We have the March 2000 issue of vogue to thank for the prodigious career of designer James Garland. The son of an accomplished ballerina mother who trained in ballet herself, Garland roamed Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble after class and broached the issue with Amber Valletta in a plunging coral Versace number on the cover. “I loved ballet, but I hated performing, and my mom was like, ‘OK, if you don’t want to do this, you have to be passionate about something else,'” the Brooklyn native recalled. can’t tell you why I picked up this problem from vogue, but after I showed her, she made me search all designers and brands. I really started looking at all the pictures and clothes – I couldn’t stop. I told her that fashion was going to be my next passion.
Garland is, truly, one of the most diehard fashion obsessives I’ve ever come across, able to remember looks from Tom Ford Gucci and Tim Blanks’ Style.com video. And his passion led him to work in design around New York and play a key role in the creation of Hood by Air. (Old photos of him with Team HBA fill moodboards to this day.) In 2019, Garland faced a now-or-never moment: He was ready to take the leap and create his own brand. He found a factory in Italy, moved continents and started designing. The onset of the pandemic has postponed its debut until now. “It feels surreal just because it felt like two steps forward and 10 steps back,” Garland says. “But I think the extra time spent collecting was a benefit in the end.”
Released today exclusively on sense, Garland’s first foray into men’s and women’s ready-to-wear is a fully realized lifestyle concept with clothes for every occasion. “I want it to be functional. I want it to be practical. I want these clothes to work in people’s lives,” he says. Model Anok Yai, Garland’s longtime friend and muse, models her women’s clothing. A sexy bias-cut dress shows off the right amount of curve and skin, and a teal snakeskin dress is inspired by Tom Ford’s Gucci-era luxury. It’s a vibe that continues in jeans, jackets and even baby carriers studded with Swarovski crystals. Men’s fashion revolves around baggy pants with a heavily pleated knee, graphic tees, and denim and leather trucker-style jackets.
The star of the collection is a rich purple durag dress. “It was the first piece I designed,” he explains. “I’m obsessed with John Galliano, and I love the idea that all his dresses are cut on the bias. Growing up, I always wore a durag, and my mom always said, you can’t wear certain places. I wanted to kind of make a dress that was in the language of silky, bias, bodycon, but had the durag as an integral piece. It’s a durag dress for the red carpet.
The robe literally hangs from the durag, wrapping around the body and ensuring its wearer looks hot from every angle. It’s a way for Garland to rewrite the rules of style, celebrating its heritage and its own aesthetic icons. In addition to Yai, for whom he makes bespoke pieces, his inspirations include prom fashionista Daesja Mizarahi LaPerla Jourdan and rapper Foxy Brown, “the stylish women they do not do teach you in fashion school. You know, I didn’t hear about it at FIT,” he says pointedly.