Conor McKnight, One of New York’s Busiest New York Designers Reveals Innovative Collection – WWD

Conor McKnight is not someone who should be pushed into a corner. After the New York Fashion Week show was canceled due to a lack of funding at the last minute, the designer is unveiling this week his new collection: a collection of chic outerwear, knitwear, pants and accessories that further enhances his vision of Americana as said through the lens of Black history, community and savvy.

While he was initially devastated by the cancellation of his show, McKnight quickly took advantage of that concern at an opportunity. It allowed him to think about things in a new way—and give him a few more weeks to get his samples right, shoot a research book that exceeded his standards, and present his designs without the many distractions and scheduling conflicts of NYFW.

“This is probably one of the best things we got from changing the schedule during COVID-[19]McKnight said of his newfound freedom. “There are times when you have to wait and buyers understand very well – it helps processes internally and helps your business run better.

“I’ve given myself extra time this season to get samples to submit and ship my wholesale orders. It makes a huge difference in offering a very complete set, which I feel very strongly about. We have accessories now, we have to go deeper. It’s such a powerful storytelling moment and it’s Something I wouldn’t have done under the usual time.”

McKnight is an introspective type who – unlike many of his design peers – prefers a low-key look. This is reflected in his designs – whispering color choices, fabrics and silhouettes, offering comfortable clothing with a crisp mindset. This season, as in past travels, there are gender-neutral styles as well as select dresses made with women in mind.

McKnight had a full six months this season to think about how best to improve his broader vision, but he found inspiration in an unexpected place. “A couple of months ago, I started doing the ‘Twilight Zone’ kick. I was watching it, and they made fun of a luxury retailer, a department store, and they were hauling this supermodel around in the cutest full-length pleated jacket. I just thought it might be really exciting,” the designer said. Incorporating that level of craftsmanship into things they don’t necessarily have often.”

McKnight’s Spring 2023 collection focuses on the idea of ​​entertainment and pays tribute to the pastimes of his father and two grandparents. Many of these hobbies were practiced in the fresh air – fishing, hiking, swimming, boating, and track.

McKnight’s goal has always been to elevate silhouettes and iconography from archival performance-driven apparel. Now, based on this idea, he makes jackets from recycled nylon, long coats, and track shorts with the most common draping and construction techniques in evening wear.

There is a line of dividers – rugby waist shorts Henley and bungee – in a gorgeous teal silver mesh developed to resemble metallic silk. For the new track jacket, McKnight plays with nylon in ethereal pleats that culminate in a croissant-like swirl on the small of one’s back.

I went to Parsons [to study fashion design] And I’m really interested in design, shape, and draping. And then where I come from, the things I grew up with include these crunchy and crunchy stuff — it’s in my interest to see what happens when you two marry, he said of the incongruity.

They’re all depicted in an artist-made set designed in honor of the legendary Club Caverns jazz club in McKnight’s hometown of Washington, D.C., and they’re nodding to another favorite family pastime. Caves somehow evoke Juke Joint DIY music venues from black South America that exemplify the resilience and resourcefulness needed to create a culture in the face of adversity, he said.

McKnight knows his clothes don’t exist in a vacuum and faces competition when they’re packaged alongside other brands at retailers, including Matches, Ssense, Mr Porter, Frances May and Colbo. The designer has spent a great deal of time collaborating with factories to improve quality and construction across his collection. This season, he’s also researched the features that would differentiate his apparel to turn sales.

What he called the “Gil Back Fisherman’s Vest,” which is based on fly fishing prototypes, is stacked inside with pockets for increased functionality. A new trouser shape, absent from the waistband, has straight pleats at the top, allowing for a custom fit between men and women. He said, “We hid a change pocket in one of the folds.” “I think it’s those angles that tell a story and somehow give the clothes some narration.”

There’s also the first McKnight bags: a “Bongo” backpack that repeats his pleated nylon design, and a simple black leather shoulder bag that takes cues from canvas bags synonymous with the “schlepping” lifestyle of New York City. They add extra layers to McKnight’s incorporation of references—the delicate balance that makes his brand feel fresh at this hectic moment.

Now after six months of delay, McKnight feels there is only room to move. “I’d like to do some grant programs this year and really focus on bringing this collection home. I’ve spent a lot of time developing it and overall it seems to be the direction of the brand I want to build from here. I’ve laid the foundation,” he said.

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