Since launching his brand in 2005, Telfar Clemens has gone against the grain in a luxury industry that caters to the privileged few. The Liberian-American from Queens, N.Y., has blazed his own trail by designing an inclusive unisex collection each season. The word “inclusive” is a little overused these days, but it has been an integral part of this brand’s vocabulary from the get-go with its “It’s not for you—it’s for everyone” mantra. Thanks to this vision, Clemens received the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, which recognizes emerging talent, in 2017 and was named 2020 Accessories Designer of the Year at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards. He owes this prestigious win to one of his most popular creations: the Shopping Bag. Launched in 2014, the bag propelled him into the spotlight and has been a hit with the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Solange Knowles and Bella Hadid.

A Bag For All

Nicknamed the Bushwick Birkin—a nod to the famed Hermès It bag—because of its affordability ($190 for the small version and up to about $325 for the large one) and iconic style, the synthetic-leather bag was created to be more accessible than most designer bags on the market. Inspired by Bloomingdale’s shop- ping bags and decked out with the Telfar logo (the designer’s initials drawn by one of his teachers when he was a kid in school), it comes in three sizes and various hues and sells out immediately every time it hits the online shop’s virtual shelves. In August 2020, the website launched the Bag Security Program, a one-day event that allowed anyone who coveted the precious bag to snag one—although they would have to wait a few months before it arrived. This democratization swims against the stream in an industry that usually uses rareness to fuel desire.

Clemens doesn’t shy away from mainstream collaborations either. Having already worked with Converse and American fast-food chain White Castle, the brand will release a mini collection with Ugg in June. (It will be available in Canada in September.) Clemens reimagined the California brand’s legendary shearling boots once before, but there will be more styles this time around, and it’s safe to assume the results will be a hit. Much like Midas, everything this designer touches seems to turn to gold.

Read more:
Our Editor-in-Chief’s Picks: Seeing Red
The 6 Biggest Swimwear Trends of Summer 2021
Fresh Air: The Emergence of a New Design Aesthetic