TELFAR and South African Band FAKA Set the Serpentine Galleries On Fire...Figuratively
For a sneak preview of his Spring 2019 collection, Telfar Clemens enlisted South African band FAKA to create an original performance that troubles the boundary between art and fashion.
Serpentine Galleries Park Nights TELFAR, NOT FOR YOU FOR EVERYONE. Photos by Lewis Ronald.
This weekend at the newly unveiled, Frida Escobedo-designed Serpentine Pavilion, genderless fashion brand TELFAR presented “NOT FOR YOU FOR EVERYONE,” a preview of their Spring 2019 collection. For their presentation, designer Telfar Clemens and creative director Babak Radboy worked with South African band FAKA to compose original music that was performed a cappella by a choir of friends, people they've been inspired by online, and figures from the London creative scene—all decked in the new collection. “We have followed FAKA for a long time and, last year, we reached out to do a show together for Milan Mens at Spazio Maiocchi. We were so happy to find out that they had been watching us too. Serpentine was, maybe, 50% an excuse just to get together again,” the designer told GARAGE in an email. Their remaining motivation was surely, as ever, opening up privileged spaces in fashion, engaging with news modes of presentation as driven by music, exploring the relationship between creator and subject, and furthering a conversation around representation.
“We wanted to interfere a bit with this feel-good moment in white culture in regards to inclusion and diversity—to be able to share something without performing for this inert spectator,” says Telfar of the project.
TELFAR and FAKA's performance was the newest entry in a series of annual experimental commissions called Park Nights, which the Serpentine began six years ago and which has previously featured an impressive shortlist of artists like Arthur Jafa, Sondra Perry, Oscar Murillo, and Ed Atkins. The pairing of band and brand feels like a particularly poignant choice, given that TELFAR itself is essentially interdisciplinary, but Telfar insists that occupying the fine art space isn’t of interest to him, and hesitates to categorize the happening they orchestrated at Kensington Park over the weekend. “I wouldn't say that we have much interest in performance art as a field of practice…Maybe that's a catch all for experiences that are hard to categorize? In general we start with the space between natural and collective capacities and the actual fields that exist in our cultures to facilitate them. Music is this deeply human thing — but as a musician you essentially have to sell yourself as a brand…It used to be by selling plastic discs, now it's more complicated, but has very little to do with music. Fashion is the same. The core gift or turn-on gets totally alienated in the industry and market. So, we make clothes — and to show them and communicate what we are about we collaborate with people in a very different manner. Different from the music industry, and different from the art world…” TELFAR operates at an intersection then, refusing to be defined, and impossible to categorize.
“I think the idea of TELFAR is that it's not like other things.” He says, “It's not trying to be like anything.”
As for what we can expect from the rest of the collection, which will be presented in full during New York Fashion week on September 9th, it looks like more of what we’ve all come to adore: clothes that showcase the confidence and persona of their wearer, while remaining distinctly TELFAR—like trousers exposing the perfect amount of cheek, and leather that is as sexy as it is simple—pieces that belong in our closets and feel less like a purchase and more like the fulfillment of an obligation to our wardrobes. While Telfar isn't hoping for a particular critical or commercial reception from the show, his team is investigating a topic that is sure to provoke a response from his fans. “We are a bit obsessed with the idea of America at this exact moment,” he offers. As for what he hopes we might feel about what he’ll show? “That you have to get in this look ASAP.”