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How Telfar Clemens Is Helping Minors Held at Rikers Island With New White Castle Collection

Picture of Jill Di Donato
Fashion Editor
Updated: 30 November 2017
New York designer and Queens native Telfar Clemens has just released his “Le Frak” collection, an eight-piece White Castle-inspired unisex capsule that pays homage to the apartment complex where the CFDA-nominated designer spent his childhood—and where he ate a lot of White Castle hamburgers. Fans of the label, TELFAR GLOBAL, known for gender non-specific clothing and defining what Clemens calls “horizontal fashion,” garnered accolades from the fashion industry—in particular, the Vogue/CFDA fund.

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The brand, which Clemens began at the age of 15, is synonymous with social justice. The designer tells Vogue, “I was doing unisex back in 2002. I don’t believe in appropriation, or mixing high and low,” he continued. “I see fashion as horizontal.”

Clemens uses his garments as a way to forge relationships between people—ones that dismantle typical (and often times oppressive) power dynamics. The collection poses some interesting questions about snap judgments people make based on how you dress, and how these judgements are presupposed by social, racial, and economic constructs. Of course this statement is more complex than turning a White Castle uniform into haute couture, but you get how laden even this sartorial alchemy becomes.

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At TELFAR GLOBAL’s SS18 show, models wearing the White Castle collection served the editors greasy hamburger fare and introduced themselves, even started chatting. As most presentations require the models remain like mannequins as editors snap photos and take notes, the message at TELFAR was clear: it’s time to destroy old ways of relating to one another. “I want people to aspire to wear the same thing that the person serving them is wearing,” says the designer in the aforementioned Vogue article.

Is Clemens’ “decoy clothing” anti-fashion, or a designer putting social justice into action, using fashion as a vehicle?

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With Clemens donating 100 percent of White Castle proceeds from the capsule to the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights LIBERTY AND JUSTICE fund to pay bail for Minors held on Rikers Island, there’s no doubt that social justice is at the forefront of this designer’s vision.

The collection, priced between $60 and $220, is comprised of T-shirts, hoodies, and hats with mashed up White Castle x TELFAR logos, as well as the zip code of the Queens White Castle where Clemens grew up. In addition to finding the capsule for purchase on the TELFAR GLOBAL website, you can also find it for sale at White Castle stores throughout the world, with White Castle locations in Japan getting on board.

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The kids love the collection; the CFDA is taking note. Even more so, minors held at Rikers Island who cannot afford bail while awaiting trial will see direct benefits from this collection.

From the TELFAR GLOBAL website:

The TELFAR x WHITE CASTLE Capsule Collection was created to celebrate the nationwide release of TELFAR’s Unisex-Uniform for all 400+ White Castle locations and 10,000 team members nationwide.

“100% of White Castle proceeds from the capsule go to the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights LIBERTY AND JUSTICE fund to pay bail for Minors held on Rikers Island. Average bail in NYC is $900 and those who cannot afford it can be detained for years while innocent awaiting trial. Please donate directly at LIBERTYANDJUSTICE.NYC— a joint project of RFK Human Rights, The Bronx Freedom Fund, Youth Represent and the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund.”

For more information, visit TELFAR GLOBAL.