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Connor McKnight Spring 2023 Ready-to-Wear Collection

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To present his spring collection in Brooklyn, designer Connor McKnight created a papier-mâché set that was inspired by the Bohemian Caverns—a former jazz club in Washington, DC founded in the 1920s . “It was inspired by the idea of how people used to let loose and have fun,” said McKnight of the nostalgic-feeling streamers and confetti floor. The kitschy set tied into the clothes he was presenting. “I really wanted to have fun with this collection, and have a good time,” he added.

McKnight’s new assortment continues his focus on leisure wear, and the idea of the Black mundane—as in, what it means “to be a Black person who is somewhat average”—but he also aimed to add some playfulness into his more pragmatic pieces. To do so, he found inspiration in his grandfather’s yearbook from the 1940s. “He was the only Black guy in the photos, but he was very involved on campus and in the outdoor activities,” explained McKnight, who also looked at photos of his grandfather on his other side, a Boy Scout and fisherman. “I drew a lot of parallels between their experiences, and the things that I like doing,” McKnight said. He landed on more of a gorpy aesthetic as a result, but wanted to modernize outdoorsy staples.

His chore jackets, for instance, had oversized pockets at the sides and on the back, for “storing things while hunting”; sleek zip-up leather moto jackets featured the same big pockets. His take on a fishing jacket, meanwhile, is made of recycled nylon, and has beautiful pleating down the back, as well as tons of inner and outer pockets, and a hidden hood for utility. “It’s based on a fly-fishing jacket, which stops real short to wade into the water.”

Some of McKnight’s best-sellers returned, including recycled nylon puffer vests, pleated dress trousers, and fleece sets. He experimented with new fabrics, like the brown mesh of a long-sleeve shirt and matching shorts. “I got the idea from seeing a vintage beekeeper’s outfit,” he said. “I liked the fabric and how it feels silky, yet techy.” His crinkly silk button-ups and dresses can be worn on a hot, humid day with total ease—no worrying about wrinkling required.

McKnight also introduced more discreet womenswear pieces for spring, including a simple silk gown with a low scooped black, as well as a black shift dress in a woven fabric, inspired by beach chairs. They’re pieces that don’t scream at you, but rather whisper a quiet sense of elegance. He also introduced bags: One style is an unadorned black leather tote bag, and the other a “bongo” backpack featuring all-over pleating. McKnight is only a few seasons in, and his list of retailers now includes Ssense and Mr. Porter. He says he plans to continue expanding, but at his own pace, as he doesn’t want to lose the intimacy of the design process. “I really tried to take it up a notch in terms of quality and attention to detail,” he said. “Internal growth is a high priority for me. I’ll always be a hands-on person, but it’s nice to have a little more help.”

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