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Psychology of Textiles with EVAN KINORI

Photographs: Ken Tisuthiwongse

Story: Justin Lintag

An outlier can be defined as something or someone that deviates far from the majority or the mean. It can be connected to a greater system but is far removed and hardly affected by established trends or common tendencies. In some ways, Evan Kinori and his namesake label can be described as an outlier. He operates from his studio in San Francisco, a far cry from what most would consider a hub for contemporary fashion, or clothing manufacturing for that matter. He works from the fringes, and yet has struck a chord with some of the most notable shops in the world.

In practice, Kinori does not design or create anything in haste. In five years, he has let his collection evolve slowly, surely but intentionally each season. He insists on an A-to-Z approach that requires hands-on involvement on every level - from ideation to sample-making to quality control management. Start to finish. Breathing new meaning into the phrase "do-it-yourself" amidst an era of anonymous and accelerated fashion design cycles. His anomalous label is one of the few to still stand on American soil, and has gained devout following for his earnest and organic process to garment-making. Kinori emphasizes a distinct 'hand style' or human craft in each piece of the collection. There is nuance in the way pieces are layered, and a narrative to each material choice. We scratch the surface with the designer, as he details his method of making and the psychology behind textiles.

Designing versus pattern-making.

They're not really separate things for me; perhaps when I'm thinking about ideas for the imagery Allen Danze & I make, or other outlets that aren't my craft - coming up with ideas (designing) is more enjoyable because the craft/physical process of making is foreign to me still. With clothing, I formed my ideas and approach as I was studying and learning how to make them, so I can't really imagine separating the designing from the making.

My process is very much a mixture of a loose notion coming into focus and then making patterns/sewing samples and revising...make and remake and make again... The changes are subtle and rely upon making the pattern and samples to arrive at conclusions of scale, placement & fit.

Fabric sourcing and selection process.

Seeking out fabrics is another outlet for intuition. I try to channel and reference narratives found throughout garment history - looking for roots behind the choices being made, but also reinvent or put them in a different context. I play with the psychology of textile - the different feelings conjured up by denim, black linen, silk satin, corduroy... I've always enjoyed the subtly subversive feeling of showing the same 'design' in a variety of evolving fabrics to point at the heavy emphasis on textile. Textile is connected to agricultural, social, political... it is tied to everything.

Making in the USA.

I am not tied to making product in the States forever. I want to make the best quality product I can, with a unique 'hand style' or human aspect visible in the construction, and in a place where the craftspeople involved are paid fairly and live a good life and work in a healthy atmosphere. Wherever I can have that, I am happy to produce something.

For now, I am based in San Francisco - so I greatly value getting to ride my bike 10 minutes from my studio to the shirting factories downtown, or driving 6 hours to LA to visit factories there. I know exactly how I want everything made - it's inherent to my approach and part of the DNA of the design, not just the appearance but how it comes together.

On the trajectory of regional manufacturing.

I like creating work based off real connections; if I meet someone who makes hats in Tokyo, bags in Osaka, or knitwear in Italy - and we get along well and connect in one way or another, I'm going to feel an impulse to make something with them. The human aspect is what draws me in and inspires me with regards to product.

When you meet or get to learn about the unique and thoughtful people who run a small operation and they are clearly motivated by the craft and are in it because of the product - it's a certain spark, or language that makes me want to do something together.

I was introduced to the person who makes my sweaters, and he was such a passionate character - it drew me in to make something with him. In my mind there is ultimately too much product out there and more always being made, so the biggest motivator is forming connections and looking to instill meaning in the work.

"I play with the psychology of textile - the different feelings conjured up by denim, black linen, silk satin, corduroy"

Defining hemp, and its use in the collection.

I've always liked hemp fabrics and have worked with them since I started making clothes. It has a primitive, raw character and is more rugged than linen but with a similar elegant drape and swing.

How to tap into new ideas.

I look at pictures of people and objects throughout history, meet new people, travel, go sit in a field, tap into nostalgia from childhood...Currently I like looking at furniture and pictures of Giacometti and his work. In the future, I'm hoping to expand my studio experience to have other avenues or crafts that I'm interested in being shown and also available for purchase.

On opening the Evan Kinori studio to the public.

I enjoy having a relationship with the people who support my work - it's a personal exchange and their excitement can offer motivation and a sense of fulfillment.

One thing that is singular about Evan Kinori garments...

You could say that they are personal, primitive and modern. I put all of myself into every step and manage the process from idea to delivered garment. I am the other end of the spectrum; wrapping your web order in kraft paper and signing a thank you note on a postcard with my bad handwriting.

"[...] personal, primitive and modern. I put all of myself into every step and manage the process from idea to delivered garment."

The importance of kindred spirits in the industry.

For me, it cannot be understated - the inspiration and value I find in meeting people that I connect with and exchange notes/ideas/plans with. It is honestly quite lonely work a lot of the time, running a company and dedicating a considerable amount of energy to this project that's evolving and unfolding. You have to be alone to think and to work hard and cultivate something - but when you get the chance to meet like-minded people, it's thrilling and makes it all feel worth it - like you’re all in this big conversation together.

I think with clothing & small brands in particular - when you meet people who are in it for personal reasons, trying desperately to express themselves and their ideas; it's really inspiring and moving. Camiel (Fortgens), Larz & Aida from Mantle, everyone at Jan Jan Van Essche - it feels more like this familial, gypsy caravan of original individuals trying to establish their own language rather than 'brands' and fashion.

Evan’s “neighbours” that deserve some extra attention (with links!).

The work of Joshua Vogel & Black Creek Mercantile. The artwork of Afton Love and the incredible project by her partner Johnny Ortiz - Shed Project. The perseverance & skateboarding of Trevor Thompson. Kazunori Hamana's work and vision. Fraser Hamilton is great. Maureen Doherty (no link does justice, so better to let people hunt!).