Designer profile: Kevin Kramp

Local fashion superstar Kevin Kramp combines custom-knit fabric with edgy patterns to create a look for the bravest troubadours.

Kramps knitwear walks the runways at Voltage. PHOTO COURTESY KEVIN KRAMP

Kramp’s knitwear walks the runways at Voltage. PHOTO COURTESY KEVIN KRAMP

by John Sand

While University of Minnesota students were downing piña coladas in Cancun and stumbling inevitably into the latest âÄúGirls Gone WildâÄù video, Voltage designers were hemming last-minute garment choices, training their models to walk and deciding what to wear to their own fashion show. âÄúVoltage: Fashion AmplifiedâÄù is Minneapolis’ annual fashion/rock show, featuring local designers and local bands for MNFashion Week . A&E had the luxury of sitting down with Kevin Kramp, one of the Twin Cities foremost avant-garde fashion designers, whose work has already been shown in everything from the French magazine âÄúWADâÄù to Japanese blog âÄúManishtama.âÄù Due to his international attention, he’s been invited to show in several cities over the course of the year. Kramp’s innovative knitwear is not for the light of heart. With heavy, blended fiber and intricate draping, his work is suited for only those stylish nomads interested in finally donning a truly original outfit. First of all, describe your line for Voltage. Who do you see wearing it? Who is it designed for? Why did you choose the heavy knit fabric? I design men’s knitwear with luxury fibers of mohair, cashmere, angora, camel, wool, cotton, as well as specialty silks, textured nylons and lurex . I knit all of my own fabrics on knitting machines of various gauge, and they are highly textural, patterned, and varied in stitch technique and fiber combinations. I canâÄôt help but gravitate to more pattern, more color, more shape âÄî more, more, more âÄî so the presence of all this consideration definitely is a signature of my work. All to satisfy my cuckoo tendencies of beauty. I appeal to individuals who can interpret a garment with their own brain, instead of being told what to wear and how. I do not suffer fools, nor does my work. When did you start designing clothing? I began in the menswear program [at the University of the Arts London âÄì Central Saint Martins], but for every project I continually designed knitwear. I was never able to make any of my designs because I didnâÄôt know how to knit, and so I thought very carefully for three weeks to change to the knitwear program, and finally did so. When making a garment, all the work is already done, whereas in knit, I start from the beginning and make/control everything. What about heavy jersey attracted you? You have a very distinct cutting and draping style, can you speak to this? Knit is intuitive, organic, much closer to the feeling of human experience. Wovens are forced, hard to understand, uncompromising. Where do you draw inspiration from (locally, visually, digitally, etc)? My God, what doesn’t inspire me? The natural world. Men. Food. Color. The possibility of creating that one brief moment when someone is taken aback by beauty. Your work has been criticized by [Pioneer Press’s Shopping and Fashion Columnist Editor] Ali Kaplan for not being wearable enough. On her blog, she called it the âÄúhigh fashion Snuggie for men.âÄù How do you respond to this comment? Undoubtedly, my work is not for everyone, and I am genuinely glad that my work can spark a strong reaction either positively or negatively. It is the boring, the mediocre, the bland that I fear most in life. Not the hideously bad, but the hideously average. Wearable ‘enough’? What is ‘enough’? Recently, you signed on with St. Croix Collections. Can you tell me about the work that you’ve been doing down in Winona ? I am a MenâÄôs Knitwear and Collection Designer for St. Croix Collections, a luxury menâÄôs sportswear label now celebrating its 50th year this year. I am one of three designers responsible for the design of all knitwear, wovens, trousers and denim, leathers and outerwear, and hosiery and we travel six weeks a year to Paris, Milan, New York and Las Vegas for trade shows and trend research. The most cuckoo exciting part of it is that we are a total vertical operation, meaning all manufacture takes place on site, including all industrial knitting, laundry and finishing, cutting, sewing, piecing and hand-finishing, inspection, shipping and design. I can design a knit stitch idea on paper in the morning, and that afternoon the actual sample is on my desk for review. ItâÄôs bonkers! If you had to compare your knitwear to a fast food chain restaurant, who would you pick and why? A Dairy Queen blizzard, naturally … a mish-mash of damn good flavors, not for the faint of heart, sweet on the outside, but cold-hearted on the inside.