John Elliott is standing in front of a floor-length board, pointing at digital mockups of the set design for his Fall/Winter 2019 runway show, which took place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Saturday. “We are literally gonna have models walk through half-constructed homes,” he says at his showroom in Manhattan, a few days before the presentation. Modular homes may be unusual props for a fashion show, but they’re representative of the inspiration for the collection, Elliott’s dream home, as well as a big reveal for the brand.
This April, Elliott will finally open his first flagship store on Melrose Avenue in L.A., right across from Maxfield. “We’re excited to be opening the store,” he says. “If you walk into Barneys or Union—wherever you go to shop the collection—you don’t necessarily get to see the entire breadth of the ideas and developments. Now, it’s gonna exist in a real place. That was the motivation for telling this story about home, because we’re finally about to build our own.”
Elliott and his team started working on the collection last May. Both born in San Francisco, he and Cara Campagnoli, the brand’s new head of design for women (she previously worked at Calvin Klein and Alexander Wang), were inspired by California ranch homes. “Both of our grandparents were immigrants who came to the U.S.,” Elliott explains. “Both of our parents are second-generation immigrants. They had kids and wanted to achieve that American dream, have that fictional beach home, and that’s what we’re trying to build—this place that our parents and grandparents always dreamed of [having] but never got to.”
The men’s collection itself features various nods to the decor in Elliott’s grandparents’ house. There’s a pair of cow print basketball shorts that was directly inspired by their cowhide chaise lounge. “I used to think it was so corny,” Elliott remembers. “But as I got older, I loved it. I thought it was so chic.” There’s also a white fleece jacket with a colorful pattern reminiscent of the wallpaper in their home. “It’s this nostalgic journey and story,” he says.
Mixed in with those pieces are other throwbacks to this idea of a Western home, including bolo ties and other jewelry produced in collaboration with the Japanese brand M.A.R.S, polar fleece Suicoke sandals, a hooded poncho made from individual pieces of yarn stacked and stitched together, and various pieces—a down-fill parka, bomber jackets with embroidery, pants, etc.—made using washed nylon that took roughly a year to develop.
“I had this idea of doing washed nylon, taking nylon and trying to treat it like denim,” says Elliott. “So we tried to figure out a process in which you could remove some of the dye but still have it be iridescent. Nobu [Yamamoto] and I had this idea last year, around this time, and it literally took a full calendar year to dial it in and figure out a vendor who could help us achieve it and go into the factories and figure out the process, figure out the chemicals. It’s pretty much proprietary to the brand, and I’m really proud of it.”
Today, Elliott also debuted a new colorway of the John Elliott x Nike LeBron Icon QS and a new collaboration with CAT—the construction giant’s first true fashion collaboration. “We tried to push it into areas that were a bit unexpected,” says Elliott. One of the key highlights from the collab is a cordura nylon jacket with waterproof corduroy. “This is the most complete collection we’ve ever achieved,” he says.
Now in his sixth year, Elliott is one of a few designers keeping New York Fashion Week: Men’s alive. Many of his peers have either moved to Paris or stopped showing altogether. But, he says, he “loves” presenting here. “There’s been talks of us doing it in Paris or doing a showcase in Pitti,” he adds. “It sucks that New York Fashion Week doesn’t have the same energy, but we’re an American brand. Let’s be proud of it.”