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How 90’s fashion influenced LA designer Kenneth Nicholson

This is part of Image Issue 4, “Image Makers,” a tribute to LA’s celebrity style. This issue pays homage to the people and brands that drive the city’s fashion culture.

“Fashion and pop culture have given me space to connect with other artists, but it seemed out of reach,” said Los Angeles-based menswear designer Kenneth Nicholson for a child in Houston. Looking back on those days. “I was bullied by elementary and high school students. I remember seeing this silver Calvin Klein lunch box in a magazine at the time. It was a promotional gift for CK One. After moving here, I got it. I went online looking for a lunch box. ”

He has a collector’s item from the 90’s. “I found it on eBay. I’m still carrying that little boy with me — a boy who was teased. This is’Look, we made it. I’m now you You can protect it. “

Undoubtedly, the 38-year-old has come a long way since attending an art school in San Francisco, joining the Marines, and launching his eponymous menswear label five years ago.

Nicholson is a recent Council of Fashion Designers of America / Vogue Fashion Fund grant recipient, a newly appointed CFDA member, and has been nominated for the 2021 CFDA Fashion Awards American Emerging Designers of the Year. He also dressed British racing driver Lewis Hamilton at this month’s Met Gala. There, Nicholson was seen hobbing with Rihanna and A $ AP Rocky. Therefore, it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood adopts a genderfluid design inspired by his zeitgeist.

“I want to wear Donald Glover, Timothée Chalamet, Frank Ocean and Zendaya dresses,” he says. “Let’s put it out there.”

From a studio in downtown Los Angeles, Nicholson shares how a rich inner life can inform outerwear in the fall and spring. (These looks include works from the Spring / Summer 2022 Cy Falls collection, which debuted this month.)

How is your design approach different?

Designer Kenneth Nicholson wears a rusty dokas mantle with contrasting velvet buttons.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

I’m interrogating men’s clothing, the end. When we talk about menswear, for the society we live in, the simple thing is to say: “If you’re advancing menswear and this is your approach, obviously you come up with a blend of womenswear with menswear,” that’s not the case at all. I want to make clothes that can fully express men.

What does “fully expressed” mean to you?

Designer Kenneth Nicholson wears a white gauze dork tunic.

Designer Kenneth Nicholson wears a white gauze dork tunic.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Among the masculinities are gratitude for men, gratitude for dressed emotes, gratitude for beautiful, soft and traditionally feminine stuff. Being a human being and being a fully expressed human being is to embody them.I don’t think I’m redefining [masculinity].. I think I’m trying to talk to the actual definition of it. I’m readjusting what was already there. David is a character in the Bible. The Bible describes him as the one who killed the giant, but he also plays the harp and writes poetry. To me, it summarizes this vast masculinity — he can kill giants and lions with his bare hands, but at night he can emote and play harps and write poetry. increase. It is that world that I want to bring to menswear. I want clothes that move when the wind blows or when I walk down the street. I want something that is soft on the skin. I want something that is comfortable to the touch and something that is kind to some extent. But next weekend, you might want jeans to listen to the System of a Down. It’s a full range. That’s what I’m talking about in my work.

Portrait of fashion designer Kenneth Nicholson in a sleeveless lace tailored shirt with contrasting velvet buttons.

Kenneth Nicholson wears a sleeveless lace tailored shirt, with contrasting velvet buttons in the center of the front and center of the back, and trousers with floral creases.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

What influenced your latest collection?
I’ve been drawing since the 1990s and refer to grunge culture, but it’s not verbatim. It’s through the lens of what I’m already doing in the field of fashion. I am very romantic. I love velvet ribbons, lace and flowers. I’m making a mashup of how I want to do grunge. I’m a big fan of music. I listen to Radiohead and Nirvana, and everything in between.

What do you like about Los Angeles?

Kenneth Nicholson wears his label look in an alley outside his studio in downtown Los Angeles.

Kenneth Nicholson wears his label look in an alley outside his studio in downtown Los Angeles.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

People describe LA leisurely, but it’s actually really productive. I’m obsessed with storytelling and filmmaking, so I thought, “I can get out there, work on the set, and finally get into fashion that way.” That’s why I got here. I love Wes Anderson and the world he creates. The 1996 movie “Romeo + Juliet” was great. There is language, style and culture in that space. And Tom Ford is a great narrator. You can actually see him in “one man”, but you aren’t looking at the clothes.

What is your favorite fall spot?

Griffith Park. The leaves are turned over and beautiful. I like hiking and being in nature. Just walking around and lying on the grass. My autumn jersey is really nice-cut jeans with a slight crop top and layered flannel. That will be my look. Radiohead has a song called “Anyone can play the guitar.” If everyone can play the guitar, everyone can indulge in the age of grunge.

