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SSIK

Sep 3, 2019

By Scott Irvine

Photography & Words by Scott & Kim @waxenvine_photography

Styling & Modeled by Kristina Kiss @ssik_kiss www.ssikdesigns.com

Scott Irvine sits down with Fashion Designer Kristina Kiss to Talk about her Label SSIK, Her Artistic Process, Her Vision and Her Bad Ass Self! Read on!

Where did you grow up & how long have you been in NYC? 

KISS:  I’m originally from The Pocono’s in North East Pennsylvania and I’ve been creepin’ around the city for a little over 13 years now!  

Can you explain a bit of your history in fashion?

KISS:  I came to NYC to study Accessory Design at The Fashion Institute of Technology, first and only choice, I needed to get to the city ASAP.  Throughout Jr. High/High School, as the principle’s daughter mind you, I always felt a bit misplaced, bored and creatively unfulfilled – unchallenged and basically fucking hungry.  I was accepted into FIT’s boot camp of a design program after grueling portfolio submissions and interviews.  Let me tell you, making it through a design major at FIT without losing your shit and bailing is an accomplishment in itself.  I’ve never worked so hard in my entire life.  After I graduated with honors in this very small and specific program I realized if I could get through that shit alive I could do anything.  During school I initiated my brand’s identity and vision, SSIK Designs, whilst juggling a few jobs, exploring the alternative underground club kid scene and trying to figure out the hell I’m supposed to do with my art.  After graduation, I started my first professional gig as an accessory designer then continued to jump around designing for a few companies in the city until I landed a 6-year Accessory Design position at Calvin Klein.  This was a life-changing opportunity as I was able to travel the world and carve out a place for myself in the corporate fashion industry.  At the same, I was growing my brand and maintained a nightlife alter ego – hosting parties and dressing up in my SSIK looks every other night.  Sometimes I’d get home at 5 am, shower off all the soot and glitter and go straight to work!  I have no idea how I physically did that for so long, ha.  I think I just loved the NYC grind and needed that balance of a lucrative creatively soul-sucking job and an alt. lifestyle with freedom for self-expression.  I finally left, feeling so drained from all the corporate bullshit and focused on making my brand more of a full-time lucrative business.  Eventually, I was inducted into the Patrica Field Art Fashion Family and soon after my SSIK mermaid drips debuted on the winner of Season 11 of RuPaul’s DragRace, Aquaria…the rest is history!  I live and work out of my East Village studio/apartment and maintain some freelance design work.  Life is finally where I want it and I’m my own boss – my business grows more every year from custom work for feature films and on national television, DragQueens and other high caliber celebrities!  I can’t wait to see where we’re at in the next few years.  Keep an eye out for SSIK Designs.

What is your artistic process/vision?

KISS:  Your typical designer usually hashes everything out with initial inspiration, mood boards, sketches, technical precision, and specific techniques, basically producing a roadmap of how to execute an exact and very specific design.  After being trained to design this way during my schooling at FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology) and after almost ten years of working in the corporate fashion design industry, I chose to do the exact opposite when it comes to my personal artistic process.  I never have an exact plan unless it’s a commission for specific clients but when I’m creating for myself it’s usually fueled by what’s going on in my head – anger, fear, anxiety, frustration – it’s basically an outlet for all the negative shit that affects me in my life.  I used to have some anger management issues growing up so I’ve learned to use this process as my therapy.  I do have a general idea for a design but usually, the details come to me as I go along.  I don’t think everything has to be completely planned out when it comes to art – this is exactly what triggers my anxiety.  I’m super OCD, a crazy perfectionist until the point of complete debilitation – so it’s a bit of a rush to design in the moment.  

How would you describe your style?  It seems to span a few different genres…

KISS:  I never like strict labels when it comes to my personal style/aesthetic – some people tend to tag me as goth, punk, punk/rock, etc.  I just love mixing it all together into one fluid cluster fuck.  When I create my “looks” for a gig I like to make people feel weird so I think it’s fun to mix extreme scary & sexy elements into my drippy art fashion looks.  I like to add at least one unexpected shock factor.

Who/What are some of your influences in your fashion?

