BY PAUL COBLER, The Advocate
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The father of the Baton Rouge native who designed Kamala Harris’ dress for Wednesday’s inauguration said watching the vice president take the oath of office in a purple dress his son designed is one of the proudest moments of his life.
Christopher John Rogers II, who has his own clothing line in New York City under his name, has seen his clothes worn by celebrities like Michelle Obama, Lizzo, Rihanna and Tracee Ellis Ross, but his father, Christopher John Rogers Sr., noted how special it was to see his son’s work at the “pinnacle of American democracy.”
Rogers, 55, only learned Wednesday morning, as he was driving to work, that Harris would be wearing his son’s clothes as she became the country’s first ever Black and Asian American woman in U.S. history to be vice president. Rogers said he “tried not to get too emotional” and struggled to focus at work as the weight of his son’s accomplishment hit him before he raced home to watch the swearing-in on TV.
“That’s when it really hit home that this is our son’s piece that he designed and has now become a part of history forever,” said Rogers, who’s lived in Baton Rouge since 1984. “This is something that was raised right here in this community in Baton Rouge.”
Growing up, the younger Rogers, who his father affectionately refers to as “CJ,” always had an interest in art and design that was intensified by his love for watching fashion shows on YouTube.
Rogers said he remembers taking his son to their local Baptist church where he was fascinated by the clothing of the worshippers.
That dream started to become a reality at Baton Rouge Magnet High School when teachers and mentors around Rogers helped him display his pieces at shows in the area and he received plaudits for his striking designs.
“The mix of ‘Saturday casual’ and ‘Sunday best’; of mixing vintage wares from the likes of Time Warp with newer, classic pieces; and my time in art classes in Baton Rouge all have influenced my work and continue to do so,” the younger Rogers wrote in response to questions sent through his publicist.
Rogers, who is 27, set his sights on moving to New York City and becoming a fashion designer. He attended the Savannah College of Art and Design, graduating in 2016 and launched his own brand that same year in New York. Just last year, Rogers won the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s prestigious American Emerging Designer of the Year award.
“He’s accomplished a lot in 10 years,” the elder Rogers said. “I think the big thing about CJ is that he’s very focused, he’s very driven. Once he makes his mind up on something that he wants to do, he’s not going to leave it unturned. He’s going to accomplish it.”
Harris’ dress and suit jacket popped with a bright purple hue from the front façade of the U.S. Capitol as she was sworn in.
The color purple is a nod to the women’s suffrage movement, a color that was often worn by women fighting to gain the right to vote in the early 20th Century. Shirley Chisholm, the first Black women elected to Congress, also often wore purple on the campaign trail, and Harris has noted that Chisholm “created a path” for her.
“My goal working with (Harris’) team was to craft something that radiated confidence and a personal sense of style while also remaining classic, comfortable, and precisely tailored,” the younger Rogers wrote.
Seeing his son’s design play a part in the historic inauguration and the racial and gender barriers it broke made the elder Rogers emotional as he discussed his son’s accomplishments.
“He is always taking family and community very seriously,” Rogers said. “He understands the struggle. It’s not always been easy to get where he’s at or where we have been as a society and a community. He’s always strived to have a positive influence on our community.”
Rogers said he didn’t want his pride to overshadow his son’s accomplishments and impact on the community and the nation.
“It is not about his parents. It is not about us,” Rogers said. “It’s about Christopher John Rogers the Second. This is his legacy. This is what he’s doing. It’s about his expression as an artist.”
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