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Christopher John Rogers: On how pragmatic glamour and authenticity got him to the top

With CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award victories over the last two years after only three seasons at New York Fashion Week, a 26-year-old New York designer with an uncompromised love for glamour has risen to the top of fashion insiders’ lists as a name to watch. His statement looks, exaggerated volume, fearless silhouettes, and bold colors have grabbed the attention of Michelle Obama, Cardi B, Rihanna, and Zendaya, who has fallen for his optimistic and couture-like style. In an exclusive interview for Vogue Czechoslovakia, we caught up with Christopher John Rogers (CJR) on bringing “pragmatic glamour” to the streets.
Foto: David Molle
Christopher John Rogers
Christopher, not only did you win the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award in 2019, you have also proven yourself in the most difficult circumstances in a pandemic by being honored again with the 2020 Award – all at such a young age! What’s your secret?
I didn't really get into this business to win awards, but it's wonderful to know that people identify with my work, they find it exciting and worthy of merit. I assume what people love most is that the work feels like "fashion,” and it feels effortful and fun! There's no pretension here at CJR, and today that’s refreshing.  
How did the CDFA Awards change things for you?
They didn’t change much for us as a brand, but I think it makes people think of us differently from a business perspective. And of course, it's amazing when legends like Tom Ford think you're doing something right!
Who is a CJR woman from your perspective?
She's self-assured, has a hefty sense of humor, and understands that you can be the most intelligent person in the room and still wear hot pink (laugh).
Your signature style has a “wow” effect. Pandemic or not, your extravagant pieces keep selling well. How will you continue making clothing relevant to customers post-pandemic?
CJR is about making heirlooms and future archival vintage pieces. Those are things that you’ll want to cherish for the rest of your life. For that reason, as an industry overall, we should continue investing in work that feels deeply personal to us.
I love that you make couture-like pieces affordable. What's your formula?
We make pragmatic glamour. We make things that work in the real world without losing any of the fun. Either searching for fabrics that have a nice price and putting a lot of construction into the garment or choosing extremely luxe materials and cutting them more simplistically is how we try to maintain an approachable price point without sacrificing quality. 
Foto: Christopher John Rogers
Foto: Christopher John Rogers
Foto: Christopher John Rogers
What inspires you?
Archival couture and tailoring techniques, mid-century interior, graphic design, and metropolitan debris (trash bags, electrical tape, etc.).  A lot of inspiration comes also from my roots and the environment I grew up in.
What was it like?
I am from Louisiana. There was a culture of dressing for certain events and being really casual for others. So, I like to mix both things in my work. Taffeta hand-ruched bustiers paired with elastic-waist wide-leg trousers; boned corsets but done up in utilitarian cotton twill; cargo pants but rendered in silk and wool for the evening - we love a mix.
The recent Emmy Awards have gone down in history as one of the most unforgettable fashion moments for Zendaya. The photo of her presenting an award in your tulip skirt ensemble was one of the most frequently reposted images on social media. How was the night for you?
We actually watched it through Instagram. It was so cool getting to have that moment with someone of my generation, who shares a similar perspective about the world and about fashion.  
Foto: Christopher John Rogers
Foto: Christopher John Rogers
Foto: Christopher John Rogers
During the lockdown you were live streaming, speaking openly about ups and downs, everyday experiences. Your authenticity is appealing to consumers – particularly the younger generation.
Thank you so much! That's so great to hear - we always want to be open and honest with the people who are naturally drawn to the brand.
And you get to dress First Lady Michelle Obama, Rihanna, Cardi B, and Tracee Ellis Ross. You have an incredible following among celebrities and editors. What draws such a broad range of fans to your clothing?
The optimism of the work, definitely! We feel very fortunate. We have an eclectic group of followers and customers - fashion editors, lawyers, writers, museum directors, students, chefs, drag queens, high-school and university teachers – and we make sure that everyone is able to access the brand in some way or another.
As someone who has set the bar high since a very young age, what do you see when you look at the future of CJR?
Expansion – taking the brand aesthetic into interiors, cosmetics, and objects. All that in the most authentic way.