Art of Living Well

Fashion Designer Elena Velez Hates Wellness But Admits That ‘Perineum Sunning Is Alpha Behavior’

Image courtesy of Elena Velez.

The designer Elena Velez makes clothes that the New York Times once described as “unapologetically gnarly and technically chaotic.” Her offerings include a “fractal” gown with copious slices and drawstrings, a parachute skirt that sits perilously low on the hips, and a leather garment that functions as both a hoodie and a bag.

Raised by her mother, a ship captain, in Milwaukee, Velez has gained a cult following for her candor about the realities of making it in the fashion world and has secured high-profile industry accolades, including the 2022 Emerging Designer of the Year CFDA award. CULTURED caught up with Velez to discuss her plans for 2024 and the day-to-day essentials that get her through the year. 

What are you working on right now?

At the moment I'm in the middle of production for next season, development for the following season, show prep for February, planning a showroom space in Paris, multiple collabs, moving into our first home, and looking after our two under two. I'm extremely unwell.

Your last NYFW show was titled “The Longhouse.” Tell us about why you chose that title. 

My interpretation of "The Longhouse" is that it is a literary metaphor criticizing the oversocialization and self-cannibalization of contemporary culture through hyper-feminized methods of behavioral modeling.

Image courtesy of Elena Velez/Instagram.

If you could change one thing about the world of fashion and luxury, what would it be?

I long for more searching and fearless introspection.

What product do you use every day that instantly improves your mood?

I'm a September Virgo Grindset Girlboss™ who lives for anything that makes this masochistic hustle slightly easier. I need my new Nike scrunchie, my Cheerio-littered minivan, Google Suite, body pillow, Spotify playlist, my $8 double shot latte, and 50 mg of Zoloft.

What’s a wellness ritual you think is overrated?

I've never met someone enthusiastic about Wellness™ who I didn't find to be driftless and spiritually bankrupt. I will, however, concede that perineum sunning in NYC is alpha behavior.

What’s your favorite small luxury to give to someone else?

An act of service.

What do you do when you need to feel grounded?

I make lists.

What is a splurge you reserve for special occasions?

A retreat at AIRE Ancient Baths.

Image courtesy of AIRE Ancient Baths/Instagram.

What is something you’d love for someone to buy for you, but would never buy for yourself?

Books, literary subscriptions, a new label printer. An aesthetic consolidation of disparate household items like hangers or utensils... things that I use every day that are in some form of disrepair but still sort of work.

What’s a generic that’s just as good as the original?


What’s your favorite smell?


What’s a luxurious ritual you inherited from someone in your life?

Day drinking.

What is the best thing you’ve put on your face recently?

I've been fantasizing about another facial from Raquel New York. Last time, she electrocuted me a whole new face.

What is your favorite luxury that costs less than $20?

Uber parcel delivery.

What is the most luxurious thing in your life that’s free?


For more tips on how to live well, check out our interviews with writer Liara Roux, artist Sarah Meyohas, and actor Jemima Kirke.