It’s tough out there for new designers: Every season a new class of eager creatives comes in, but rarely do you hear more about them. Since starting his business back in 2014, designer James Flemons has slowly but surely built his label Phlemuns into one of the coolest emerging brands out there, bringing a fresh sense of direction to an overcrowded market.
Flemons, who spent his childhood designing clothes, assumed he would spend his early career assisting other designers while waiting for his own brand to pick up speed. But his designs quickly found themselves on stars like Solange and Justine Skye, so he decided to feed the demand.
What sets Phlemuns apart more than anything is that the clothing isn’t gendered. Flemons describes it this way: “The ‘men’s and women’s’ clothing — and the overlap of the two — that I create all flow simultaneously from the same thought or approach.” More than anything, he wants his clothes to be “impactful in a way that’s not over the top, and approachable to most people.”
The biggest challenge he’s faced so far? Flemons says it’s the rise of fast fashion. “There are countless brands right now that made me wonder if I was doing anything that would stand out in the sea of clothing out there.”
A second challenge (but a good one) is trying to keep up with the demand of his clientele. Phlemuns is still a small business, and as Flemons notes, “Not necessarily being connected or coming from a wealthy background, it’s been a challenge for me to get the structure and funding that most brands have. I’m still a one-man-show doing everything out of pocket.”
In the future, Flemons hopes to be part of the New York Fashion Week calendar, but for now he’s happy to be doing his own thing. “I actually think this uprise in underground emerging designers has brought about some of the most creative things that we’re seeing lately. There’s something a bit more raw and genuine coming from a lot of the smaller brands, in my opinion.”
And while he readily admits that his experience as a young black designer has been different than most, he’s staying optimistic. “People that look like me aren’t the majority in fashion, nor are we the most popular, but as long as I stay true to myself, I think I’ll be on the right path.”