Designer Spotlight: James Flemons of PHLEMUNS

Designer Spotlight: James Flemons of PHLEMUNS

Mathias Rosenzweig highlights up-and-coming designers to know now. Here, the man behind most of Solange Knowles's stunning "Don't Touch My Hair" looks.

Mathias Rosenzweig highlights up-and-coming designers to know now. Here, the man behind most of Solange Knowles's stunning "Don't Touch My Hair" looks.

Text: MATHIAS ROSENZWEIG

Within the world of fashion, we take it for granted that the lines between the textbook “male” and “female” gender binaries are truly not so clear, or perhaps even necessary. If we learned anything this previous November, it was that this progressive view is not shared by the whole of the country, reminding us to commend those who’ve helped push the envelope in the right direction.

PHLEMUNS designer James Flemons is, undoubtedly, one of the standouts in that particular gender-free realm with his up-and-coming line. His ability to turn stereotypically feminine womenswear into something less conventional for men has caught the attention of style icons like Solange and Rihanna, both of whom have worn PHLEMUNS on numerous occasions.

Below, V is premiering Flemons and Co’s latest editorial shot in his hometown of Los Angeles. Moreover, we spoke to the stylistic tour de force about dressing celebrities, loving Jean Paul Gaultier, and his plans for 2017.

What would be the mission statement for your clothing line? 

PHLEMUNS is about taking conceptual ideas and making them tangible for anyone to feel comfortable approaching; an inclusive brand that celebrates diversity and self-expression. 

Where did you learn how to design and turn your creative ideas into realities? 

I learned how to sew my first year in college and have been self-taught with some help from YouTube tutorials since then. A lot of my design process has developed through trial and error. I took on this mentality of not being fearful of doing things I’ve never done before and that mistakes are good things that turn into design details, which has formed a majority of my style.

 When and how did you realize you wanted to pursue design as a profession? 

My interest in design started in elementary school from drawing my favorite outfits I saw in music videos then, they transitioned into my imagination, keeping me up all night sketching out my ideas. I've always known that it’s what I wanted to do and never really had to search for it, although I have questioned it a few times. But never went on a mission of self-discovery to find out what I wanted to do. The whole process has been a very natural progression since childhood.

What are some of the most prominent inspirations for your line? 

I'm hugely inspired by this mix of funk, western, and the 70's. Growing up, Aaliyah, Kelis, and Andre 3000's style made a huge impact on me and has shaped so much of my personal and design style. When it comes to fashion itself, I've always been inspired by the way Jean Paul Gaultier mixes styles and genres, Margiela's take on deconstruction and going against the rules of design, Miuccia Prada’s clean balance of vintage and future, and Vivienne Westwood’s way of giving an ease to clash and chaos.

What movie, TV show, or music video had the best fashion in your opinion? 

My favorite fashion in a movie is from The 5th Element. My favorite fashion from a TV show is from Girlfriends. My favorite fashion from a music video is from Aaliyah's “More Than A Woman” and “We Need A Resolution.”

Why do you think fashion is important on a larger scale? 

I think fashion is important because creating a garment is the most used form of art. Living in a society where public nudity isn't deemed acceptable, we need and use it every day. I think it's a direct voice and visual expression of who you are or in some cases, who you think and want the world to think you are.

New York or LA? 

LA over NY for me. It's home, it's family, it's comfort, it's space, it's nature, and it's a disconnect from the heavy influence of the fashion industry which is beneficial for me. I’m never one of those people who thinks one is better than the other. There are many reasons I'd love to be in NY, but there are just bigger ones that keep me from being there.

If you could have anyone be the face of your line, whom would it be?

I think I've been privileged enough to have Solange be the celebrity who is most tied to my clothing through her support. If I'd have to solidify someone as the face it would definitely be her. I really agree with her sensibility as far as personal style goes and her views on what she stands for as a black woman, as well as being vocal about that message.

If you could collaborate with anyone, whom would it be? 

In a dream world, I would love to collaborate with Jean Paul Gaultier. I love his take on clothing and how he was so involved in expressing his clothes through various creative platforms, such as videos, and his involvement with the music industry.

What is the hardest part of your job? 

In this moment, the hardest part is how demanding it is and how many different hats I have to wear being so small. Having to constantly be available and handle everything is a lot of work. I don't think people realize how mentally draining it is to do all the things I do. I'm at the point where even responding to a single text message can be the most difficult and stressful part of my day.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part has been continually having a finished product or project and then seeing the reaction received from my peers. I get such a high from this concept of seeing nothing, from my mind and through my hands, turn into something complete.

What has it been like seeing iconic celebrities wearing your clothing?

When I actually get a chance to step outside of it and realize what it actually is, the whole celebrity support thing is kind of mind-blowing. More and more of my favorite figures in media keep ending up in my clothes. It's really cool that I've been so closely tied to the music industry because it’s basically where the seed was planted in my interest in style and fashion. Music plays a big role in how I work and my creative process.

What's your New Year's resolution?

For 2017, I'm planning on saying “no more” and putting myself first. I want to work towards less exposure and more income. 2016 whooped my ass.

How do you define success? 

I believe success is when you've gotten to a point where you're blissfully content with what you're doing to make a living off of it.

Credits:

Model: Mame Adjei  Photographer: Dicko Chan  Art Direction: Nikki Mirsaeid Stylist: Janiva Ellis and Jessica Worrell Hair: Fitch lunar Makeup: Alexa Hernandez 

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