engineering and construction has always influenced King's design
aesthetic. The engineering challenges involved in making
a particular effect appear spontaneous have always fascinated him.
What's new in King's creative output?
Click here to go to his new works page!
work is in the permanent collections of museums such as the Victoria
and Albert Museum in London. He strives to stretch his couture craft
in new and more intriguing directions. King's current
body of work began with a reexamination of how clothing seams together
in construction. These three “lines of inquiry” as he calls them
are soufflé, leafing, and cutwork. (To see a video on King's work, click here)
inspired by origami folding techniques, is a combination of various
fabric manipulation techniques. (Read
Leafing is a method by which King
creates “a fabric in the shape of a garment”. (read
is the mirror-image process to leafing. (read
developing this new body of work, King has worked with an eye towards
creating designs that, though not mass-produced, could be made in
King's move to New York matched his desire
to form new techniques and designs, to make a complete departure
from what he had done in the past. Most of his previous work
involved many layers of fabric and innovative engineering to get
certain effects. By choosing a transparent fabric, he had to create
garments in which the construction, now completely on view, was
as attractive as the design.
research to develop this body of work took nearly three years of
making what Kenneth calls “lab notes”. This rigorous, evolving series
of samples and notes finally yielded the techniques he sought.
They also offer a rich library of ideas to draw from. The permutations
are almost endless and will keep his work fresh for years to come.
This work satisfies Kenneth's desire to create proprietary
techniques and designs. In the long view, his goal is to be the
21st Century's answer to Mariano Fortuny.
decided to focus more on private clients. A chance remark from one
of his favorite clients turned him in a new direction. “One spends
all this money on the dress,” she asked, “what does one wear over
King had experimented with wraps in the past, but this client helped
him understand uses and types of wrap needed for the spectrum of
events his customers attend. This started him on a new direction
technically as well as aesthetically. King's relationship
with Maxfield had lasted nine years. During and beyond that time
his designs were carried at Wilkes Bashford, San Francisco, and
Ultimo in San Francisco, Dallas, and Chicago.
the time King spent selling to Maxfield, his work and reputation
grew with museum curators and private collectors.
His work is in the permanent collections of London's Victoria and
Albert Museum, the L.A. County Museum of Art and San Francisco's
DeYoung Museum, as well as many private collections.
Mermaid Gown shown to the right is in the permanent collection of
the L.A. County Museum of Art.
was during this time that King custom designed many pieces for Elton
John. Notable were the hats that appeared in music videos for songs
such as “Sacrifice” (to
view, click here), "Whispers" (to
view, click here), and “You Gotta Love Someone” (to
view, click here),as
well as the red hat used in the Diet Coke commercial “Nightclub". (to view, click here)
also expanded his line for the store from hats, clothing, jewelry
and accessories, to include home furnishings. He introduced
his “Marble Jewelry” – necklaces and bracelets of clear glass
marbles encircled with sterling silver. These designs, both in sterling
and later in 18-Karat gold, continue as popular day-into-evening
accessories in King's design repertoire.
hats were the first of his line of opulent, limited edition and
one-off evening accessories and clothing.
enhance the jewel-like nature of his pieces, he presented the designs
in black velvet cases lined with black taffeta. Kenneth fully understood
the importance of packaging and designed these cases to spotlight
their allure. As these accessories were jewels, he felt it important
to package them accordingly. This created an aura around the pieces
that increased their allure.
the first cocktail hats came matching hats and muffs, followed by
fur boas with concealed pockets for compact and lipstick worked
into the embellishment. Kenneth's exquisitely crafted vests and
accessories found an avid clientele. The customers responded
enthusiastically to his work, and began requesting other types of
of his early hits was the Vest.
These vests featured sterling silver knot-buttons and matching sterling
silver hardware of his own design, and were packaged in the signature
black velvet boxes.
collectors then demanded garments, which resulted in the Dinner
Jacket. This jacket featured the same distinctive lapel shape
and sterling button. A cummerbund, based on the vest, was also introduced
at this time.
furniture melds plush Victorian form with intricate trim and lush,
These highly worked “epic pieces” are created as artistic statements
with little mind for their commercial value. His “Footstool” appears
in the book “Elton John's Flower Fantasies”, by Carol Cass (Bulfinch
1986 King began selling his creations to Maxfield in Los Angeles,
where the store's Hollywood clientele discovered him. He was taken
up first by Cloris Leachman; Elton John was also an early
collector. Later such people as the Don Johnson and Geena Davis
also became collectors.
1985 he started his own business designing and making hats. This
initial design experience made Kenneth focus on the wearer; his
designs were created to fit the client's lifestyle. Kenneth realized
that a hat can be total fantasy, but must also be wearable. He understood
that the type of customer he was aiming at would not buy a second
piece if the first didn't perform well.
King's designs are created so the wearer needn't fuss. The person
wears the piece, not vice versa. King says, “The process should
be so seamless as to be invisible. When a piece is flawlessly finished,
one then has only to consider the aesthetics. Flawless finish shows
that one is the master of his materials."