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Christopher John Rogers Pre-Fall 2023

The opening images in this slideshow are likely to prompt some doubletakes. Christopher John Rogers, a designer for whom rainbow stripes are a defining signature, put together half a dozen looks for pre-fall devoid of color—as in zero ROYGBIV. The title he gave the collection, “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want to,” offers a hint about his new direction. Having captured the fashion world’s attention, Rogers seems to have set out to upend expectations.

“What I’m after is autonomy, the ability to do what I want,” he said at an appointment in his lower Broadway studio. “The idea of play is paramount.” Cue the plastic clown noses and the towering silk clown hats created in collaboration with the milliner Piers Atkinson. There’s even a Pierrot jumpsuit in the first grouping, with silk flowers in place of the characteristic pompons, though this isn’t so much a novelty as it is a callback. A pre-pandemic runway show closed with a different take on the look.

In the end, this wasn’t the volta face that those first looks augured. It’s just as colorful as any other CJR lineup, just as extroverted, but there is a commitment to pushing at the limits of his well-known signatures. In the studio, Rogers pointed out the porthole cutout in a boxy knit top bordered with the rainbow stripes—“it takes a lot of work to get it to lay flat,” he explained. Also complex: the sweaters that hybridized two crewnecks into one, and a sweater dress with both long sleeves and arm slits.

The playfulness has a purpose; those knits can be worn in multiple ways. And the experimentation is balanced by an easy-wearing sensibility. Rogers’s new suits are oversized and unstructured; cut from recycled polyester in zesty shades of grape and crawfish, they’re the fresh, modern flipside of the more formal tailoring on his June runway.

Rogers doesn’t want to get boxed into any one category, but evening wear, inevitably, is his calling card. With award season ramping up, there’s bound to be some incoming calls for the tulip gown in floral printed faille and a harlequin embroidered black column with pouf sleeves, both of which nod with flair back to mid-century couture shapes.

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