2021 TIME100 Next
By Solange Knowles
February 17, 2021 6:55 AM EST

Telfar Clemens is the time, the spirit and the conversation. Through his namesake line, he has created a universe of his own that transcends fashion. Where the industry restricts identity with outdated expressions of presentation, correctness and exclusivity, Telfar has created a new language of truth, through design. The Telfar symbol is one that acts as an affirmation for how we fully and confidently show up in the world. It is Telfar’s own inspiringly firm sense of identity that makes possible the label’s uncompromising aesthetic: purposeful basics reimagined for a more inventive future. It was Telfar’s vision to translate the classic verve of an elegant tote into a symbol that speaks directly to the community it is intended to. They sell out before you even click on the link.

And when his “it’s not for you, it’s for everyone” mission of accessibility was threatened by bots programmed to buy up the brand’s inventory as soon as it was restocked, he launched a program that directly intercepted overpriced resales with an unlimited preorder event.

Telfar’s approach to business and art is an affirmation of how we can fully and confidently show up in the world while uplifting those who have made us who we are. When I wear Telfar, I am wearing the stories of late nights with his aunt who has been his roommate for the last five years, his bike rides from Queens to Brooklyn to create in his studio, and his sacred bonds with a community of artists and musical collaborators—a family I take great pride in being a part of. He’s been at it for a long time, and nobody is more deserving.

Knowles is a Grammy Award-winning musician and artist

Photograph by Quil Lemons for TIME

Styled by Avena Gallagher; Hair by Latisha Chong; Make-up by Mical Klip

Buy a print of the Telfar Clemens TIME100 Next cover

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