I’ll dance to anything. If you have a dead party and you need to get people dancing, I don’t mind being that first person to go out there."
James Flemons is the founder of the Phlemuns brand. Born and raised in Los Angeles, James is known for creating androgynous fashion, and has collaborated with Solange Knowles, Tinashe, Miley Cyrus, and more.
Can you walk us through your journey, from growing up in LA to launching your brand?
“I grew up pretty sheltered for the most part, which I think has kind of come out in the way I design and my approach to fashion. Because I didn’t really know much about it. My parents kept us from knowing too much about labels, and associating with brands and material things. And then being in a place like LA, where there’s so much going on and it’s so spread out, and different media and whatnot – those conflicting influences really affected what I’ve become as a designer and my point of view, and just doing what is natural to me. LA is so spread out that you’re not thrown into these things; you have to find them and fall into social groups or the little fashion world that is here. As opposed to other places, where the hub of fashion is more direct and in your face. I didn’t realize until the past couple years – and mainly within the past six months – how much being from LA has affected who I am as a designer. People have told me, ‘You have such LA vibes,’ and I didn’t really realize I did.”
What have you been working on recently?
“I have a business partner now, and we’ve been working together on creating a Phlemuns version of a basics line. So a little flair, and my kind of funky spin on things. But something that’s more accessible to the public. So that’s been my main focus recently.”
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
“It’s usually just sewing all day. And if I’m not, I’m watching Netflix. I used to spend my time emailing and running around, doing my own PR, but now people who work for me are doing that for me, so now I can just focus on sewing. It’s usually a night thing – so I sleep for a lot of the day, and then I sew all night, until 5 in the morning.”
What was your inspiration for the brand?
“I’ve always made clothes for myself. There were things that I wanted and couldn’t find, or things didn’t fit me right, or I’ve found a woman’s garment that fit me properly or was my point of view. So it all comes back to me designing clothes for myself that I couldn’t find in other brands. Finding that line between flashy fashion garments and very understated, simple clothing – and my personal style is in the middle of that. So it’s filling the void in that balance of clothing. Something that’s understated but has a point of view and is self-expressive in some way. And it always has a vintage or ’70s undertone, because I base a lot of my clothes off vintage things that I find.”
Who are your favorite artists that you’ve worked with?
“I think Solange and Kelela have definitely been my favorites. Because Kelela and I were friends, and that built into a professional creative relationship, and the things we created together became really important to me. Working with Solange was very business-based and it has grown into a friendship. So both of those are really special. And they’ve been ongoing things that have developed over years. I love everything I’ve worked on, but those strike a personal nerve with me.”
Who (or what) inspires you the most?
“I think it’d be my parents. They were my first introduction to style and fashion, in a very understated way. They just always carried themselves really well. I’ve always loved old photos of my parents – the way they dressed. I always come back to that, and it’s been influential.”
Any passions, hobbies, or side projects outside the fashion space?
“Things I love, that have nothing to do with work, that are just genuine things that make me happy, are singing, dancing, and the beach. I’ll dance to anything upbeat – something that has soul/funk infused into it – but I’ll dance to anything. If you have a dead party and you need to get people dancing, I don’t mind being that first person to go out there.”
How would you describe your own personal style?
“Kinda the philosophy of how I design: simplified, understated clothes that are expressive. I gear towards a mixture of ’70s silhouettes and a dad in the ’90s. It’s really laid-back with an eclectic flair. I like to be comfortable and feel easy, but be expressive with who I am within that simplicity.”
What are your favorite AA items?
“I’ve always loved the socks and underwear. And the Crinkle Nylon Track Suit.”
To learn more about James, follow him on Instagram @phlemuns