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Flash Art 318 – Telfar

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Flash Art breaks new boundaries with each issue. Featuring articles and interviews on new and emerging artists who will one day be the stars of the contemporary art market.
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Flash Art 318 – Telfar | Issue January/February 2018

Flash Art 318 – The cover story of this issue of Flash Art is dedicated to the New York–based fashion label Telfar. Founded in 2005 by Liberian American designer Telfar Clemens, the label is the recipient of the 2017 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund’s prize for emerging talents in the fashion industry. Telfar is plural, genderless, “for everyone.” The label’s agenda for a “horizontal” clothing company not only defies the threat of elitism that even the most progressive and experimental fashion labels seem to strengthen; it challenges the very dialectics of top-drawer and fast fashion, street and high: in the words of Kevin McGarry, who profiles Telfar for the issue, Clemens’s clothes “game mass culture to the point of truly subverting it.”

The cover image features items from a capsule collection Telfar produced to celebrate his collaboration with the iconic hamburger restaurant chain White Castle, for which he designed a genderless uniform, now being used at more than four hundred locations by more than ten thousand employees. Telfar has given all proceeds from the collection to the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights advocacy organization’s Liberty and Justice Fund, which posts bail for minors being detained on New York City’s largest jail complex, Rikers Island.

A call for a society founded on pluralism recurs across other stories featured in this issue: from videomaker Melanie Gilligan’s episodic dramas in which characters are subject to unstable yet increasingly totalizing socioeconomic forces; to multimedia artist Cecilia Vicuña’s refusal to settle on any one idiom, or to adhere to the false binary of abstraction versus figuration, pointedly disregarding the arbitrary hierarchizing and policing of styles; to the yearlong program of the Wood Land School, which attempted to “decolonize” the SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art, in Montreal, by questioning the systemic violence that art institutions unleash against Indigenous bodies and modes of expression.

Here’s hoping that 2018 will be, as Telfar would say, “not for you — for everyone.”

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