Kenneth Nicholson wearing a pink and white crochet lace top.

Kenneth Nicholson wears a pink and white crochet lace top.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

You used to work in the army. What made you join the army?

I was in the Navy. I had to leave Houston, Texas.I received this grant to study [with San Francisco’s Academy of Art University].. For the first time, I experienced a more liberal environment that incorporates art. When I finished the program, I didn’t have the money. There was no professional advance into fashion space or creative space. Eventually I returned to Houston. It was really hard to come back, so I decided to join the Navy. It speaks to this extraordinary sense of dedication that I have to design. I joined the army, and after a year of service, I had an honorable discharge.

Details in the studio of fashion designer Kenneth Nicholson.

Details in the studio of fashion designer Kenneth Nicholson.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

The army is probably not a place for self-expression. How was it?

It was a culture shock. I remember at the boot camp they took my division and my brothers’ division to the chapel. [orientation].. A senior non-commissioned officer called several people and said, “Why do you want to be here?” “My family traditionally belonged to the military and wanted to carry on that tradition,” said one man. Another man said, “I want to go to college, and I want to serve my country.” Raised my hand. What I’m trying to say is that I thought the rest of the time at the boot camp would probably label me, but said, “I want to be one of the best fashion designers in the world.” I felt the need to say it because I was saying why I was there aloud, but I was also saying it in a super masculine setting. So I was willing to actually insist on what I wanted and where I wanted to go in my life.

Kenneth Nicholson in his studio.

Kenneth Nicholson in his studio. Nicholson is a recent Council of Fashion Designers of America / Vogue Fashion Fund grant recipient, a newly appointed CFDA member, and has been nominated for the 2021 CFDA Fashion Awards American Emerging Designers of the Year.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

What may people be surprised to know about you?

I really have a good sense of humor. I’m really ridiculous, but I can be very shy, like incredibly shy. Also, I’m not a great dancer in itself, but I enjoy moving.

Designer Kenneth Nicholson is wearing his own design.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

What is your hidden talent?

My hidden talent would be cooking. I think it’s pretty good. My reliable meal is salmon. Going to the New York Times Cooking channel is always inspiring. It looks so nice and romantic — the way it’s about the process. I like a lot of things. I’m naturally curious, so I’m always looking at things.

What was the crazy or surreal moment in LA?

My most surreal moment in Los Angeles was when I got here. When I moved here, when I first visited Beverly Hills, I went to the store because I was trying to change clothes or buy a really small ChapStick, and I saw this lady .. She paid for the goods and handed them cash, but literally picked up the dollars like this, picked them up, dumped them in the trash, and used hand sanitizers. She said, “I didn’t like that dollar very much.” For me, it’s “Oh, that’s it. This isn’t Texas anymore.”

Designer Kenneth Nicholson in downtown Los Angeles.

Designer Kenneth Nicholson in downtown Los Angeles.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

What is your ultimate goal?

The goal is to be able to truly contribute not only to the American fashion landscape, but also to the international fashion landscape as a pillar of American fashion.
Who is your style icon?

My style icon is Tom Ford. He was one of my favorite designers and is still the case.

How would you describe your style?

I describe my style as free, fluid and honest.

Look 1

Kenneth Nicholson wears a white gauze dork tunic and black vintage sweatpants.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Kenneth Nicholson’s white gauze doka tunic. Vintage black sweatpants with lettering and ribbon pocket details from the Spring / Summer 2019 collection. Classic black Dr. Martens boots worn during the photo shoot.

Look 2

Kenneth Nicholson wears a rusty docas mantle, paired with contrasting velvet buttons and black vintage sweatpants.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Kenneth Nicholson rusted the docas mantelpiece with lime velvet-covered buttons and vintage black sweatpants from the Fall / Winter 2020 collection.

Look 3

A portrait of fashion designer Kenneth Nicholson wearing his label in DTLA's studio.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Vintage black sweatpants and vintage striped T-shirt.

Look 4

Portrait of fashion designer Kenneth Nicholson.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Short-sleeved T-shirt with Kenneth Nicholson Cheetah print, Crimson velvet arm and neckline trim, and Spring / Summer ’22 Collection Chartreuse Harlequin Pants.

Look 5

Kenneth Nicholson wears a long-sleeved orange net T-shirt and black vintage sweatpants.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Kenneth Nicholson long sleeves, orange net asymmetric shirt and black vintage sweatpants.

Look 6

Kenneth Nicholson wears a sleeveless lace tailored shirt with trousers with floral creases.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

A sleeveless ivory shirt from the Spring / Summer ’22 Cy Falls collection. The center front and centre-back placket have buttons covered with powder blue velvet. Spring / Summer ’22CyFalls floral print pants are made from vintage fabric.



How 90’s fashion influenced LA designer Kenneth Nicholson

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