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The California Designer Behind the Unisex Label Phlemuns

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The designer James Flemons, who lives in Carson, Calif., loves to check out thrift shops. Credit Jake Michaels for The New York Times

James Flemons

Age 28

Hometown Los Angeles

Now lives In a three-bedroom house in Carson, Calif., with his father, Jim Flemons.

Claim to Fame Mr. Flemons is the founder of the unisex label Phlemuns, perhaps best known for creating the two-piece outfits for Solange Knowles’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” video. “It was a very easy collaboration,” he said. “They gave me options from my spring collection and adjusted some of the details.”

SOLANGE – DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR (OFFICIAL VIDEO) Video by SolangeKnowlesVEVO

Big Break In 2013, a year after graduating from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles, Mr. Flemons started Phlemuns to create clothing that subverted traditional gender roles. As part of the rising Los Angeles fashion scene, his spring 2016 collection got picked up by Opening Ceremony, where he had once worked as a sales associate.

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Mr. Flemons designed the outfits for Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” video. Credit Jake Michaels for The New York Times

“That’s the collection that changed everything,” Mr. Flemons said. It featured tie-up bralettes in iridescent raw silk and fringed denim, and drew upon the Moulin Rouge outfits worn by Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Pink and Lil’ Kim on the red carpet at the Video Music Awards in 2001. “I have such a soft spot for tacky early 2000 fashion,” he said. Then Ms. Knowles spotted one of his off-the-shoulder dresses on his Instagram feed and commented, “ooooohhhhhhhh the black dresssssss.”

Latest Project Mr. Flemons created a denim capsule collection featuring skirts, vests and jeans patched together from jeans salvaged from Goodwill. “I would just buy denim and cut it up and try and alter it,” he said. He also was motivated by how much waste the fashion industry creates, and the abundance of denim in thrift stores. “This is my way to give back to the Earth a little bit, my recycling these things.”

Next Thing While Mr. Flemons does not follow the seasonal fashion calendar, he is mulling ways to unveil his next collection. “I’m a designer who has come up accessing things through the internet and moving away from the old traditions of the fashion industry,” he said. Possibilities include a pop-up runway experience or a dance performance.

Genderless Style Known for his outré style with a 1970s flair, Mr. Flemons has been wearing women’s clothing since he was 18, often sourced from secondhand shops. “Once I discovered ‘buy, sell, trade’ stores and was engulfed in a room full of mismatch gender clothes, I ended up finding things that just fit me really well.”

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