Thrust into the spotlight at the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards as the designer of Rihanna’s legendary ‘naked dress’ – a vampy, crystal-strewn Josephine Baker-esque gown that sent the industry into overdrive – Texan designer Adam Selman had his New York Fashion Week debut later that year. Known for his high-octane fabrics – think Swarovski-scattered fishnet and marabou feathers – Adam Selman Sport doesn’t dial down the drama.
Building on the brand’s rave-ready staples with lashings of golden-era Hollywood glamour, ASS is a riot of highlighter brights, animal prints and figure-fitting stretch jersey. There’s a Yogacise-era Jerry Hall vibe – all French-cut leggings and natty prints – with a smattering of Studio 54 opulence in the crystal-trimmed tube tops and hot pants.
A self-proclaimed obsessive, his fascinations run the gamut from face exercises to the hyper-sexualised work of artist Cheyco Leidmannto and the late legendary John Waters muse and movie star Divine – and his inspirations are similarly varied. Bob Mackie serves as a continuous influence – as is evident in the lustrous runway looks and theatrical sensibility that has attracted the attention of peacocks like Lady Gaga and Gwen Stefani. Less obvious references include Georgia O'Keeffe and Gus Van Sant’s sinister flick To Die For. “For the last few years I was really obsessed with true-crime books and series. But with the current state of the world, I’ve been wanting something lighter and more palatable for my brain,” Selman says.
As his pop-up opens in Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, we caught up with Selman to chat cinema, sport, and buying… well, a piece of ASS.
Where do you imagine women wearing the Adam Selman Sport collection? It seems as suited for the bar as the barre.
“I wanted ASS to be functional first and stylish second. The clothes can perform in the gym, but I’m not saying you have to work out; it’s merely giving you that option. We’ve been saying: ‘From sit-ups to sit-downs, body to boardroom, work to workout, crunch to brunch…’”
You’ve mentioned that you get easily obsessed. What are you stanning right now?
“I do get easily obsessed. I think because of the launch of ASS I have been obsessed with working out and really ‘living’ that lifestyle. I got obsessed with working out twice a day and learning how to make croissants from scratch. I was even googling ‘face and chin exercises’, and would do those while rolling out the dough. It’s wild when you work your face out and it’s sore the next day.”
Who would you most like to see in Adam Selman Sport?
"Other than Team USA in the summer 2024 Olympics, I will fully gag if I see someone wearing ASS at the gym or in a class I’m taking. That is success to me – seeing the clothes in real life without expecting it. I am most looking forward to that moment.”
Your designs drip with 70s and 80s decadence. What is it about these eras that resonate with you?
“I was raised in a religious household, and didn’t really have a lot of secular references. It was very insulated, almost protected. It allowed me to daydream, and I would always fantasise about a different era – and that would give me somewhere to escape to. Maybe I still do the same thing, it’s just more focused. Everything looks better through a Polaroid, Vaseline lens.”
You’ve mentioned being inspired by Divine and John Waters – both outsiders. How have you turned this inspiration into something so commercially successful and sought after?
“Well, interestingly enough, I think John Waters has had brilliant commercial success as well, from Serial Mom to Hairspray. I love a crossover hit. I think being authentic and just trying to enjoy what I do comes through in the product no matter what the inspiration. And at the end of the day, I’m lucky to be able to get inspired by icons and create products people react to in such a positive way. That brings me purpose and a lot of joy."
Iconic moments in cinema informed your collection with Le Specs. Who’s your favourite film star, past or present?
“Oh, I could never answer that question. I’m a TV and movie junkie. I watch it all. Faye Dunaway is up there for sure, but I don’t think I could ever pick just one.”
Who decides the names of your sunglasses? Because that’s a piece of art in itself.
"Ha, I should be a copywriter maybe? Next life… We name them in my studio. Naming stuff is fun. Clearly, I LOVE puns, so we’re always trying to one-up each other in the studio. My rule with the sunglass names is to put ‘The’ in front of the name. I probably shouldn’t give that secret away, but life is short. THE Prowler, THE Flex, THE Last Lolita. It gives it punch.”
Your collections ooze a kind of New York sensibility – why do you think the city remains such a creative mecca?
“I really feel the hustle in NYC. There’s always someone working harder than you, and that inspires me to be more ambitious. I think that hustle makes creatives strive to think and be better and react to the environment around them. There’s also that thing that you can see everything in front of you – from everything you want, to everything you never want to get close to. That’s inspiring to me.”
"Wear something that makes you feel confident. And don’t be afraid to try something new, it’s fun to surprise yourself. ”