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The unstoppable success of Telfar Global

From the streets of Queens to the catwalks: history of the brand of the moment

The unstoppable success of Telfar Global From the streets of Queens to the catwalks: history of the brand of the moment

Telfar in 2019 did not yet have a Wikipedia page.
After winning $ 400,000 for the CFDA Awards / Vogue Fashion Fund, everything has changed. The American brand is not the usual meteor, but a phenomenon running towards real change in the international fashion system. To date, the Telfar Bag is the new it bag of the moment, which outperforms important bags such as the Balenciaga City Bag in sales. What is the recipe for success? Transformation, community and freshness are the key words of Telfar Global, which is climbing the hierarchies of the global fashion system through clean designs that are attentive to the trend and a direct social language.


The mind behind success: Telfar Clemens

A very tenacious profile hides behind the great success of a winning idea: Telfar Clemens is a Liberian-American designer born in Queens in 1985 and active since 2005, the year when he founded Telfar Global, using the signature taught by the teacher as his logo when he was 6 years old. Today when he is in New York, he lives with his aunt, who helped him start the brand, in an apartment in LeFrak City, a large residential complex in Queens.

Clemens loves Whitney Houston and the radio; he arrives in America with his family to escape the Second Civil War in Liberia. After a childhood in Queens he moved to Maryland. Then enrolled in 2004 at Pace University in New York, he knows the vintage and second-hand realities of the Century 21 and Funky Lala fashion stores and begins to produce his first collection of T-shirts between one lesson on campus and the other. Telfar defines himself as an "extrovert loner": during photoshoots he usually talks with his partner Radboy about the developments of whitewashing and about phenomena of cultural appropriation towards the black community. As a black, emigrant and poor neighborhood designer, Telfar belongs to more than a minority, including the queer minority. Telfar sells the first creations on the street, like at the markets, and only thanks to the support of the artistic community of New York and its friends is it where it is today.


Avant-garde and inspiration

The brand was therefore born 14 years before the glorious victory of the Vogue Fashion Fund and the explosion of the Telfar Bag, one of the most desired accessories of the last seasons. The designer is the first to recognize the exclusivity and elitist nature of the fashion system, which prevents most from accessing a world that literally has a monopoly on its own being. "Not for you, for all" is the title of the song written by the South African group FAKA to present the FW2018 collection at the Serpentine Gallery in London, the nerve center of the performing art.

Telfar is known for his unique approach to art and fashion, and over the years he has developed a way of presenting the collections that transcends the fashion show and goes towards building a shared moment. Between vocal, visual performances, films that accompany the fashion shows and fashion shows finished in mosh-pit, the "glamor" effect of the collections vanishes and becomes a collective moment. The icons that inspire him are American, including Michael Kors, whose black and conscious version he wants to become, but also European ones such as the revolutionary Vivienne Westwood and the irreverent Jean Paul Gaultier. Telfar Global is a unisex brand, since before it was mainstream to promote inclusiveness, precisely to embrace the needs of minorities who have never seen themselves represented as consumers. Clemens himself has extrapolated the concept of consumer and put it on fabric to label a black t-shirt with an American normcore vibe.


Telfar style

Telfar is what you see: strong, fluid, anatomized, non-binary, it destroys fashion conventions with its inclusive, simple and complex aesthetic. Similar to normcore but deeply imbued with black and queer consciousness, it is laying the foundations for the avant-garde of today and tomorrow. Cross-dressing often inspires Telfar's fashion, which is why the brand represents the union of diversity and pride of being part of a beautiful and varied group. The Queens brand is recognized as a socio-culturally revolutionary brand: Clemens and Radboy have launched projects with a significant cultural impact, from collaborations with Solange Knowles at the Guggenheim Museum to the design of national uniforms for over 10,000 employees of the United States fast food chain White Castle (which hosted the SS2016 collection show in its shop on Eight Avenue) revisiting them.

In the indie environments of New York, the brand is also known for its very particular marketing strategy. First of all, brand ambassadors are not just the usual famous people. On social channels all the photos of the Telfar Bag buyers are reposted and used as promotional images, because Telfar wants to create a concrete link with the consumer.


The "Bushwick Birkin"

The Telfar bag has earned this nickname thanks to the make-up artist Xya Rachel, who says "it is for those who do not have exactly the budget for a Hèrmes". Daughter of an urban and consumerist inspiration, the it-bag of the moment came to life in the minds of Telfar and Radboy at the exit of the Bloomingdale's department store - the undisputed theater of extreme shopping - who wondered if it was not possible to create a unisex version of those paper bags, so comfortable and useful. In vegan leather and now available in 3 sizes and different colors, the bag is positioned in a medium-low price range, which does not exceed $ 300, and is therefore accessible to all aficionados of a certain type of style that does not they may or may not want to buy a bag that identifies them with a status symbol that is not their own. The Telfar Bag, thanks to its limited cost and the creativity of a black-owned brand, has created around it a common thread that brings together a slice of the population, enough to go sold out in 15 seconds to the last drop of the online site and therefore be very difficult to find. A perfect mix of rarity, price and quality, which make the bag much more relevant to young and creative consumers than a $ 300,000 Birkin.


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The now famous Telfar Bag is perfect in all its colors and shapes: the large size can be used to carry documents and laptops comfortably, but also changes for a weekend out of town. The bags are also inserted inside like a matrioshka: Telfar Clemens himself used a Medium Brown inside a Large Forest Green to contain everything needed for his first fashion show in Paris last year. Not only bags, the apparel is also the protagonist: like the t-shirts with logo or cowboy prints with Native-American vibes to which the designer is very fond. The sleeveless polo shirt with zip and silver logo is instead an echo of the 70s American tennis style.