AI: KRISTEN LUONG + KROMAGNON’S ORIGIN
I was able to sit down with Kristen and talk about her inspirations as well as her journey towards creating Kromagnon. Come with us into the world of ‘Eco-friendly and Sustainable Fashion’.
WHY SUSTAINABLE? WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GO THIS PATH?
“I realized the value in creating something that was sustainable and learned more about the fabrics and what is involved in creating those types of fabrics and the technology that was involved. It peaked my interest because I have a background in biology and plant genetics. So I decided to create my own brand once I graduated from FIT in 2013 to make clothing using sustainable material.”
WHAT ALL GOES INTO BECOMING A SUSTAINABLE DESIGNER?
“So I have been going to all the conferences and all the tradeshows I could, every year, so that I could do my research and development into the ‘textiles design’ side of things. To see what I could create and looking into zero waste technology and how that could be incorporated into my designs, because a lot of times when I look at zero waste I see a lot extra fabric hanging off clothing and weird boxy cutting. It is just not how I fit my clothes because I come from a background of tailoring.” Kristen proceeds to tell us some more about her background in tailoring. “We are talking about professors who are Italian tailors and everything is about fit. I also worked as a pattern maker for Derek Lam, so everything is really about fit and how clothes can fit to the body. But when looking to research and how to be a sustainable designer doing zero waste and how to minimize waste I thought of ways to possibly create insulation for my jackets using just scrap materials that come from the cutting of the garments. I am still researching that but I hope to find some solution soon.”
IS THERE A MENTOR OR A PERSON THAT HAS LEAD YOU TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE FASHION?
“Yes, the first person that really peaked my interested was my professor at FIT her name is Georgia Kalivas. I met her daughter Summer when she came into FIT for the sustainability conference that I made a few pieces for and they provided the fabrics for me. I told them I was interested in creating my own brand and about how to become a sustainable designer, I talked to them a lot about the process. Georgia has worked many many years with another lady named Barbara Filippone who created a lot of development in hemp fibers and green creation of hemp fabrics. She is based out of Colorado but she has offices in china and other locations where she has mills where she creates these hemp fabrics.”
WHAT STATEMENT DO YOU HOPE YOUR LINE TO MAKE?
“I hope to get across that design is essentially about beauty and aesthetics but it’s not just about that when it comes down to thinking what happens to the life cycle of the garment. Because one of the things we hear about in the recycle reviews talks is; what can we do as consumers? As people who use these products and clothing, how to be better as the consumer. Because as we waste so much product we don’t know what happens to them once we donate them or once we put them in the garbage. We never really thought about it before, how is this affecting the earth? and how is this affecting the environment? How is it affecting the people that make this clothing? And what goes into making our clothing? Because a lot of times when we buy things cheap but we don’t know where our money is going. So we think ‘Okay, so we are buying a cheap garment’ and it’s just that a cheap garment. Because once we throw them out, we don’t know what happens to them in the landfill and if these materials are going to be biodegradable or not.”
THIS QUESTION IS JUST FOR FASHION FUN AND TO GET TO KNOW ‘YOU’ A LITTLE BETTER. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE FASHION ACCESSORIES AND WHY?
“I always go out with a very nice bag and very nice shoes because you can dressed up clothing in anyway but the bags and the shoes make or break your style. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry but if I do it to keep a simple and I think a lot about my jewelry. I like matte-metal jewelry because I don’t want everything to be shiny all the time. It’s just a style that I’ve adapted recently because I feel lot of people use jewelry that’s very shiny with a lot of diamonds and a lot of glitz. But I to keep my style a little understated because it’s just how I dress.”
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR OWN STYLE REFLECTED ON YOUR COLLECTION?
‘My own personal style is to keep things very simple when I dress. Growing up in New York I was influenced by a lot of styles and I always thought to myself, ‘well there so many things I am i’m interested in’. Sometimes, I was the bohemian girl wearing a lot of romantic clothes like lace and a lot of the chiffon and silk, it’s just a very romantic look. But then I would change from that into a more minimalistic style and I would wear a lot of black and white and monochromatic colors or just keep it simple with some grey’s and maybe some color. So a lot of my collection is high end streetwear and pieces that you can take anywhere from ‘work’ to ‘go out’ and also wearable everyday clothes. Pieces that are very comfortable and just easy to wear. I’m also influenced by architecture, so you see a lot of strong lines and strong angles in my designs. In a few of my pieces you can see the angles through the complicated cut out pieces with an angular structure to them.”
THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT ATTRACTED ME TO YOUR COLLECTION, IT IS DIFFERENT. TELL ME ABOUT THE UNIQUENESS OF YOUR NAME, HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
“Kromagnon, came from my name being Kristen and the a play on the word ‘Cro-Magnon Man’ (cro-magnon man originally came from the caves of France). I’ve had that name for so long and I even thought of that name before I started my line.” But what is ‘Cro-Magnon Man’ exactly? No problem, Kristen breaks it down for us “In my learning process I learned that Neanderthals also made their own clothing and the Cro-magnon man, that live thirty thousand years ago, took those practices from them on how to make clothes. They were the first ones that we have discovered who made art like hand prints and animal prints on the cave walls where they lived, they had rituals, they also hunted and tanned their own leather. Cro-magnon man often used plant fibers like nettle leaves and flax fibers to weave their own clothing. They use bone needles in which they chisel little holes in them in order to sew their own clothing. So they were very advance for a primitive society so they had a culture to them, so they had a very rich culture even for a primitive human society. That’s the inspiration for my brand and the reason I use a lot of earthly materials.”
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHERE YOU GET YOUR MATERIALS FROM? ARE YOU STAYING LOCAL OR ARE YOU OUTSOURCING? HOW ARE YOU GETTING YOUR HANDS ON THESE MATERIALS?
“Since I started my own brand I have been doing a lot of research and development into what fabrics I can use, because a lot of sustainable fabrics are hard to come by and hard to find. So as I mentioned earlier Barbara Filippone and her daughter Summer Star Haeske they are a part of Eviro- Textiles which is where I get my hemp fabrics from. I get my recycle water bottle fabrics, that are blended with organic cotton, from a place called Carr-Textiles and their place is in Minnesota and the office in New York for distribution. So I look a lot until those mills to find fabrics because when I do production I want to have enough fabric. It’s not as if I can run to the store to get more, I don’t know when there will be more available since lot of times stores don’t have sustainable fabrics in stock I’ll also look into artisan fabrics at trade shows. That’s how I source my material, I take a look around everywhere and everything.”
KRISTEN THIS LINE SOUNDS SO FANTASTIC! NOW TELL OUR CITIZENS, WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU?
WRITTEN BY CLAUDIA H BRADY
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