Flat Black is the New Black: 5 Questions for Rogan Gregory

1205857545For a guy who claims he knows nothing about fashion, Rogan Gregory is doing pretty well for himself in high-style circles. The man behind premium denim and contemporary sportswear brand Rogan, as well as eco-friendly offshoots Loomstate and Edun (the brand he launched with Bono and wife Ali Hewson), recently won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, entitling him to $200,000 and one year of mentoring from an industry insider.

Don’t let the eco-friendly label fool you though—Gregory believes in aesthetics over green-ness any day. In fact, he’s not a fan of much color at all. We caught up with Gregory last week at a special VIP party to preview an expanded selection of the Rogan Spring/Summer 2008 line, now available at Stel’s. Talk turned to beards, Lost, and the importance of finding a perfectly flat black.

1. What designer would you bring back from the dead to chat with?

I really don’t know anything about fashion design, but I know a lot about furniture designers. My own approach is what I call soulful modernism, which means the lines are modern, like a mid-century piece of furniture…it might be a nice shape, but over the fifty years that it’s been in existence, it has gotten a patina on it, or it’s rusty, or the edges are knocked off. That’s the kind of stuff I love. Tapio Wirkkala is this Finnish designer who was inspired, I would say, mostly by nature. He makes really beautiful forms and he’s very, very clever. But he understands function, and he seems like a brilliant old dude. If there was a guy who I’d love to mentor me, it would be him.

2. What book has changed your life?

I like information, data, so Guns, Germs and Steel [by Jared Diamond]. It’s kind of the evolution of the past 13,000 years of human civilization, and the way we’ve evolved and how we’ve come to dominate the planet. Basically, what we’re doing right now is ruining it. That was pretty fascinating. There are a lot of art books [that have influenced me], more information-oriented stuff and more visual stuff—I don’t really get into fiction.

12058575843. What about TV and movies?

I don’t really watch TV, but I’ve sort of been watching Lost recently, and I fucking love it. I’m always so anti-TV, but this is really amazing. It’s just fucking weird and wild. It’s adventure, but it’s got a little drama going on. Its kind of funny—a good combination.

4. If you could only design in one color, what would it be?

Flat black—it’s a lot different than black. It’s hard to find a lot of fabrics in real flat black. But a lot of the stuff that I own is flat black. I have a flat black car, a flat black surfboard, a flat black bike, flat black skateboard. I do a lot of that. So I couldn’t live without flat black. I like color, but I like it in very small doses, and it has to be effectively used. It can’t be all over the place.

5. Finally, what’s with the beard? [ed. Like Anna Wintour’s bob, it’s sort of his trademark]

I don’t think I’ve ever really shaved. It’s about as loose as it’s ever gotten right now. I’m speaking very candidly about my facial hair. I think good design, good art, is loosely managed, meaning there’s some organization to it, but knowing when to say when is the key. So with the facial hair, over the years, I’ve kind of been at different levels of knowing when to say when. It enables you to sculpt your face. You’re not stuck with the same shape every day. If you wake up and you feel like you want something a little more conservative, or a little weirder, you have that option.

–William DeGregorio