At last week's CFDA Awards, Christopher John Rogers scooped the coveted prize of American Womenswear Designer of the Year. Then today, his name was once again making headlines as Adele's CBS special was broadcast in America, in which she wore a white trouser suit custom made for her by the designer. These are just the latest in a long line of impressive accomplishments over the past year, which include dressing some of the world's most famous women. Back in January, Rogers spoke with Grazia's Kenya Hunt about the effect of the pandemic on fashion and how it feels to create outfits for the women he's looked up to...
‘I think after this, people aren’t going to want to look like everyone else. Embracing all the parts of yourself that you want to express, will be even more important,’ Christopher John Rogers says from his home in New York, where he’s been sheltering in place. The world has changed radically since I saw him last, at a glamorous gathering at Hotel Costes in Paris in which he was surrounded by a friendship network of prominent editors, models and stylists dressed in bold, head-turning shimmer, shapes and leather.
But the pandemic hasn't slowed the designer's progress – in fact, the last few months have seen some of the world's most famous women wear his creations, sparking much conversation. Kamala Harris, America's new Vice President – the first female, Black and Asian American VP – wore John Rogers for the inauguration.
Another was Lady Gaga, who accepted a VMA award last August wearing a spectacular silk taffeta ballgown skirt with matching kimono blouse. The look was part of Rogers' AW20 collection and his reaction to Gaga's choice to wear it was nothing short of emotional: 'One of the women who‘ve singlehandedly [sic] inspired me the most and allowed me to dream about what fashion can be, and what fashion can do, is wearing something my team and I dreamed up just a few months ago in a fashion-week fury,' he wrote on Instagram.
After that, Zendaya chose a Rogers gown for her first outfit at last year's partially digital Emmy Awards and then, as we all entered a second lockdown in 2020, Rogers was still providing high-octane glamour – in the form of a custom evening gown made for Beyoncé to wear on the cover of British Vogue.
In the four short years since launching his eponymous women’s label Rogers, who is New York’s reigning breakout star, has been on a sharp incline, amassing a fanbase of First Ladies (Michelle Obama), supermodels (Ashley Graham and Paloma Elsesser) celebrities (Lizzo, Cardi B, Tracee Ellis Ross) and retail tastemakers who gravitate towards his famously space-taking, colourful dresses that demand to be worn on the most glamorous of nights out.
In 2019, the Baton Rouge native who had previously been running his business from his living room won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Award. And then in early 2020, Net-a-Porter launched his label in the UK. Then COVID hit and the world stopped going out.
And the meaning of his clothes changed as women began to wear and post pics of themselves in his neon pleats, strawberry shaped skirts, and highlighter bright florals at home as an assertion of joy in these corona times. ‘It became about community through solidarity. People are using the clothes to lift their spirits because we still want to feel like we’re going out,’ he explains.
The CFDA recognised his efforts last summer by nominating him for American Emerging Designer of The Year.‘It’s really about wearing clothes that encourage people to be the most authentic versions of themselves, no matter where they are.’