A backstage interview with fashion designer Carlton Jones at Vancouver Fashion Week FW22, delving into the inspiration for his newest collection, and his background as a designer.
Carlton Jones recently showcased his latest collection on Day Four of Vancouver Fashion Week’s Fall/Winter 2022 season. Jones is inspired by resort and metropolitan wear, reinventing neutral colors and structured shapes. He designs by following his mantra; “Resort isn’t a destination, it’s a feeling.”
What inspired your brand?
JONES: My brand came about working as a stylist for over two decades. I would design for personal clients and I would create one-of-a-kind looks when they wanted something exceptional or different. I was also doing a lot of personal shopping for women in the Caribbean, so I was buying clothes in New York that suited the climate they couldn’t find there. Upon doing that, after a while, I realized that some of the things I was selling them, I could make myself. And so that climate, it was very resort and loose-shapes inspired, and I thought “Oh, it’s not a lot of construction, I like this one it’s a beachy attitude.” I can add something a little more sophisticated to it, so that gave me the original idea to try to start a capsule myself that was very resort inspired.
What inspired this specific collection?
JONES: This collection was inspired by an invitation to show up two weeks ago, and a trip to Tulum in January. That was my first time there. I usually do a lot of bright colors and lots of color blocking but there everybody was wearing white, beige, and neutral. They were also wearing very resort-inspired clothing, which is kind of what I did in the beginning. And so, when I went to try and quickly find fabric for this collection, the print that I found was all neutral and I thought, “Let me see what I can do with that.”
Then one day later, I was talking to a group of friends, it was actually five of us talking, and we were all in black and beige, and that was just coincidence. I thought, “Oh, this is just how we dress, like in the winter.”
Of course, people wear black all the time in New York, but that combination? I saw it, and it was real, and I’m going to lean into it. I’ve never shown black on the runway. I always do color. And so, this being my first full-on Fall collection, I thought if ever there was a time to do black, it would be now. That’s what we really wear and I’ll put a pop of color, because that’s what I do. I like putting unusual colors together, so I play into that and I kind of push that envelope.
What’s your creative process like?
JONES: It happens a lot of different ways. Often, the fabrication moves me to create, based on what pieces I think work well. I’m very inspired by what fabrics feel like on the body, and so a single fabric can kind of lead my direction of what I’m doing. It’s unusual I have the design in mind, and then go seek the fabric to find it, but that happens as well.
Like, I found this fabric [gestures to neutral-toned cropped drop shoulder pullover; see image below], which I’ve never used before, but it made me create structure. Usually I’m working with very soft, fluid fabrics that could never hold this shape. I found this and I thought, “This is so cool, not only can I make my favorite sweatpants, but I can make something very architectural”, and so that led me to create what I did, because I knew the fabric could support it. So, it really happens in a lot of different ways, it just depends. Also, I’ve never been inspired by a trip before. Going to Tulum, I was like, “Oh my gosh, it’s been a while since I’ve done resorty things.”
Trying to make clothes after the pandemic, it was like “Oh, what do you want to lounge and chill in?” Now that people are getting out again, I brought this idea of denim to the collection, but I’m using Tencel fabric, which is a very sustainable and eco-friendly option for them. It’s also super lightweight and breathable for all climates.
What’s the future vision of your brand?
JONES: What’s beginning to happen as I embrace more of what I want to wear, and it’s very evident on this runway where I’m showing seven men and seven women, is men are slowly finding my brand and buying and following and engaging with it. Normally, it would be like, seventy or thirty women. Men, I may have a couple for eye candy and cool pieces, but now I’ve started making clothes I really want to wear, because I think we don’t need more clothes for the sake of clothes. I’m trying to create pieces that really make sense to wear, and a lot of that starts with me. The more I embrace that, the more I’m discovering my love of menswear, and that as a clientele. I originate my idea of menswear with genderfluid and unisex pieces, but I recognize that men have fewer choices. When they find something they like, they really jump on it or find things in my collection, so I’m embracing that more than I did before. Yeah, so in the future, let’s see. I’m always going to do womens, but I think I’m going to continue mens.
What kind of music is going to play?
JONES: So, the music is from my friend’s record label; Peace Bisquit. I had to find music I was given permission to use, because the show’s being streamed on Youtube. And I had such a short time, I mean the last show I was able to write the artist, and request it and get approval. This time, I went straight to my friend who has a record label and was like “This is what I do.” He knows me, he sent me a bunch of music and I selected the music. Like fifteen tracks he sent me, and I liked the beat, I liked the tempo and I liked what was happening. It felt modern, really modern, so keep an eye out for that.
Is there anything you want to add about yourself, or about your brand?
JONES: First of all, I’m honoured to be invited back here. This is my second time in Vancouver, it’s as incredible as the first time, it’s a very well-done production. I’m thrilled to discover the client here, and what people are wearing here, and broaden the scope of my brand. Now that I’m actually selling to stores, because before it was all direct-to-consumer, those stores are asking, “What do you have for Fall?” This is the first season where I’m like, let me think about what I have for those stores and what I want, to make clothes that make sense. So it feels good to make clothes that will have a buyer that is actually interested in them, and not make it just for the runway and pictures and press.
Thank you Carlton Jones for a lovely and fascinatingly extensive interview! We are excited to see where you take menswear, and how you’ll continue to incorporate resort wear with modern street style.
Carlton Jones’ designs are available on https://carltonjonescollection.com, as well as on instagram at @carltonjonescollection. For more runway photos, check out @vanfashionweek on instagram.