Exclusive: Vejas Talks Militant Feminism and Biblical Chaos

Though he lives nearly five hundred miles from the city, Toronto native Vejas Kruszewski has already begun to craft a legacy in the New York fashion industry. Still a teenager, this young designer made his New York Fashion Week debut in the beginning of the year with a stellar F/W 2015 collection that featured zippered and wrapped trans models walking barefoot among piles of black tires that oozed slime and housed haphazardly planted flowers. It was a visceral experience that kickstarted his rise to the forefront of young designers breaking down barriers on and off the runway.

Through the power of the internet and WiFi, Milk Made‘s Chris Thomas had the chance to sit down for a Skype session with the young designer a week ago. Hard at work in his Toronto studio, Vejas took a break from sewing pieces for his upcoming retail collaboration to talk militant feminism, the alternate Garden of Eden, music influences, and the rise of transgender models in the fashion industry.

You have a really close friendship with Hari Nef and your debut show featured a lot of transgender models. How do you feel about the ongoing trend of using trans models?

It’s become a diversity token. It’s partly because of limited financial resources so I have to use friends. It did kind of fit the whole theme. Something that’s essential to the ‘trans’ identity is this self-transformation and it requires a lot of resilience in the same way that the ‘final girl’ concept has that resilience.

Can you elaborate more on the concept behind your last collection? I really enjoyed the military inspiration and was wondering where that inspiration came from.

Marcus Cuffie, who’s the creative partner, and I were thinking of this feminist film concept called ‘the final girl.’ It’s about survival and being militant, in a way. Like being the final girl to survive in a horror movie.

The horror movie genre is a really interesting theme for the collection. For next season, are you still looking into the horror genre or are you going in a different direction?

For next season, we are doing something different. It’s going to be about an alternate story of the Garden of Eden centered on Lilith, who was Adam’s first wife. She represents demonized femininity – she kills infants & seduces men. She’s a personification of the threat of disruption of imposed order – because she has her own agency as a woman. Trouble in paradise. Escape from the Garden. Chaos.

Have you started on the collection yet or is it still in the conception stage?

I’m just doing production for the F/W15 collection currently but I’m also working on the new one.

Is the production for your online store or are you releasing it through retail partners?

It’s going to be Opening Ceremony in the United States and then one retailer in Japan and a couple in Australia.

Opening Ceremony is a great fit! Your brand and theirs really embrace androgyny, which also seems to be a new trend that fashion is slowly moving toward this year.

It just makes sense from a retail standpoint. When you limit yourself to just one gender market you’re cutting your market in half. I think Selfridge’s ‘Agender’ concept is kind of a retail gimmick but when you market as larger, there’s better potential for sales. I mean, a sweater is a sweater. It’s a bulky shape it isn’t gender specific.

Definitely. Moving away from fashion, what have you been inspired by lately in terms of music?

Lately I’ve been listening to Visionist, MissingNo, a lot of artists on Tri-Angle Records and Bjork. When I’m working I’ll listen to Blood Orange. Embarrassingly, I do love occasionally listening to Lana Del Rey as research for next season. Well, not so much her but I’m thinking about what is really iconoclastic American. She’s kind of neo-American. The ideals and fantasies she presents are very interesting.

She’s so fascinating and I love her romantic obsession with older men and sexuality. Does romance or sexuality influence your work or life at this point in your career?

I don’t have the energy. I don’t care enough to expend that kind of energy to cultivate something fuckable.

That’s perfect. On that note, is there anything you’d like to share with the Milk Made readers about your Opening Ceremony collaboration?

It’s expected to be out in September.

Photos courtesy of Michel Sayegh.

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