Kim Wilkins, 26. Royal College of Art, MA Fashion Menswear Graduate 2009.
– specialism: Knitwear.
Kim graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2005 prior to cutting his teeth at Alexander McQueen, Jasper Conran, and designing knitwear in Milan for Ermenegildo Zegna.
After two years in the industry he returned to study an MA in Menswear at the Royal College of Art, graduating in 2009 with his collection, “BODYBOUND.”
What was the most valuable lesson you learned before starting at your education?
That art and design is about a way of seeing, an intellectual appreciation of the world. One of the few disciplines where if you can’t think, it becomes quite obvious, quite quickly.
“We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?”
The macabre photography of Joel-Peter Witkin and this particular verse by Christina Rossetti are the inspiration for “BODYBOUND”. Together they inform his collection on the human condition, desire and the perverse. Referencing both the anatomical drawings of Vesalius and the eroticism of Hokusai, the collection revolves around skin, sinew, muscle, and bone.
It pumps sex back into a craft that has become lust-less, prompting arousal and addiction for men’s knitwear by examining the relationship between seduction and repulsion.
Where do you get inspiration from in general?
It always starts with a visual connection, and I build from there. It’s often quite instinctual, and from this position I start my analysis, about what is really engaging and captivating about the concepts, moods and aesthetics involved in my inspiration. There are times when a piece of writing or something I have heard has sparked my process, but even these have had a very physical and visible quality to them. I enjoy the interaction with things that are jarring and obtuse, universal things that we all find uncomfortable, because I think that in this way we discover a little more about the nature of what makes us human. There is nothing passive about my process, you have to get very involved if you want it to yield to you. Research into my subject is quite integral to my work, and often continues to inform my work long after I think it has been put aside. However the next step is the most important, and that is the physical part. I need to manipulate my medium in reality and my approach is more sculptural and immediate than abstract.
In my last collection I was very interested in the way old master portraits addressed the viewer with the eyes. You became captivated by them, no longer the observer but the observed, and subjugated.
The mouths however are tight lipped, sealed, it’s the eyes that speak. The bodies in these portraits are expansive, demand physical space and are expansive. All these things I tried to integrate into the collection.
What do you find most difficult about the design process?
What in the design process isn’t difficult? What isn’t worth the difficulty?
What are your strenghts?
Sensitivity to the nature of the fabrics I am working with, and a spatial awareness.
What are your weaknesses?
Sometimes I get caught up in the minutia of my work.
Describe your collection with three words?
Violence, Seduction, Repulsion.
What techniques did you use:
I worked mainly with ribbed knit; transferring the stitches to move sections of ribs across the fabric. Often by hand using a Dubied knitting machine and sometimes programmed onto an electronic Shima Seiki. The fabrics are then subjected to different levels of foiled coatings to simulate muscle tissue and broken skin. They are then studded with metal spikes.
Which machines did you use to create your collection?
Industrial Dubeid knitting machines (2.5gg, 5gg, 7gg, 10gg), Shima Seiki, Morat.
How long did you work on this project?
What made you pursue Knitwear?
In a funny way, knitting really chose me. The way in which I work as a designer is very physical. I need to manipulate my medium in reality and my approach is more sculptural and immediate than abstract. In this way I began to hand knit, my first creation, as with all beginners, was a scarf. I taught my self from a book one Christmas and just kept going, in the end I had a scarf that was 32’!
Since then my practice has become more defined, I am increasingly interested in demanding more from the knitted structures. Investigating techniques in which the fabric behaves in less conventionally.
If I am brutally honest my passion for men’s knitwear is fuelled by my great disappointment in the lack of ambition in many contemporary collections.
Although things are already changing for the better there is still too much emphasis on reservation being equated with sophistication. There is nothing masculine about being reserved, if anything it is the singularly most emasculating thing I can think of. Menswear needs to be dazzling again, I think that is what we should strive for.
What designers inspire you?
Fashion has been criticized in the past for being too referential; I try to avoid this by not being ”inspired” by designers. Saying that I have worked with a number of designers as part of a team, and within the process of generating ideas I have often been humbled by the ingenuity of my colleagues.
Why did you choose Royal College of Art?
I chose the RCA because of the incredible confidence and quality of the collections being produced there. I thought it was going to be a place where innovation, concept and creativity were really encouraged. In truth I found myself fighting to preserve these things in my work every inch of the way.
How were the school? Facilities? Teachers?
The RCA can be an extraordinary atmosphere to work in. The quality of the visiting tutors and the technicians was unsurpassable, and the ingenuity of the other students, breath-taking. If it weren’t for these individuals I don’t know what I would have done. This cannot be said for some of the permanent members of staff.
What advice would you give new students?
Find a place where you will flourish, that will allow you to thrive.
Which fellow students would you like to highlight?
Mason Jung, Simon Shilton, Charlie Ross.
Why do you want to be a designer?
Design is very much a medium for rallying against mediocrity in the world. The beauty of this industry is that at the end of each concept we have something that exists in the world, that demands to be addressed because of its existence. It allows us to give an answer to questions that are addressed in our environment, that then become accessible to a wider audience.
What was your childhood dream job?
To be an Explorer.
With one word, what is your best quality?
What are your plans for the future?
I am now trying to find a way to turn this dream into something sustainable, so that I can continue making work. At this very second I have started researching for my next collection as well as collaborating with other designers on creating knitwear pieces for their collections.
I am trying to develop an aesthetic whereby form and structure have the same baring as texture. There is so much more to menswear knit than making a statement based on the depth of a neckline! I want my knits to be crackling with attitude. The fabrics of the collection are hard and glistening, with aggressively distinctive shapes, nothing nice or polite.
Over the next two years I aim to further promote these ideas and present within the industry solutions to as many of the more ingrained stereotypes about men’s knitwear that my work rallies against.
I want to establish my career on pushing through those boundaries surrounding men’s knitwear and finding a new vernacular for extravagance in menswear.
Were can we find more information on you?
+44 77 63 69 13 08