NEW YORK, United States — Ronnie Fieg, owner of the influential multi-brand store Kith and creative director of its eponymous in-house label, is using New York Fashion Week to flex his position as the ultimate streetwear impresario.
Fieg will use his show on Thursday to unveil a laundry list of collaborations, most notably with the Italian powerhouse Versace, the American sportswear brand Tommy Hilfiger and the artisanal luxury line Greg Lauren. It’s this trio of marquee name partners that reflect just how powerful Kith’s imprint has become on the American menswear landscape, and streetwear’s current exalted status in the industry.
“My whole thesis … is to give people the feeling I had when I fell in love with the products from the brands that I love,” Fieg said during an exclusive preview at the vast collection. Walking through a studio filled with racks of clothing during model fittings, the 36-year-old emphasized how nostalgia was the driving force behind most, if not all, of his creative impulses.
The Versace collaboration, for example, stems from childhood memories of his mother idolizing the brand, but not being able to afford it.
“Versace was always an aspirational thing, you know? This was put on a pedestal at such a young age,” he said. Key pieces hung on a nearby rack: a burgundy quilted velvet bomber, a faux fur coach’s jacket emblazoned with the the Versace logo, T-shirts with shimmering gold graphics, and the requisite patterned silk shirting. “We designed everything from scratch. We developed new fabrics. Ninety percent of the collection is new fits that we designed for them. We pulled out ‘90s prints from the archive. This is all made in Italy, in Versace factories.”
While timing constraints meant he was unable to work in-person with Donatella Versace (they exchanged e-mails instead), he did achieve an impressive feat of brand synergy — much of the hardware features the label’s Medusa mascot but with the Kith logo shielding her eyes. And Kith die-hards should start saving up now as the collection, tentatively slated to drop early next year, will be sold at the Versace price point.
Similarly, the Tommy Hilfiger collection features a co-branded logo, which had personal significance to Fieg. “Tommy has arguably been the most influential brand in my life,” he said, holding up a collegiate striped polo shirt. He’s been teasing out other pieces via his own Instagram account, a tool he uses frequently to release news. “I think that’s why these things have resonated so much, because people want a personal perspective.”
For the Greg Lauren collaboration, Fieg gave the designer Kith garments which Lauren then cut apart and reassembled, before adding customized details, like Pollock-esque paint splatters or printed block lettering. The end results were hybrid garments like army coats and collegiate-style jackets, Frankensteined together, with frayed edges and unmistakable hints of vintage. Lauren’s business is quite niche, with this sort of one-of-a-kind customization and small batch craftsmanship serving as it’s foundational ethos, but Fieg said he’s one of the most talented designers currently working.
This trio is certainly the buzziest of the brand partnerships, but hardly the only ones. Collaborations with Adidas, Levi’s, New Balance, Columbia, MISBHV, and Vans are among the many others that will be shown as well. They’ll be mixed with the Kith mainline label, which this season will see more tailored pieces, like a lapel-less topcoat in blackwatch plaid, or another in soft pink, which helps demonstrate this evolution of the brand.
This all shows how expansive Fieg’s thinking is, and how robust the business is. Without discussing specific numbers, Fieg indicated there was growth on the financial side. “Luckily for me, the business aspect has run parallel to the passion I’ve felt,” he said. Fieg owns the business with his partner, Sam Ben-Avraham. The latter also owns the store Atrium, is the founder of PROJECT tradeshow and owns the Liberty Fairs tradeshow. As of now, there are no outside investors.
Fieg noted that the format of his presentation — called “Kith Park” and taking place in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard — will not be a traditional runway show, but wouldn’t provide any more details.
“The product doesn’t speak to you in those kinds of shows,” he said. Kith, he said, has always been about transforming his nostalgia and turning it into both an experience and a product that appealed to customers — which is why his Space Age-y, Instagram-friendly stores (designed in partnership with Daniel Arsham) are so important to the brand’s aura of cool.
“I wish I had had someone who cared about showing me why I’m buying the product, not just telling me to buy it,” he said. “I care about product so much. I’m trying to tell the story of my life through the product. I want to tell a story, not just create desire, but build an emotional connection.”
Asked if he thinks that streetwear — and Kith, specifically — is getting its fair due in the industry right now, Fieg artfully sidesteps the question.
“I never think about that,” he said. “This isn’t done for the respect. I care about what the consumer feels. If the question is do I think I’m getting the respect of the consumer? Then the answer is yes. Am I getting the respect of the industry? My answer is: I don’t care about that.”