The term “conceptual” gets tossed around a lot in fashion journalism. I tend to use it when writing about a collection that shows promise, raw talent, but little wearability beyond the runway. But then, I’ve never spent a mortgage payment on a piece of art, or a designer handbag. I’m hopelessly practical. So Kevin Kramp’s Voltage 2010 collection has been nagging at me. A designer for St. Croix Knits by day, his eponymous men’s knitwear collection showed enormous skill and flair. But really. Rompers? Parachute style pants in chunky sweater material with a crotch hanging below the knees?
I can hardly imagine Johnny Weir in one of these getups, let alone the average guy. Kramp’s collection was a big hit on the runway – due in no small part to the hot male models chained together with one fabulous knit scarf. It was dramatic. It was showy. It was weird. But I doubt anyone expected the pieces to show up in stores. Did Kramp? I had to know. Excerpts from our recent email conversation:
The Voltage collection. Do you consider it conceptual, or do you imagine a man who would wear these pieces on the street? Would you?
There is a globally nomadic tribe of intelligent, beautiful men who are part of a processional union ceremony of two of their brethren. Traveling alongside this tribe are guardsmen, serving as physical and spiritual protectors. My Voltage capsule collection is my offering to these stoic, elegant guardsmen.
“Conceptual” is not the opposite of “wearable”‘ The wearability of a garment is determined by the individual, not by the degree of concept. Any good creative work begins with a concept, though most “creative” work we see in this world begins (and ends) with copying. Men do wear my work in their lives, on the streets, after hours in clubs, for Sunday coffee, and other special moments. I do not wear my work because I do not create for myself, I create for those inspiring and courageous individuals that have passed through my life and left me thinking and longing.
Is it difficult to go from designing St, Croix’s classics sweaters to your own edgier work?
I’m a schizophrenic moody freak, and a Gemini to boot. My life has consisted of nothing but extremes, opposites, contradictory coexistence, and brutal transition.
What will become of your Voltage collection?
I am at the moment focused on cultivating the Kevin Kramp brand. I have recently been invited to show collections at fashion weeks in Paris, London, Berlin, Vienna and Lithuania. I had a wonderful time at Voltage, realizing a fun and light-hearted project with many kind and enthusiastic people. I have been approached by a couple of local retailers to carry some of my items, though I am very selective as to where my work appears, it must be the right situation and context.
What fashion risks, improvements, changes would you like to see men make?
This isn’t about fashion; this is about life. I always encourage individuals, men and women, to thoroughly and severely examine their personal history, ignorant preconceptions, and bizarre rules of right, wrong, should and shouldn’t. Discover beauty, understand joy, turn off the hating and turn on the being. If one cannot fathom the smallest feat of wearing a garment of a different color, how can one possibly hope to live life?