Meet us backstage at Vancouver Fashion Week FW22, talking to Kyle Denman about his journey from political science student to fashion designer, and the significance behind his latest thematic collection.
At this season’s Fall/Winter 2022 runway, Vancouver Fashion Week saw Kyle Denman’s newest collection, entitled “Soulmates”. This thematic runway reflects the concept of bonds between close friends, students, and the strangers you may only meet once, but feel a tug of personal connection towards. With this collection, Denman portrayed a conceptual dive into the human nature of soul connections, and its multiple definitions.
What inspired your brand?
I actually studied political science in University. I was doing nonprofit policy work for a little bit of time in the United States, and I was doing research with Scripps Gerontology. I studied aging, and I was looking at research on how art affects people who have dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other neurocognitive disorders. The research was pretty evident in the fact that art transforms a person’s life, even at the very late stages. I had to ask myself what kind of art exists in everyone’s life on a daily basis, so I decided on fashion. I moved across the country to Los Angeles, California, where I studied fashion design. I went back to school after I had already got a degree in political science.
My main mission as a designer is to really use my own platform and privilege to support people, and to really share cultural narratives that might not be heard in their lives. Besides just designing full time, I’m also a fashion design teacher at an all girls Independent Public Charter High School in LA, where my students typically have high academic and social emotional needs due to experiencing trauma. They’ve experienced things like human trafficking, homelessness, drug and substance abuse, gang violence, incarceration. I want to make sure that people’s voices are heard and that certain stories are also shared.
What inspired this specific collection, and can you tell us about these references you found?
I have pictures of a lot of different things and quotes I relate to. A lot of them are feelings. Here is a picture of me and my best friend who I consider to be one of my soulmates [shows us a beautiful scrapbook full of personal photos, inspired art, and photography]. Here are my students, some other soul mates of mine. I really kind of thought about what it means to have that soulmate in multiple ways. Each look has a specific theme to it, too. I took inspiration from different things like that. An example of this is the realization that’s inspired by this notion that you might meet a soulmate once on a train or at an airport, maybe at a club later and then you meet a guy once. You cross paths once and that’s it. I took inspiration from different kinds of art or architecture that I saw, and I tried to bring in not necessarily any design details, but rather the emotion behind it.
What’s your creative process like?
My process is a little bit different than I would say, most artists. I think, because of my political science background, I actually write an essay about my collection, where I have a guiding North Star to bring me back to whatever theme it is that I want to talk about.
This collection is all about soulmates. I wrote an essay about what soulmates are and how they form, then I write short, little paragraphs about each specific look. My creative process is really taking a storyline that might be relevant to me and it might be relevant to someone else in the audience in a very different way but somehow, there’s at least some kind of emotional connection there. Then I take that and then I write the essay, I come up with an inspiration journal and then I just start figuring things out. At the end of the day, I really try to look at how I can share the story that I made and how I can share that emotion with people. I really try not to look at other designers for inspiration. How can I come up with something unique if I do that?
What’s the vision for the future?
I’ve shown in New York Fashion Week already, and now in Los Angeles too. I’ve been invited to show in Paris Fashion Week, I’ve really been fortunate that I’ve been able to show my work on several occasions, my work and all is not very commercial by any means. I’m really fortunate that I’ve had some clients who have allowed me to share my work and experiences with them. I would love to continue doing that. I love teaching, and I want to continue to develop my own platform. That way I can also strengthen the voices of my students.
Thank you to Kyle Denman for letting us behind-the-scenes of your unique and marvellous creative process! We loved learning about your technique and goals as a designer, and look forward to your future endeavours.
Kyle Denman’s designs can be found on his website kyledenmanfashion.com, and on his instagram @thekyledenman. For more runway photos, check out @vanfashionweek on instagram.