If genetic markers for creative talent were detectable, you’d find them in Kim Mesches‘ DNA. The 23-year-old fashion designer is the grandson of Arnold Mesches, a visual artist who has spent the past six decades shock and awing the art world–his works have been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, The Met and most recently, Miami Dade College Galleries of Art + Design, which is currently running a retrospective of his life’s work.
“He’s always been a huge inspiration artistically,” says Kim who is based in Williamsburg. “I grew up with him painting in the studio down on the Lower East Side, and I knew I always wanted to fuse his work into my own one way or another.”
It was among his grandfather’s works for the retrospective that Kim found inspiration for his fall 2013 women’s wear collection, the first from his new label, KM Collective, which he’ll present at Public Assembly as part of Raw Natural Born Artists Present: Marvel this Thursday, April 11.
Kim created fabric for his collection by making a digital print of two panels from his grandfather’s Coming Attractions 2 series, a dizzying collection of black-and-white ink drawings depicting the frenetic chaos of everything from urban sprawl to ticker tape parades.
Kim used the graphic throughout his collection on skirts, shirts, dresses and evening gowns. The collection is dark by design–a mix of black, white and oxblood fabrics–infused with punk and gothic undertones like shingles of acid-washed material, which Kim bleaches in his own kitchen sink. “I have a problem with bleach,” he confesses. “I love it.” Leather panels appear on a handful of looks. Kim designed clutches that he treated with a technique called trapunto quilting, creating raised images of the human anatomy like vertebrae, clavicles and muscle tissue in a subtle nod to another artist, Leonardo Da Vinci, and his Vitruvian Man.
“I did these little touches to the collection to add a little edge and a little funk to it,” Kim says. “It’s a little creepy, a little weird, but I like it. I wanted to create a collection that was very wearable. I wanted to create silhouettes that are translatable to everyday life yet also designer.”
Kim got his start in fashion while still in high school, customizing sneakers with graffiti-style artwork for clients like Nike and Mos Def and continued infusing his fashion designs with elements of urban street style when he started Kimbo, a lower-price-point label that came before he launched KM Collective. His current work maintains its street cred, but it is more polished and upscale than its predecessors–think iridescent, gunmetal beading hand-stitched in India onto acid-washed evening gowns. “Street style is always going to be an element in everything I do,” he explains. “It has to be, but if there’s a way to combine that with the elegance of women’s wear, then I want to be that person.”