DEBUT 2019 Grad Shows at New York Fashion Week
Born in Seoul, South Korea and adopted at three months old, Kyle Denman was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was elected as Youth Mayor of the city. After receiving a degree in Political Science from Miami University in just three years, he moved to Los Angeles with a suitcase and a backpack to pursue his lifelong interest in art and a career in fashion. He graduated from FIDM in 2017 as the college’s Outstanding Fashion Design Student and valedictorian, and was admitted into the Advanced Fashion Design program. He was previously the winner of the Project Runway Remake It Work Contest in 2016, was a member of the wardrobe team for Beyoncé during the 2018 Coachella Music Festival, and was named the Young Fashion Designer of the Year. Kyle, who is the enrichment programs and resource coordinator and fashion design mentor at New Village Charter School in Los Angeles, recently showed an eight-piece collection from his self-titled brand during New York Fashion Week. We chatted with the designer to learn more about his designs, how DEBUT helped prepare him for the global stage, and ultimate career goals.
How did the opportunity to show at NYFW come about? NYFW actually contacted me via email during summer 2020. I was asked to show in New York Fashion Week in September 2020. Because of COVID-19, I asked if I could push my presentation back until February 2021. Unfortunately, COVID-19 was even more prevalent then, so I still didn't feel comfortable traveling from Los Angeles to New York City. I asked them for a second time to push my spot back — this time to September 2021. I am grateful that everyone was so understanding and so kind during this very stressful process.
What was the theme of the collection? My collection, “mul·ti·po·lar—ex·ist·ence,” is inspired by the interconnectivity and the multidimensionality of the human experience. It demonstrates the capacity of the human condition and how we as people are interdependent elements whose souls become intertwined through chance and circumstance. It is a conceptual, personal, and poetic vision of what humanity was, is, and will be; it is both an homage and a criticism of the dissociation and derealization of relationships in our own lives. “mul·ti·po·lar—ex·ist·ence” can best be summarized in just six words: soulmates will always find a way.
How many looks did you show and how long did it take to work on these designs? I showed a total of eight looks. It took about a year to complete all eight designs, accessories, and jewelry. I finished creating the last pair of earrings the day before I had to drop off the collection! There was a lot of self-doubt, so I had to spend some time looking at my collection more objectively.
What did it feel like to see your designs on the runway during NYFW with the Manhattan skyline in the background? I'm still in awe. It feels very surreal. I am so grateful for the experience! I only learned how to sew and design less than five years ago, so to think that I have shown in New York Fashion Week is unbelievable! I am just so grateful for the experience and for everyone who supported me on this journey.
How did your DEBUT experience help prepare you? DEBUT helped me a lot! It helped me understand how to create a collection in a short amount of time and helped me understand how to weave a story through each garment. Most of all, I think DEBUT taught me how to be resilient and confident under pressure.
Tell us about your work at New Village: New Village is an all-girls independent public charter high school whose population consists of girls who typically have high academic and social-emotional needs due to experiencing trauma, such as human trafficking, homelessness, drug and substance abuse, gang violence, and incarceration. Here, I have created a fashion design and arts enrichment program, which teaches social-emotional learning, empowerment, and vulnerability through the lenses of fashion and art. Because of the programming I have developed, I was named a 30 Under 30 Changemaker in Education in May 2021.
What are your ultimate goals for the Kyle Denman brand? I want to keep creating! My mission as a designer is to use my own privilege and platform to create social change, share cultural narratives, and humanize the stories of marginalized communities. I am hoping the experiences from New York Fashion Week, Project Runway, and being named the Young Fashion Designer of the Year allow me to amplify the voices of others.
Keep up with Kyle on Instagram @thekyledenman.