Designer Spotlight: Christopher John Rogers

by Tamu McPherson

Christopher John Rogers in Oakland, California, November 2019.

At 26-years-old, Christopher John Rogers is an incredibly talented, wise, and determined designer and human being. I am grateful that he chose fashion, but I am convinced that he would be a star in any industry. Since launching his eponymous brand as his thesis collection at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), he and his team have deservingly amassed stellar accolades including support from cultural leaders like Michelle Obama, and important industry acknowledgments like the 2019 CFDA Fashion Fund Award. It has been an incredible pleasure getting to know him since our three day Oakland adventure at the McMullen Trunk Show experience – he is whip-sharp, charming and fun as hell. Obsessed with our editorial collaboration and the magic that ensued, we decided to dedicate a designer spotlight to Christopher. So grab a cup, glass or plate of your favorite treat and enjoy discovering more of him here on ATPB.


Meet Christopher John Rogers

Tamu McPherson
: Define the Christopher John Rogers aesthetic? 

Christopher John Rogers: Sophisticated conspicuousness and pragmatic glamour. We believe that nothing is mutually exclusive — you can wear the brightest hot pink taffeta or fluorescent yellow charmeuse and still be the smartest person in the room. Our work allows, and hopefully encourages, that dynamism in a person.


TMP: What inspired you to develop your brand of glamour? 

CJR: We’ve only been around for a few years so I don’t think I’ve really consciously developed a brand of glamour but rather just only ever present the version of glamour that rings most true to me. Some people think it’s “new” or different, but a green trash bag blowing in the wind has always been glamour to me.


Who are your muses? 

CJR: The people who get the brand at first glance. We love the people who get it the second time around too, but those who just get it, no questions asked, Those are the muses.


Please share your go-to sources for cultural inspiration.

CJR: If you mean a geographic or ethnic region, it really runs the gamut. Anything from a 1960’s Balenciaga shape to North American Inuit dress is equally as inspiring to me — and both can show up in the same collection.


What sentiment do you want the women who wear your designs to feel or experience?

CJR: I want anyone wearing CJR to feel the most confident version of themselves, whether they’ve experienced that sensation before or not wearing taffeta.


Fredia for the McMullen x Christopher John Rogers x All The Pretty Birds Spring 2020 Editorial

How do your designs empower women and the men that you dress? 

CJR: This verbiage is used everywhere now, but our clothes really do take up space. There’s volume, there’s color, there’s shine. We want anyone wearing CJR to know that they are worth the space they take up in the world because we all have something to offer and hopefully our clothes help them feel that.


You and your team built your business from the ground up literally with your sweat and tears. What was it that kept you going even in the most difficult of times? 

CJR: For me, this is it. I had to start a fashion brand; there were no ifs, ands, or buts about it. So when this family and community found each other, we knew we had something real and tangible and great coming our way. Having a real family working towards the same goal is what drives us. That and Oreos.


You are an extremely discerning designer with a focused vision for your brand. How did you manage to finely gauge your personal compass at such a relatively young age?

CJR: I’ve always been decisive and it translates to my aesthetic. I don’t think many people know that they are fine-tuning themselves at such a young age, you just do what feels right in the moment. That’s how I work. I’m very instinctual, I am reactive, and I know what I like.


What was that breakthrough moment for you?

CJR: There have been several breakthrough moments, the first I’d say was probably working with Michelle Obama last year. The next was probably winning the Fashion Fund which has allowed the whole team to be full time and finally get the office/studio OUT of our Bushwick apartment! I’d say our most recent breakthrough though would be this entire month of February 2020. As a whole we had our best show to date, we’re headed to Paris for market for the first time, and we’ve delivered our first shipments of product to the retailers who took a risk and believed in us so that the world at large could shop CJR. This month is a pretty huge deal.


It’s been three months since you won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund 2019. How have things changed for you in this time? Have you experienced any revelations?

CJR: Not so many “revelations” yet. What we knew would happen after winning has happened. We got out of the living room, we all became full-time employees of CJR, the quality of the clothes has improved, we actually had a set for our show — and everyone thinks we have $400,000 to spend exclusively on them! So yeah, no revelations yet, but some amazing affirmations.


Your team is multicultural, how do their varying points of view inform you in designing and running your business?

CJR: While it may difficult for some business people to understand, our customer isn’t bound by ethnicity, by skin color, by age, or by gender. There are many things, some very specific, that bring them all together but having a such a diverse consumer base and community is important to us. Having a team that is equally as diverse helps us serve the community that serves us. Everyone that helps make the vision happen has a point of view, and having that sense of individuality at the time of a design’s conception all the way through to a runway show and the stores we choose to work with, reveals itself in every step of the process. People can feel that sense of individuality and inclusion in the product itself and that means a lot.


Jena for the McMullen x Christopher John Rogers x All The Pretty Birds Spring 2020 Editorial

If you could give constructive criticism to the fashion industry and decision makers, related to emerging talents and the support they need, what would it be?

CJR: Stop thinking there can only be one. Of anything. Stop thinking something can only exist in one way. It’s ignorant and it’s inhibiting of potential.


Your Instagram stories is a visual catalog of color, pattern, graphics and every day captures of your world. What’s on your mind when you are sharing with your followers? How does what you see translate into your collections?

CJR: I just see things and they’re pretty to me. They’re pretty in the way they shine and in the way they move. They’re also pretty in the way they don’t shine and they don’t move. At this point, people are sending ME photos of trash saying “Look! Fashion!”.


For your finale now at your FW20 show, you greeted your audience with joyful twirl. How do you maintain your joy in this fast paced and demanding industry? 

CJR: Being slightly delusional and overly optimistic can definitely can help anyone maintain a sense of joy in fashion. And the end of the day, we all got into fashion for the fantasy and joy, right?


Imagery by Tamu McPherson


Related All The Pretty Birds Fashion Posts:

McMullen x Christopher John Rogers x All The Pretty Birds

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