Moments before the start of John Elliott’s Fall/Winter ‘17 show, two stagehands quickly removed plastic sheeting that was covering the runway. What lay beneath was instantly recognizable to anyone who has spent time in a high school gymnasium. The floor was covered with an artistic interpretation of the multitude of lines that crisscross a gym floor.
In bold colors there was a basketball key layered over a soccer goal box and multiple sidelines. While the Stretch The Floor collection was inspired by his specific connection to basketball, the multi-sport setting could also be seen as a metaphor for the many different lanes Elliott is operating in these days.
Perhaps best known for his modern and refined takes on sweatshirts and sweatpants, the designer has expanded the line in recent years to include denim and sneakers. And for next season, Elliott is stretching things even further, branching out into suits for the first time. It’s a bold move from someone who is still so closely associated with the athleisure movement. But as the high school drumline that performed at the start of the runway show proved, Elliott isn’t afraid of making some noise. Prior to the show, we sat down with Elliott to talk about the collection, sneakers, and where he hopes to go from here.
What was the story you wanted to tell with this collection?
I sat down and thought a lot about who I am. It’s our 10th season and our fifth year in existence and our fifth time showing during New York Fashion Week. I wanted to do something that was very much autobiographical, but also think ahead and tell a story about where I want the brand to go. In five years, I’m hoping that people say “John Elliott, an American sportswear company.” The convergence of these two things—who I am and where I want to go—was really about sport and playing tournaments. Playing tournament basketball, you walk into a gym and see how other kids appropriated culture, the way they wore their shoes, the colors they wore, the music they listened to. After competing with them, this exchange would take place, trading shoes, sweatshirts. You’d make friendships out of that and learn about new forms of music and foods. You’d really step outside of your comfort zone and stretch the boundaries of culture. [All of that] is a result of sport, and that’s why this whole collection is reminiscent of tournament basketball.
Now that you aren’t the new guy anymore, how does that change your perspective?
It doesn’t change my perspective. I n order for a product to be interesting, you still have to be excited about it. You can’t develop products as a reaction to what you think is going to work commercially. It has to resonate deep inside me. This is what I would want. The collection is very much resembles my life and my soul.
Sneakers have always been an important aspect for you and your brand. Can you talk about your relationship with Nike?
We’re debuting our first ever NikeLab collaboration. I grew up skating and playing basketball, so I really wanted to work on a silhouette that I did both in. For me, that’s the Nike Vandal. It’s ingrained in who I am, and I think it works so well with my aesthetic. That’s why I’m so excited to have them on the runway for the first time. We’re also debuting tailoring as well. We have a completely tailored element to this collection which is completely new. I think people will be a little bit surprised because we’ve been so contemporary street for so long.
Is there a boundary between fashion and streetwear anymore?
I think it’s way more about a vibe and how you style things. I think that the lines are just going to continue to get more and more blurred. That’s a beautiful thing. It used to be so rigid. It doesn’t have to be like that.
What’s the next step in the evolution of the brand?
I hope that people respond well to these tailored looks. We also have eyewear, bags, a full footwear range, a collaboration with NikeLab. I hope that people refer to us as an American sportswear brand and then we’ll reevaluate where we’re at.