From the New York Fashion Week runways to the Olympic main stage, the cultural phenomenon and Black-owned brand Telfar has broken through culture, fashion, and influence barriers since its establishment.
Telfar Clemens founded the brand based on the method: “Not for you – for everyone.” This slogan has become a voice for the innovation behind the brand and the shift in democratizing fashion.
Dubbed the “Bushwick Birkin,” the brand’s iconic boxy, vegan leather bags have been seen on the likes of cultural catalysts such as Lil Nas X and Kylie Jenner. If that isn’t enough, the brand also outfitted the Liberian national team for the Tokyo Olympics. The team sported future-cut tank tops and oversized tracksuits that tapped into the country’s identity and was a nod to the founder’s Liberian-born parents.
The brand has also begun a revolution within the fashion and hype industry, cracking down on bots, resell and price gouging, and developing interpersonal relationships with its users and followers. The brand’s latest endeavor is Telfar TV.
According to Vogue Business, the brand describes Telfar TV as “A public access channel that serves as a springboard for storytelling and commerce. Consumers who want to buy a Telfar bag need to watch for a broadcast QR code on the channel that takes them directly to a web link to make the purchase.”
The brand explains that the rationale behind its irregular advertising “is to slowly drip products to fans who are genuinely invested in the label, rather than drop lots of merchandise through e-commerce, where bots have been known to buy hundreds of Telfar totes at a time. The channel also gives the designer an opportunity to involve customers in his creative orbit — anyone can upload their own videos featuring Telfar products.”
The brand has flipped the fashion world upside down, moving away from mass marketing and traditional advertising.
In 2002, Clemens moved to New York City to pursue a modeling career. Drawing inspiration from his Liberian heritage, Telfar brought a refreshing and unapologetically unique approach to the fashion industry in 2005 with his unisex fashion blending touches of chic style, sportswear design, and New York urban roots. He showed the world that Black business doesn’t mean small business.
The best part? The coveted Gucci and Goyard-level bags start at $150.
In 2019, Clemens explained in an interview with Them that “my favorite thing in the world is when I see someone I have infinite degrees of separation from wearing the bag … We love our friends, but it’s a huge turn-on when the person wearing it doesn’t even know what it is and just liked it.”
In an industry where a used Birkin will still run you a couple of thousand dollars or a Gucci tote equals the cost of an all-inclusive beach trip, this is just another way the brand has shaken the fashion and luxury industries to their core. The brand has become a symbol for what it means to go against the grain and break every rule in an industry where legacy and boundaries are followed to a T. Telfar has broken past a creator/consumer barrier and instead established a fan base and deepened its relationship with the people who identify themselves with the brand. With no paid influencers, an almost cult-like following, and interactive and intimate mediums of connection, Telfar has proved that earned influencers are priceless — and in an age of picture-perfect poses and brand deals, no one has to be an influencer to feel like one to be a part of an intimate and unique community.
With unconventional prices, nontraditional advertising, a strong, defiant brand identity, New York street cred, and international fashion week sightings — good luck getting your hands on the coveted “TC” branded pieces.