Things couldn't be moving faster for the 25-year-old designer Christopher John Rogers, who was awarded this year's CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund (CVFF) on Monday night, less than two months after making his official runway debut at New York Fashion Week. But, for the entirety of his admittedly short career, Rogers has always moved at lightning speed. Shortly after completing his studies at the Savanah College of Art and Design in 2016, his graduate collection resurfaced—at the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards, on the silhouette of none other than Cardi B.
Rogers's use of mink and fox fur might not have aged well, but his overall approach to design certainly has. From the start, Rogers has drawn on wide-ranging references—in the case of his debut, the artist Josef Albers's theories of color relativity, as well as ethnographic portraiture by photographers Richard Avedon, Malick Sidibé, and Jackie Nickerson—but strayed from pretension, resulting in wildly imaginative, and yet somehow still wearable, silhouettes and separates. With a post-grad move to Brooklyn, the Baton Rouge-born designer's vision only strengthened: By the time he showed his second presentation at New York Fashion Week, Rogers had mastered the art of playful, artistic evening wear. Even the seemingly ill-advised combination of checker and zebra prints—a motif throughout his third collection—had a distinct air of elegance.
In maturing, Rogers also set himself up for a deluge of celebrity endorsements. Along with Rihanna—whose approval is essentially a rite of passage for emerging designers—Regina King and Michelle Obama joined Rogers's fan club by stepping out in his metallic tailored pantsuits. Tracee Ellis Ross elevated his gowns to the level of couture Valentino, while at the other end of the spectrum, Lizzo sent a lime green jolt through the MTV TV and Movie Awards red carpet as Rogers transformed her into the "baddest bitch in Whoville." Most recently, a very pregnant Ashley Graham joined their ranks by wearing a custom Rogers design—fittingly enough, seeing as she ended the night with presenting him with the CVFF.
And yet, when WWD paid a visit to the 25-year-old's studio in September, he only had three staff members—two of whom, like Rogers, live in the same studio where they work. With that in mind, there's no telling what he'll be able to get done with a year of mentorship from a member of the CFDA. (Not to mention $400,000.)