On June 9, New York menswear designer Adam Kimmel stunned the industry by announcing a year-long hiatus from his brand. To say that Kimmel is an up-and-coming-designer-to-watch would be so last year; rather he is one of the most prolific (young) designers in contemporary American menswear, with eight years and fifteen collections under his high-quality leather belt.
Adam Kimmel presents his Snoop Dogg-inspired
Besides creating softly tailored garments, Kimmel has managed to push outside the sheltered menswear sphere with several highly creative artistic collaborations.
Recently, Kimmel collaborated with Comme des Garcons to create the ultimate surfer t-shirt, and reworked menswear with Carhartt by employing top-notch tailoring, silhouettes and patterns in true Kimmel fashion, whilst maintaining Carhartt's rugged aesthetic. For his The Kimmel Cowboy S/S 2010 line, Kimmel collaborated with American photographer Jim Krantz - the original photographer for the Marlboro ads - and released a limited edition boxed set of prints that were exhibited and sold at the high-end Paris department store, Colette.
Following this, Kimmel collaborated with artist George Condo for his F/W 2010 collection, which featured impeccably tailored suits worn with gremlin-like masks designed by Condo. As if that wasn't enough, in fall 2011, Kimmel also partnered with magician David Blaine to create "Dressed For Dinner," a video capturing Blaine's 40-foot submersion into the great white shark infested waters of Guadalupe, whilst wearing Kimme's finest formalwear. Surprisingly, Blaine was left uninjured; perhaps the sharks kept their distance due to their respect for Kimmel's impeccable tailoring and superior fabrics.
As a highly influential creative force, Kimmel's collections have never been boring and neither have their presentations. His collections have been presented in various locations - his S/S 2011 Snoop Dogg-inspired collection at the Hôtel Particulier in Le Marais accompanied by low-riders and Snoop Dogg look-alikes; the F/W 2010 Casino collection (in collaboration with Condo) in a darkened Parisian art gallery designed to look like a gaming house; Kimmel's collaboration with Carhartt at Barneys in New York City, where artist George Herms and Paintallica created wooden installations using chainsaws and chisels. Kimmel continued his wunderkind streak all the way to his F/W 2012 show, which style.com's Tim Blanks remarked, "may have been his greatest."
David Blaine stars in Adam Kimmel's shark
With only eight years and several strong collaborations under his belt, Kimmel has already made a name for himself by smudging the lines between art, fashion, music and film. It seems odd, then, that he would stop now, at the almost-climax of his career.
But it appears by 2011, Kimmel's inspirations had already started to dwindle - his S/S 2012 show exhibited surf-inspired wear with a Kimmel twist, but it looked tired and its presentation ordinary. Structured silhouettes made of superior hand-tailored fabrics in somber blues, greys, greens and umbers dominated the runway, with an occasional surprise burst of colour.
As his first runway show, even Kimmel was left disappointed. "I did it [the runway show] because I wanted to try a format that did not take away from the clothes (also, admittedly, the space we were able to secure in Paris was old and there were many restrictions on what you could do with it). I learned a lot from doing a runway show, and next year I'll hopefully shake things up a bit more," Kimmel confessed to Hypebeast. Unfortunately, next year never came.
As a creative mind, Kimmel is in tune with his inspirations: "Certain artists' lifestyles genuinely inspire me. When I think of the ultimate man's man, I think of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning ... When I tell a story with a collection an artist can sometimes help tell that story in a way that offers a model or a set of visual references or even just a strong sensibility." His use of multiple mediums and artist collaborations are telling of his creative ambition and capability. His year-long sabbatical perhaps came in a timely fashion for Kimmel - saving his career from a creativity drought while everyone was watching.
Besides spending time with his family, Kimmel is planning to "explore a number of creative arenas" that are of interest to him. "I am a designer and creator, first and foremost, I look forward to utilising this next year to experiment and learn, and channel what I find into new concepts, designs and projects. I believe this is how designers become better stewards to their work," said Kimmel, showing dedication to his art and creative development.
But what is the nature of creativity? Is it quantifiable or is it ambiguous; endless or elusive? The mechanics of creativity have been debated for decades - scientists, writers, artists, dancers and entrepreneurs have all pondered the mystery of creativity. There seems to be a clear divide: some believe that creativity is learned, and is therefore habitual. Others believe that creativity is synonymous with spontaneity and is pattern-less.
World-renowned ballerina and choreographer, Twyla Tharp, in her book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life, argued that creativity can become habitual: "I believe that we all have strands of creative code hard-wired into our imaginations. These strands are as solidly imprinted in us as the genetic code that determines our height and eye colour, except they govern our creative impulses." Then, it is up to the individual to elicit their creative DNA and, through ritual, self-knowledge and preparation, nurture their creativity on a daily basis. "The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more. And this routine is available to everyone," she establishes early on in her book.
Tharp isn't the only one espousing this point-of-view; author Ray Bradbury sings the same tune. "That's the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you," he declared in his book, Zen in the Art of Writing.
Adam Kimmel and his daughter in January 2012.
But, if one tames the creative process and makes it their shadow, does creativity then come in an endless and overflowing supply? That seems too good to be true. In a world where endless supply of anything is but a dream, any creative streak - habitual or spontaneous - is bound to break.
Author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, addressed the pressure of creative genius at the 2009 TED Conference. She noted a recurring popular belief that to be creative is to ultimately be mentally unstable; that is, the pressure to be creative drives creators to mental and emotional instability. Creativity isn't eternal; mistakes are probably going to be made and dry spells are likely to happen. Gilbert concludes that we ought to treat "creativity" in the ways of ancient Greeks and Romans who attributed creative genius as a disembodied and elusive creative spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source. "But maybe if you just believed that they [creative geniuses] were on loan to you from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along when you're finished, with somebody else," she told the conference room.
In agreement with Tharp, creativity can be nourished and tamed - until, as pointed out by Bradbury, it follows you. Yet, creators cannot prevent its straying or death, rather they ought to acknowledge its weakening and step away. Kimmel's creative spirit followed him around for several collections. Once Kimmel felt its bond weaken, he stepped away, releasing it to find another young designer and allow a different creative spirit find him in the midst of pursuing another arena.
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