KISS:  I feel like I get inspired more than influenced by artists or artists’ work that make me feel weird and/or uncomfortable in whatever way that may be.  They usually live outside of the fashion world, which is a bubble I don’t like to be stuck inside.  I’m very much inspired by the artistry of the grotesque which is why I’m SUCH a huge longtime fan of Pop Surrealist/Sculptor Colin Christian.  His art is insane and relatable in a fucked up way – it makes me feel weird.  I love it.  

What kind of music are you listening to these days?  Fave current band?

KISS:  The past few years I’ve been drawn to female-led industrial or alternative metal bands – I call it angry girl music. ha – it’s always relatable and usually wakes me up – gets me energized to kick the day’s ass.  I always absorb lyrics so even the “dark & moody/fuck-off” stuff is enjoyable.  I never have a “favorite band” however recently I’ve been constantly listening to bands/artists like In This Moment, Grandson, 3TEETH, MISSIO, and a little Billie Eilish.

What are some of the events/parties that you do now, and what is your involvement?

KISS:  I used to host 2-3 parties per week on a weekly basis years ago however these days my limit is one weekly and random high caliber events throughout the year – usually “look” based which I always use as a platform for my SSIK art fashion brand.  At the moment I’m one of the hosts for Susanne Bartsch’s summer weekly Tuesday night OnTop party at LeBain/The Standard.  It’s pretty much a reunion of all my underground club kid friends I’ve worked with over the years – all of the most creative and inspiriting people in New York under one roof!  The looks are INSANE…get your asses there ppl!!!

Who is your favorite designer and why?

KISS:  As a designer myself I try to veer away from the corporate fashion industry as I don’t like to be subconsciously influenced by other artist’s work.  However, since I came to NYC I’ve always had a thing for Gareth Pugh – London based designer.  His work is very “haute-goth” & sinister.  I love how he presents his collections through these intense fashion films with SHOWstudio photographer Nick Knight.  They’re so incredible and inspiring as an artist – it makes me want to dig deep and pump out some crazy dark shit.  

Where is your favorite venue/club/bar in NYC to perform at? to hang out at?

KISS:  I hate to say it but there really aren’t many fav spots left from the venue’s I used to work/hang out at.  I always used to be in and out of places like Don Hills, White Noise, St. Jerome’s, TRASH at Webster Hall, LIT…mostly all LES and East Village.  All listed above no longer exist >:0  Generally I just stay downtown however I’ll always love hosting at my home base at The Standard LeBain in the Meat Packing District.  The rooftop view is the shit.  

What materials do you work with for your looks?

KISS:  My art fashion brand, SSIK Designs, works with a very specific material known as silicone rubber.  It’s definitely not a common art medium that’s typically used in the fashion industry, at least the way in which I’m utilizing it.  The type of silicone rubber that I use for production is usually used for various types of mould making and costume prosthetics.  I’ve turned it into wearable art where the possibilities of what I can do are literally limitless…it’s INSANE.  I’m able to reinvent myself time and time again, I love it.  

How do you develop a look/outfit/make-up? 

KISS:  It depends on what kind of event I’m developing a look for.  If it’s a weekly event, I kind of shop around my studio of personal archived SSIK silicone pieces and create a look around it.  If it’s a larger, higher caliber of a situation then I’ll concept a little more in advance with image boards which reflect a vibe, color scheme, and general direction.  But again, I love to design in the moment so the direction sometimes completely changes.  There are no rules with my art, no restrictions, no limits…that’s why I created this world for myself.  It suits well with my neurosis.  

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?  What would you like to be doing & living?

KISS:  Ten years, wow – I try not to think about the far future.  I usually take things day by day so my head doesn’t explode, ha.  I have confidence that my brand will continue to grow to a larger scale and foresee branching out in designing more SSIK commercial apparel and accessory collections in mass production.  I’ll keep developing more extreme drip commissions for clients, but with more hands on deck!  I’d also someday love to get my foot in the door with the Costume Designers Guild.  It would be such an amazing opportunity to learn more about this world professionally.  I’ll definitely be traveling more to spread the SSIK word, perhaps I’ll have an apartment/studio in another major city, preferably Tokyo or Berlin and a home in the Pocono’s for when I need a breather!  Ultimately, I just want my business to grow and make more people feel effin’ SSIK.

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