HANS ULRICH OBRIST The recent creative explosion in London is kind of miraculous, with this new generation of fashion designers doing amazing work—you, Craig Green, Grace Wales Bonner, Samuel Ross and many others. What do you think is the secret behind that? It feels to me that this all sort of took shape in the wake of Louise Wilson, the influential professor of fashion design at the Central Saint Martins College, dying in 2014.
KIKO KOSTADINOV We were in the same class with Grace—we studied together, were at the same table when we did the graduate collection. When I applied for my MA, I was supposed to have an interview with Louise, but she passed the same day that my interview was scheduled to happen. So I was part of the first class that studied in-between. Still, I had a chance to meet her around 2012. She came down to our studio and shouted at us for thirty minutes: “Why are you here? What are you looking into?” Her whole point was, you can’t go anywhere without education and research. That’s when I really started to self-educate myself in art; I went to Documenta 13, which was a really mind-blowing experience.
HUO This August, you presented an event as part of the COS x Serpentine Galleries Park Nights series in collaboration with vanillajellaba, a London-based anonymous collective that looks at everyday consumerism through a distorted lens. What was the idea behind this project? How does it speak to your design practice on one hand, and your interest in art on the other?
KK The project was about letting go and offering an opportunity. I thought it was really good timing for vanillajellaba to present their work for the first time outside of their usual digital form. My interest in art has been growing steadily in the past few years, and I do try sometimes to integrate and absorb practices from artists into my collection, but I don’t do this lightly. There needs to be a personal connection to the work, or to the artist’s background. It is never purely visual.
HUO A very interesting part to your research is your collection of work and military wear. Can you talk about this?
KK From my love of clothes comes a deep respect of how they’re made and the history of clothing. I’m obsessed with pattern making. It’s something that most designers today can’t really do—they don’t really use a sewing machine, don’t really do pattern cutting—but it’s a very important aspect of my work. So for me, it’s not so much about curating a collection, which is what contemporary designers sometimes do; rather, I look a lot to certain periods in fashion that influenced certain silhouettes. It started with workwear, as my first collection was about a contemporary Japanese workwear line. But then everyone starts to put you in a corner, labeling you as “the new workwear designer in London,” so I started to escape that. I look at a lot of womenswear. One of my main sources is local fashion magazines: American magazines from the ‘40s, Polish or Russian magazines from the ‘60s, German magazines from the ‘70s. Saint Martins and Louise Wilson taught me you must always go through the process of doing firsthand research before you go onto your computer to reinforce it. Until I have a clear vision as to what I want to do for the season, I can’t really do any work.