Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Community and culture at TELFAR

An in-depth look at the brand redefining the future of fashion for inclusion and accessibility
Official TELFAR Facebook page.

Telfar Clemens, founder of TELFAR — the Brooklyn based fashion brand taking the world by storm — created a cultural moment that extends beyond the reach of the Parisian runway or the pages of Vogue.

The TELFAR brand is a catalyst in the shifting paradigm of high fashion, a harbinger of the great reckoning that the fashion industry needs so desperately to contend with. It is an experience, a community, a performance and it exists beyond the physical limits of product and logo. TELFAR carved a path into a new future of fashion through individual actions of the brand itself and indirect influence on the social and cultural planes.

There are few brands active today that possess the sort of versatile marketability TELFAR harnessed in recent years. From serving White Castle sliders at a runway show to an art exhibition in Milan, TELFAR mastered the art of marketing: seamlessly blending high and low culture to create the face of a brand whose target audience is nearly everyone. This often attempted, yet rarely successful approach works perfectly for TELFAR. The brand’s coveted “Shopping Bag” logo purses sell out in minutes, no doubt due to their affordability and adaptable aesthetic. With a price tag ranging from $150 for the smallest size, to $257 for the largest, TELFAR firmly established its position on accessibility in the fashion world.

​​The brand opened the gilded door of luxury, at least partially, to a wider audience. Especially as a Black designer, Clemens worked carefully to create a brand that speaks specifically to Black Americans. TELFAR’s marketing is based on social media, rather than the glossy pages of fashion magazines, and its advertisements primarily feature Black models and influencers. The brand’s Instagram is filled with TikTok’s by Black creators, and the community the brand fostered is deeply rooted in Black culture.

TELFAR’s overall popularity and connection with Blackness has only been amplified since July 2022, when Beyoncé mentioned TELFAR in her song Summer Renaissance. Someone as revered and influential as Beyoncé choosing a TELFAR shopping bag over an Hermès Birkin — a coveted and long-standing status symbol — is a milestone in the brand’s journey from niche Brooklyn designer to worldwide fashion powerhouse.

TELFAR is designed and sold, “not for you – for everyone,” as the brand tagline states, but this does not detract from the chic aesthetic the brand offers. The minimalist visuals of bag with its sleek faux leather structure and monochrome logo make pairing it with Prada just as conceivable as with streetwear. The clothing garments from the brand tell a similar story: walking the line between unconventional high fashion and creatively reimagined basics.

Take for example, TELFAR’s Spring 2020 collection, which draws playful inspiration from the modern frustrations of airport security, as it reminds us of the inherently political nature of being a person of color moving through spaces of overt security surveillance. The collection itself features, among other things, a refashioning of the cargo pant into something sartorially intriguing; presenting many new variations of the long-abhorred garment throughout the thirty-eight look collection. These include military-style cargo vests in khaki and army green, a cotton logo tee shirt with charcoal gray sleeves in a synthetic fabric complete with cargo pockets and drawstrings and a series half-denim-half-synthetic knee length cargo shorts.

TELFAR proved, with this collection and others, that what makes the brand a foundation for a new futurity of fashion is that it does not rely on extravagant gowns and exorbitant prices to capture audiences and garner critical praise. Instead, the brand created a fantasy of the now: a now that belongs to all of us in which we are invited to envision ourselves as part of the trendsetting, style-molding faction, a role usually reserved for the wealthy elite. This, in turn, created a community of those not only devoted to the brand and its products, but to the vision of the future it embodies in the present.

When two people carrying TELFAR shopping bags pass on the street and exchange a pleasant smile and appreciative nod, it is not only the recognition of similar taste or brand loyalty, but an acknowledgement of belonging to the new fashion world being built one bag at a time.

Jamie Long can be reached at [email protected].

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