central saint martins student kiko kostadinov on collaborating with stussy to fund his masters
Dropping this Friday as part of LC:M and produced exclusively for Soho-based fashion hotspot Machine-A, Kiko Kostadinov’s latest collaboration with cult-brand Stussy is set to sell out as quickly as its predecessors.
A non-believer in luck, and a fan of sewing in pyjamas, Kiko explains the story behind his latest offering, and the challenges faced with working with such a recognisable street-based icon.
How did your first few collaborations come about?
The first collaboration with SHOWstudio came from a few commission pieces that I did for Stephen Mann and an editorial he was running for Clash magazine. Shortly after that SHOWstudio got in touch with Stussy as they wanted to stock some special pieces for their shop. That's when Michael Kopelman asked me if I would be interested in doing a very limited amount of sweaters and hoodies.
What was your original concept with Michael?
The initial idea was just to fuck up the basic logo. It's so bold and recognisable. Even if you leave only the two dots, people will still probably know what it is. Then I had to back it up in my head with something that I visually liked and believed in, which at the time was some very early work from Richard Serra and Lawrence Weiner.
It's rare that a brand lets you "fuck up the basic logo." How easy is it negating your design alongside a brand that has such a strong aesthetic already?
Since the beginning I was told to do whatever I wanted, so there aren't any pre-drawn designs that are signed off from someone at Stussy or SHOWstudio. Having this trust and freedom has been really good, as it's enabled me to focus on the actual design. I've tried to insert as many personal details that I like from my previous work, and I'd like to potentially develop these into further pieces for my own projects or maybe more Stussy.
Tell me about this drop - you said there's an interesting reason behind it?
I decided to continue my studies at Central Saint Martins and I'm in my first year of my MA - which is very expensive if you don't receive a scholarship. I wasn't sure if I should continue with it, but Stavros from Machine-A, Nick Knight, Michael Kopelman and Stephen Mann came up with this genius plan of me doing the capsule with which I will be able to pay most of my fees and continue with the course. We never planned to do this again, it was meant to be only once and that's it. This year is the 35th Anniversary of the brand, which this project will be part of as well.
Sounds like you got lucky with the help of those people. What advice would you give to BA students struggling to find ways of paying for an MA?
I don't know if I got lucky. I've been assisting around Europe two years prior to starting my BA. I've built those relationships by working hard and studying. It needs to start from a very early stage, as that's how the industry is constructed. You spend years and years helping for free and at some point, if you did a good job and have been honest and passionate, people will want to help you.
Why do you think this collaboration had been such a great success? It sold out almost immediately.
I think people recognise the energy behind it. The fact that there are a limited number of pieces and they are all different and one offs and made by a person that they can identify with. Hopefully that and because of the designs.
How is CSM going? And how is juggling that with this sort of work?
The MA has been really positive so far. You are questioned all the time about who you are and who you want to be as a designer. The tutors can see right through your process and can sense if you did something that is not honest. I managed to do the capsule over Christmas in my pyjamas, so that didn't really affect my studies.
Do you think we're seeing a change in what people want to buy, in that they want one of a kind stuff?
There aren't many of this kind of person. The main customer just wants to be part of the cult, whatever it is. From Stan Smith to printed dog t-shirts. It would be great if more designers actually did things by themselves. It's all very office based now, less and less of them can make clothes, or they just forget how to. That's why I look up to Chris Nemeth, Jun Takahashi and Yohji. All three of them are/were involved in the cutting and making of the garments to some degree. If I progress later on into making collections under my own name, I want to be as involved as possible in the actual making of the clothes.
What menswear designers have you got your eye on at LC:M?
I'm always excited about Craig Green and J.W. Anderson. I like the straightforward way of showing an idea by repeating it in front of you until you get it.
London menswear is often so over-identified because of its heritage in Savile Row alongside the city's diversity. What do you personally think makes great menswear design?
I like when you can see honesty, and that the design connects somehow to the actual designer on a personal level. There are too many designers that just do stuff and try to catch up on ideas that someone else did a few months ago. If you don't know what you want to say with your clothes, then there is no point flooding the market with them.
Text Greg French
Photography Dexter Lander