New York Fashion Week: Folding and Tucking with Telfar Clemens and Bike Friday

Fashion designer Telfar Clemens tests out the Bike Friday tikit
PHOTO GALLERY  Small wheels, tall models


The casting (7 mins) Young NY models audition for the show, including riding the tikitTM!
The show (10 mins) 20 minutes of fame as 250  fashionistas converge on Telfar's lunchtime showing

I just finished filming a collaboration between Bike Friday and young fashion designer Telfar Clemens at New York Fashion Week.

No, that's not Telfar above, that's Pavel, one of the young models at the show, who you may see brooding from giant CK billboards. The photo is meant to show our comparative heights: if he's the Empire State Building, I am in comparison, the illegal taco cart in parked in the cutter. Below is a shot of me and Telfar Clemens, with one of the monogrammed tikits we loaned him for his show. Read the full monty below ...

JUST WHO IS TELFAR, I hear you mutter as you tuck your Armani cravat under your helmet strap. And how did he spot The Bike Friday designer label 3000 miles away on the Pacific coast?

Telfar Clemens is a 23 year young model and graduate designer who decided folding bicycles would be a perfect accessory to BREATHE  his Spring/Summer '09 range of edgy, Olympics-inspired sportswear. From the press release:

Because TELFAR is inspired this season by sports and the Olympics, we chose to work with a company who created folding bikes. Telfar creates simplexity by using fashion as part of one's function. Folding Bikes like Bike Friday are a perfect function for Manhattan's fast life.


According to Wiki, it's "an emerging theory that proposes a possible complementary relationship between complexity and simplicity. The term draws from General Systems Theory, Dialectics (philosophy) and Design."

According to Dazed Digital, whose mike was bigger than mine at the apres-show clamor, "it's the sport of taking something simple, but adding different dimensions to it to create something entire new with just a snap, button, zip, twist, fold, or tuck." (Thank you to Dazed Digital for those kilobytes).

Sounds just like a Bike Friday – we took a simple bicycle and, with a nip and a tuck – you’re flying!
Telfar, his Stylist, and David Lam of
Thus began a collaboration between two designers from opposite coasts with a common ... simplexity. We shipped five 8-speed hyperfold tikits to the Big Apple – green, orange, yellow, red, and pink, each monogrammed with a special Telfar logo made by BF production guy Don Person on his special decal machine.

Our downtown dealer David Lam of snapped them together and we set off for the pre-show casting.
The Casting: Nice legs, can they ride a folding bike?
3x Bike Friday owner, photographer and online billards aficionado Wei Chao got wind of the show and came along to shoot some great stills with his serious camera. We sat through a dazzling parade of Calvin Klein and Donna Karan poster children, all with apparently less than 1 percent body fat, watching Telfar and his stylist JJ flip through their portfolios, eyeing their gait. What were they looking for?

"Athleticism … charisma!" he grinned.

We had grand ideas of getting them to fold and unfold the bikes in unison like a synchronized Shriners parade, but the hyperfold tikit does require a little practice to get the fast-fold into muscle-memory, and none of the models quite mastered it in short time available.

I also learned a valuable secret from these models as to how to wear impossibly high heels in comfort - arrive in flats with the high heels in a bag, slip them on while perched on a barstool/dining/draped over a Ferrari, then when you leave, put your flat shoes back on again! Imelda Marcos here I come ...

Food of models (not) ... dunplings!
Several auditions later Wei and I started feeling short and dumpy, so fittingly, we nipped out to gorge on authentic Fukien dumplings at a lower East Side no-name. I'd been raving about the Peking Duck Dumplings at Rickshaw but admittedly "10 dumplings for $3, or 50 dumplings frozen for $8, how can you beat that?" was a sub-prime blues buster.

The venue for the parade was an old St Patrick's Cathedral gym in Soho, ingeniously transformed into a stylized tennis court with the aid of Astroturf, green linoleum and some white and yellow marker tape.

Telfar's cousin Cedelia brought her Honda Accord to bfold and we bundled the bikes into her car. What's not to love about a five-second folder?

The gym basement was a flurry of powder, toned bodies and artifical sweat – a shiny substance make up artists were spraying over arms, legs, washboard tummies.

