Christopher John Rogers Takes Mini Vacations in Fort Greene Park

I’ve lived in Brooklyn since I moved to New York in 2016, right after I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design [in Georgia]. I used to be in the Bed-Stuy area, and I’d visit Fort Greene Park quite often. The greenery is so different from that in Bushwick, where I live now. Sometimes, I’m with my boyfriend, or old co-workers or current ones, or friends I met along the way. Going to the park is a little vacation, a chance to hang out and clear my head.

It’s always been important to me, workwise, to take these excursions and not keep the same schedule every day. I don’t get to go as much as I used to, so when I do, it’s nostalgic for me. My creative process requires me to periodically disconnect from anything related to fashion, or to making in general. That’s only become truer in the past few years.

Since the pandemic, my studio has shifted our presentation calendar so there’s more time to design. Before, it was collection after collection — we were in a constant state of production. But my team noticed that our customers were still responding to our most extravagant pieces, even though they had nowhere to wear them, confirming that they care more about the feeling of the work than its utility. I finally had time to sit with myself and ask, “If this were my last collection, what would I really want to make?”

Now I have more time to explore new silhouettes, which are frequently informed by things I see in the park. I’ve always been inspired by carryout containers, garbage bags or even debris on the side of the road. Visual tension of any kind is really arresting. Happenstance and serendipity are inherent to my work. I’ll usually start a piece with a vintage image and make a sketch based on that. There’s a lot of piecing together of disparate references, whether crumpled trash or drapery depicted in 18th-century portraiture. The energy’s kind of the same. I’m trying to find something between those spaces.

This interview has been edited and condensed.