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Christopher John Rogers featuring the Lia chair

Published on 22 Jan 2021

Christopher John Rogers - The fashion designer speaks with Orior on how color and culture has influenced his life and work.

Q: What city or cities has influenced and/or inspired you the most? What specifically is it about these cities that so influences or inspires you?

A: I’m from Baton Rouge. My experience there was, I think, really amazing. My parents placed me in situations where I was around a mix of people, people who were different from myself. My best friends in elementary school were Korean and Jewish. They found a way to put me in places where I was always learning and exploring, in environments where respect was really paramount and creativity was appreciated. It really helped mold me into the person I am today. I am really open to really distinctive points of view and I think that has translated into both the work that I make and the things I am naturally gravitated to aesthetically.

New Orleans for the color, the culture, the food. The declarative aesthetic of the place -- it has its own visual language that doesn't exist anywhere else. The mix of African, Spanish and French aesthetics creates something truly idiosyncratic that can't really be replicated. I love mixing different references in my work that culminate into something in and of itself -- it's really hard to trace a singular era or reference from one of my collections, which I really love.

And the hustle and bustle of New York, and the romantic ideas I had about the city before I moved here when I was 21 or 22. I think I romanticized the idea of the struggling artist which isn't something that should be romanticized. But this idea that you don't necessarily have to come from money or privilege or prestige, necessarily, to make your dreams happen. That's one thing that drew me here.

Q: What architects, interior or product designers do you admire, and why?

A: Ettore Sottsass. I really love his clarity of vision, his use of color and how he takes very simple shapes, simple lines and simple ideas and manifest them into monumental works of art. I don't own any, I wish! Crossing fingers!

I think Saul Bass is really cool. He is not an interior designer but he has done logos. I am very inspired by packaging and things that are graphic and specific, where you look at it and you immediately know what it is. I try to take that idea of color relation and harmony or discord into the work that I do and try to make it feel pleasing to the eye, yet arresting. I think the work that he's done is really brilliant.

Orior furniture is hand made in Northern Ireland. It took 40 hours from start to finish to make your Lia Chair, often by someone who has been with the company since its early days.

Q: What things/activities or people in your life do you dedicate this type of time to?

A: I devote a lot of that type of time to the work I am doing. My dreams and my hobbies and my obsessions have turned into the work that I do. I spent a lot of time trying to get to this point in my life and now I spend a lot of time making sure the work I am making feels like what I want it to be, and the legacy I want to build. I give a lot of time to making sure the people who work with me and for me feel valued and appreciated and supported and free to express themselves creatively as well.

Q: What is the importance, if any, of making things by hand?

A: I think it goes without saying, it is incredibly important to feel that human spirit coming through whatever it is that has been made by hand. Whether an incredible piece of vintage clothing that someone hand stitched or my Orior chair or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or an amazing meal from your grandma. Feeling the labor and taking that energy and appreciating it makes the thing feel so much different than something that's been manufactured by a machine.

Q: Do you make anything by hand?

Everything we design is pretty much made by hand in New York City. Obviously we use sewing machines but that takes hands, and all the finishing is also hand done. And even the knitwear -- a lot of things are really fine gauge so it is knit by a machine but all of the linking, all of the stitching and the side seams are all done by hand.

Q: What do you wish you made more time for?

A: I am trying to make more time to be spontaneous. Whether it is like taking a trip somewhere in the city or outside. Trying a new restaurant. Buying some paint supplies and painting or making something. Trying new recipes. Just living more. A lot of my time has been devoted to working I think just doing things would be a nice reprieve from that.

Q: Give us a few reasons you chose the piece you chose? What about it appealed?

A: I liked the reverence for, maybe this wasn’t the inspiration, but a mid-century interior shape or a vintage interior shape.

Q: Was there a runner-up?

A: I really wanted that chair. If I could’ve had anything I might’ve picked the Mara credenza, that green credenza. I think the colors are really pretty.

Q: How do you use it? How do others in your household use it?

A: I eat in it, I fall asleep in it. It is just so comfortable. I watch TV, I work on my computer, I live my life in that chair.

Q: How would you describe your piece’s “attitude and personality?”

A: She is warm, she is giving, she has a strong point of view and she makes me laugh.

Q: All Orior pieces have names, but if you could choose a name/rename your Orior piece, what would you name it and why?

A: Irene. I feel like it’s close to Lia in feeling, but maybe a bit more old-school.

Q: If you were to be reincarnated as a piece of furniture or home décor item, what would it be, and why?

A: Probably a refrigerator because I would rarely be hungry. I’d be stocked with an array of cheeses, pasta, arugula salad with fruit, nuts and fresh squeezed limeade.

Text by Rima Suqi
Photography by Jonathan Hokklo