Thank heavens for Christopher John Rogers. His searing colour combinations and joyfully upbeat designs, along with his emphatic ‘can do’ work ethic and boundless energy, have been beaming optimism into our lives just when we needed it most. In October 2020, he unveiled his S/S21 collection, a jubilant fiesta of neon red, cerise, teal and lemon in graphic checkerboard prints, stripes and colourblocked separates. While exaggerated proportions made for larger-than-life personalities are his métier, the collection was notably wearable. ‘I love making things people can wear,’ he says over Zoom from his New York studio. ‘Lots of designers enjoy the fantasy the most, but for me, fashion is not just about the “fabulosity”, for want of a better word.’

While Rogers is often perceived as a dramatist, a conjurer of fantasy, in fact a thread of functionality has run through his output from the get-go: ‘Even at my first presentation, there were organza ruffles but there were shirt dresses and pants too.’ That said, he knows his USP, acknowledging, ‘There’s no need for me to make an understated pair of black trousers, because Jil Sander is already doing it better.’ 

Rogers has injected New York’s fashion scene with a sense of vitality and delight that it had perhaps been lacking for some time. Indeed, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue agreed, awarding him the 2019 Fashion Fund Prize, simultaneously acknowledging his contribution to American fashion as well as underscoring the potential in his business. The past year has upended many businesses, but Rogers remains resolutely forward-looking, relishing evolution.

‘One of the amazing things about this moment is that what people want is changing. When you come into the world of design, it’s to problem solve, and create something beautiful – that is, in the eyes of the person for whom it is made. In fashion, I want to feel like I’m filling a void, creating something that doesn’t already exist.’ 

Turning attention to the 2021 Wallpaper* Design Awards, Rogers was drawn to Yinka Ilori’s originality and named him as his top choice for Designer of the Year. ‘Obviously I’m a sucker for colour, but I love it when it’s used in an intentional way. Intentionality and specificity abound in Yinka’s work. But there is so much more there, too. The ethereal, natural hues used in combination with something more synthetic feels exciting.’

Roger’s appreciation of usefulness extends to his selection for Life Enhancer of the Year: the portable handwashing station designed by Nifemi Marcus Bello. ‘I wasn’t even aware that medical professionals don’t always have access to proper hand sanitising stations. It’s something that is easily overlooked from the outside and of course connected to what’s happening right now. I also respect the community aspect of this design; that it can be built by people without specialists.’

Although Rogers backed RadSwan’s recyclable synthetic wigs as his top Best New Grooming Product, he was also impressed by Uniform’s unisex fragrance: ‘The branding is so clean and minimal, yet in contrast the scents are informed by something so rich and evocative such as food and incense.’

Rogers’ own foothold in the design world is cementing. Currently, he is planning his A/W21 collection, which will be unveiled digitally in February (‘It still feels too early to plan anything in person’) as well as a new collaboration to be announced in spring 2021. Rogers is an advocate of collaboration; members of his design and production team featured in his S/S21 campaign, celebrated individually by name. ‘To me, it’s important to be as honest as possible about how this all gets done,’ he says. ‘It might be my name on the label, but there are some great people working alongside me.’ §