they came, to the sounds of Total Freedom, followed by Robert Randolph, Oyinda and Butch Dawson. Strums of an Afrofuturist country guitar melded with strains of Janet Jackson’s “Any Time, Any Place.”

With his wares presented, Clemens came onstage and threw himself, back first, to surf the crowd of adoring fans.

In his presentation statement, Clemens wrote that “we are all a little bit country. So all our music is country music, like all our bodies are objects. If you can carry that weight — then you know what it is to have an objective. Pick up a stone and throw it.”

The show concluded with performances from the hip-hop punk group Ho99o9 and Na-Kel Smith providing the soundtrack to a jumping, sweaty, testosterone-powered mosh pit, most immediately, but also to the untamed rage of a new, black punk rock generation. It, too, sings America.