"To make me look like I' been workin' out," said Celia, a statuesque black gal just back from Paris (I no longer use the term African-American after the last two people I applied it to turned out to be Jamaican).

The clothes, once off the racks and onto human hangers, made for compelling viewing: a stylized white tennis dress with intriguing cutaways and copius pockets - big enough for beginner's quota of dropped tennis balls:

An intriguing pair heeled sneakers with a half tennis ball for the heel:

Therapeutic knee and arm braces used as jewelry: 

... and a male girdle you'd wear when you have absolutely no need for one.  

Possibly the highlight of the show was a screaming red, retro one-piece male swimsuit that only the 6'3", 17-year-young Adonis who modeled it could pull off (or have someone do that for him, slowly) - yeeeeeeeeeeeeow! I know I instantly wanted one of Telfar's tie-up ballcaps – perfect for under my bike helmet since my visor went missing …

Outside, 250 fashionistas, mostly industry, dressed to kill or at least seriously maim, lined up to wait. Fashion Week, traditionally held in Paris, London, Milan and New York, is the main opportunity designers get to showcase their wares to a tough audience (remember the Devil wears Prada?) and hopefully get orders. Just 20 minutes of fame, flashbulbs and furious Blackberrying is all Telfar would have to justify three months' hard work.

Inside, three dudes who looked like they'd stepped out of a Boyz 'N the Hood meets Saturday Nite Fever remake held pole position around a bench.

Who were they? Telfar's friends? VIPs? Sponsors? Anna Wintour's sub-editors? Nopedy-nope, but that wasn't stopping them.

"Assertion!" said #1 in the Afro-Elvis coif. "You gotta take what's yours!" said #3 in the slouched-just-so black beanie and diamente sunglasses, punching the air with a blinged finger – and issuing probably the most sage career advice of the week. (See movie clip for this trio in action).

And I finally met the warmly stunning Kelly Mills of Telfar's PR agency, who facilitated the collaboration. Did I have my staff photographer with me, she cooed? Er, I fumbled the digital camera in my back pocket and said I'd only need one seat.
The Show: Lights, artificial sweat, action!

And then the chattering was silenced by a boom of electronica from the sound system. With the audience sat in three rows of seats facing outwards around the room, the models entered and … walked expertly around the room.

Now if you've ever watched fashion parades you'll note that that's all models seem to do - walk, pause briefly and then walk off – "so as not to detract from the clothes". However, I couldn't help but think with the strident music, the artificial sweat, the cavernous gym surrounds and athletic clothes, some leaping, cavorting, touch footballing and tennis racqueting would have hit the sweet spot.

All eyes on the Bike Friday tikit ... ok, maybe there are a few more on young Jean Gabriel's retro red tush ... 

But what do I know … I do know that when the five tikits came careening through the stage door for the grand finale it was a real highlight, and I knew we'd made a solid contribution to the show.

I also met the proud parents of Telfar who'd traveled 4 hours from Maryland to see his 7th show. Even more exciting was discovering they ride bikes. "We love to bike!" they exclaimed, thumbing the Bike Friday catalog, so I did the only right thing, and point them to our MD dealer Larry Black of College Park Cycles ...

The music deserves special mention. I'm a huge fan of avante-garde electronica, but not much turns my crank unless it's utterly fresh or utterly appropriate. If you only go to one MySpace page, make it Fatima Al Qadiri's. She's classically trained musician and it shows. The opening theme, called "Symphonic Diet Rave", I've roughly sampled to open and close the movie clip of the show.

I understand we're sending 5 more tikits for Telfar's repeat performance in LA. Holy helmet! Next you'll be seeing us in GQ. (Wait, we've been in GQ …)

Thank you to Telfar and his team, Kelly Mills, Wei Chao, David Lam, Hanna Scholz and everyone who got us on the red carpet. Well, green astro turf.

The Telfar tikits, (8-speed, hyperfold medium size) will be for sale as collector's items from our NY downtown dealer David Lam of Bfold.

Photo of Telfar and the tikit by Wei Chao
You know you've made it when your logo appears on the world's leading performance travel bicycle, right? 

Viva la fashionable folder!

The Galfromdownunder

The original version of this story can now be found on the Internet Archive


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