Kinder Aggugini has gone from the clubs to high fashion and now to a department store near you with his line for Macy's which is in stores now. We caught up with him a few weeks ago and chatted about work, Leigh Bowery, Vivienne Westwood and Donatella Versace. Talk about a super stylish line-up. We fell in love with him in no time we're pretty sure you will too.
Mickey Boardman: Let's just start at the beginning. How did you end up at St. Martin's? Where did you grow up?
Kinder Aggugini: I grew up between Milan and London. I was born in Italy, and in my teens I started coming to London more and more until I had more friends in London than I did in Milan. I decided to move to London for no particular reason other than my friends were here and I went clubbing here. I'd like to say I moved here to entertain the community as a designer, but I didn't. I moved here because the clubs were good and my friends dressed up and I dressed up. We all spent our entire days making outfits to wear out at night. And then, a bunch of my friends were enrolling at St. Martin's, and I thought, "Oh my God, I can go to college for another three years and not have to go to work!" So, I asked my parents and they were like "Oh yes our son! Some structure, that would be good for you!" and I thought, "there you go."
MB: So you worked with Leigh Bowery among other people?
KA: I lived with Leigh and Trojan. I met Leigh on a trip abroad, and during an exhibition, I asked him if he would be able to help me out with finding a job. I was in London looking to make extra cash. He said he had a little store in a place called Hyper Hyper and I could come out and help out with the shop, so I thought that would be cool. Then one night I was out with Trojan, who was his boyfriend then, and I said, "Oh my God, I need a place to live. Could you help me out? Maybe you know somebody?" They lived in a place in Auburn, and he was like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I live with my friend Leigh", and I was like "I know Leigh", and that's kind of just how we ended up together. We spent our whole days making clothes, and nights (laughs).
MB: When did you start segueing from just making outfits to go out in to doing it as a living? Was it during school?
KA: Well I guess that going to college. I say I did it so that I wouldn't have to work, but really my inclination--I've always liked the idea of cutting the clothes, making them. I'm very hands-on. College was a time to discover more than just sitting in front a machine. I went to St. Martin's because it seemed like an interesting college. You cut garments; but they also had PR, and marketing, all these kinds of things. When I looked at the broader picture, I thought, "Oh, this is something that could be interesting as a career". It's something that I love and it doesn't really feel like working. I don't think I've ever liked the idea of having a job. Even though I actually work thirteen hours a day, it doesn't really feel like a job. In England, we have a saying that fashion is a holiday. I would like to go to the vintage markets and go to fabric stores. It's something that I like doing. I wouldn't know what else to do.
At the time I went college it was a period of when a lot of the designers, you know John Galliano had come out a few years before me, but it was period for people like him had started, and some of them failed, but they had lots of money, lots of capital, and it became more and more apparent that it wasn't much of an ideal, starting your own collection but all these big designers in Italy and France were becoming bigger, they were almost like rock stars. It was becoming apparent that working as a designer meant working for another designer; and that seemed kind of cool. I had never really thought about it. So I left college and changed my mind about having my own line. I ended up designing for other people which was a lot easier and a lot more comfortable, and I ended up having my own line, not with my own name which fits me just fine.
MB: You have worked with an amazing bunch of people: Vivienne Westwood, Donatella. Did you find yourself gravitating to people whose aesthetic you shared?
KA: Well this is something you might have read--and it's true. I did go for my interview at John Galliano dressed as a police man. And I didn't dress as a police man because I just wanted to. I had a police man jacket that I found at Portobello. I changed the numbers on it to like 666 and I went clubbing dressed like that. I had a different pair of trousers on. However, I had this jacket and it was obvious I couldn't have gone to an interview dressed like that. They wouldn't even let me through the door. And the truth is when I went for my interview; John asked the receptionist, "Why do we have a cop in here?" And they said, "Oh no, it's not a cop, it's a student, looking for a job". And so yes, I did gravitate towards people that were more in the same frame of mind as me.
MB: And did you learn different things from each of them?
KA: Oh, yeah, absolutely. When I left college, everybody wanted to just go design for the weird designers and I thought, well what's weirder than weird, and I said "super straight laced." And I ended up working at Savile Row and it started as joke though I had some little interest but of course some interest because it was a job that had something to do with clothing. It was probably one of the dumbest, most boring jobs in the world. However, I did learn a lot, and I learned a lot about the many steps it takes, all things that I still use to this day.
