Kieley Kimmel rethinks the art of fashion with a clean, Cali-minded line.
“I realized the textile business was a place where I could do both painting and fashion,” explains Kieley Kimmel of her crossroads as an undergrad at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design). The early seeds of her collection were sown while working on a project for her thesis called Marfakind, based on time living in the Texas desert town with her older sister, Erin.
After graduation, Kimmel, an S.F. native, moved to New York to apprentice at Rachel Comey and 3.1 Phillip Lim. She also worked with interior artist Matt Austin on projects for Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs. Two years later, she recruited her sister, then a curator at Ballroom Marfa, to conceptualize the first collection. The decision to officially launch the line also involved a move back west. “I wanted a change of lifestyle plus more space and light to create my work. I love New York but felt distracted there,” says the designer, who now collaborates with her sister on all aspects of the line out of a studio downtown. She lives with her partner, a Light+Space installation artist, in Lincoln Heights.
Kimmel’s spring collection, her second season, draws from Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project and the emergence of leisure culture in Paris. While reading the thick, unfinished manuscript, she was reminded of something from her childhood. “My sister had a friend who lived next to the Sutro Baths, and we always played in the ruins, turning them into forts,” Kimmel says of the 1890s S.F. bathhouses, which have twice burned down. References to water and concrete are expressed on space-dyed linens, leathery washed silks and chunky knits—samples of which are made on a hand loom in her studio.
She’s teamed up with other up-and-comers (Clyde, David Michael, Arielle De Pinto and Open House) to open YES Showroom on N.Y.’s Lower East Side, where she’ll debut her third collection. Imagine pieces inspired by concepts in Michael Taussig’s What Color Is the Sacred?…and decide whether you want to hang them in your closet or frame them on the wall. From $180; available at TenOverSix; kieleykimmel.com.
Written by Kelsey McKinnon.