An Innovative Designer in a Conventional Fashion World
By Yarde’ Noir
Take the love of classic fashion silhouettes, supplies of a local home improvement store, add the structure of an architect and mix it with creativity, and what you get is a visionary named Conrad Booker!
Conrad Booker is a Philadelphia based Designer/Artist who pushes the boundaries of fashion, creating sleek, avant-garde fashions made of unconventional items. His pieces are works of wearable art that wowed audiences with his debut collection at Philadelphia’s 2017 Spring/ Summer Fashion Week. The collection was inspired by the 1975 cult- favorite documentary Grey Gardens. Grey Gardens tells the unbelievable but true story of the everyday lives of two reclusive, formerly upper-class women. The aunt and first cousin of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis, lived in poverty at Grey Gardens, a derelict mansion in the wealthy Georgica Pond neighborhood of East Hampton, New York.
“There are those who are affluent, who lose their wealth, but don’t lose their mindset. Even in those times, you can look within your own environment and see all these things you never would have imagined being wearable and couture, like plastic.” Says Booker. It is this philosophy of creating something out of what is seemingly nothing that has influenced both his life and designs.
As an award winning architectural graduate of Temple University, this Buffalo, NY native began his design career as a thriving architect and after several years was laid off. Two years later, he would be brought back to the same firm only as a freelancer and did that for thirteen years. It was this journey that Booker says taught him a very valuable lesson, “never allow another to have a hand over your destiny.“
Booker decided to move in a new direction and joined the world of fashion. In 2012, Conrad launched his name sake women’s accessories brand. His mission was to apply art, fashion and design principles found in architecture by transforming common materials into wearable art. After seeing a void in the marketplace for more sculptural handbags, Booker used his training to solve the problem, creating a clutch for today’s modern women. The collection is sculpted using strong architectural forms, bold colors, while seamlessly molding luxurious materials like leather and fur with unconventional ones like door hinges and bike chains into pieces that are both forward-thinking and timeless. Booker transforms the small status-quo clutch into a “new classic.” He would eventually expand his accessories from shoes and clothing to decorative pillows, frames, and murals.
“I realized, everything is not going to be good. It is all for a reason, The good and the bad. These are the elements that teach you the most. All those things are not meant to stop you but challenge you to create, to overcome them. You discover things you wouldn’t have had you not had to overcome.”
It is that lesson the has opened the world of possibilities to this visionary. Conrad Booker, the architect believes the human body is the most amazing structure. It was a favor for a friend who needed outfits for a photoshoot that started him in the direction of exploring apparel design. He was inspired by an unusual source: “I just started making clothes out of painter’s tarp from Lowe’s (a popular retail home improvement store). I was hooked with finding things to create from Lowe’s… it just spurs the imagination in that once you get a concept you can then use that concept to go in all kinds of directions.”
These diverse influences are evident in the playful designs Booker presents, which manipulate structure, proportion and offbeat materials into spectacular effects.
When asked what advice he would give to upcoming designers Booker replied, “look within your own life to inspire your design. Put your own unique stamp on the material. Don’t do what others are doing. Why you want to blend in? We don’t need one more of the same thing.”
Booker has received multiple achievements and awards, such as The Pella Window Award for Outstanding Window Design and Temple University’s Outstanding Thesis Award in Architecture. He has had appearances in Architectural Digest, Interior Design, and Southern Living and this is only the beginning. Conrad Booker has the experience, passion and tenacity to push him to the top of the design world.