When working for John, he's an insane cutter. He just, you know, cuts things in such different ways. Vivienne? is the sort of person that dreams of a fashion show before she's even put pen to paper. All of these things have assimilated from these people and I still use them daily in my work.
MB: What did you learn from Donatella during your time at Versace?
KA: She has an amazing sense of aesthetic.You can take a plain piece of fabric and make it look like fashion by just putting it in her hands. I brought many things from a totally opposite culture that she was attracted to, and she's a very open-minded person, so she always wanting to do something completely different. It was mesmerizing how she would touch it and change a few things and it would become a Versace piece. It's like when people have a certain sense of style, and it just transpires in everything that they do. She's definitely one of those people.
MB: She's one of the few people who I feel like, I've met and who I think is amazing, but when I see her I still jump a little bit, because I can't believe she's real. She's just too amazing.
KA: She is someone that is over drama. It goes against her. I worked very, very closely with her and I could spend days and nights in her presence, so we became really, really close. What the press sees of her is not the way she is. She creates a lot of animosity in people whom I'm sure if they actually talked to her would see that she is a really cool, generous, loving person. She doesn't really come across like that, and so, it's a shame. She's a lovely girl.
MB: I love people who really have a firm grasp on what their aesthetic is. And she is what she is and couldn't be more what she is. She's just taken that look and owned it. I think it's amazing.
KA: I was once in a room with her, along with this very, well-known stylist who was trying to push his own opinion towards her sense of aesthetic and she just looked him straight in the eye and said: "Listen darling, look at me. What you see is what you get." And that's such a great description of her. She was just saying, "This is my sense of aesthetic, and this is apparent immediately. There is no point of you trying to be complicated because I'm not like that, don't try to push anything." She's very intelligent, extremely well-read and intellectual. However, the way she expresses herself, her aesthetic is very immediate -- and it works for her.
MB: To get back to you, how did the whole Macy's thing come about? It seems like kind of a departure for you?
KA: Well, Nicole Fischelis, came to one of my shows in London and I knew she had no idea who I was, so I wasn't sure why she came to the show. But, I guess she liked what she saw and so that night, we sat down and we spoke about it. To be honest, in the beginning I never really thought I worked at that level of commercially. My construction is very complex, and I've been fortunate to always be working with people that have a name. I mean, it's very easy to design a white T-shirt and once it says Versace on it everybody's going to want it. A commercial collection has to sell, I'm not just doing it to show it, and it's strange because I'm nobody in America. I said to Nicole, "Are we sure about this?" and she said, "Absolutely darling. Absolutely." So it's just the confidence that woman gives you just by looking at you and saying "But darling, it's great. This is fantastic." You're just like "Oh, alright, cool!" And honestly, to have her as a backbone, even when doing the fittings and I would start thinking, "Oh, I think, well, how could this be a dress for Middle America. In my own collection, I use the aesthetic of Coco Chanel married to Sid Vicious. Yes, they're actually two looks, but if the two of them actually were married and the two of them actually lived in the same house, could you imagine the arguments? Could you imagine the smoking? Can you imagine the things that are being smashed in the house? The kind of music they would listen to? And I thought, this will be kind of like that marriage.
MB: Are you planning to do a tour of Macy's around the United States when the collection is in stores?
KA: No I'm planning to have my own balloon in the Macy's parade. I've been working on that idea for a long time and I've been trying to instill it in everyone's head. Wouldn't it be great? A big polka-dot Kinder balloon. .
MB: Be careful what you ask for... Final question: Has designing more commercially accessible clothing affected how you design your own line?
KA: In some ways it has. It made me realize that if I can design this kind of collection and still make it look like a great brand and if Lanvin can design a collection for H&M and make it into a great brand, and then diametrically opposed you have to think how do I make my collection with different kinds of resources and still make it a great brand. However, I decided that what I have to do is be even more exclusive than ever before, so I ended up doing a show for next season which is like a salon show. It's very intimate, it's all front row. Everybody's going to be so close to the clothes that they can touch them when they walk by.