Sunday, August 2, 2015

KENNETH D. KING: An Interview about Creativity

I recently had the privilege of visiting Kenneth D. King in his studio in New York City to interview him about his creative process.

Kenneth is a very accomplished designer.  He has designed for stars such as Elton John and Geena Davis.  He designs for NY elite.  He has a beautiful piece in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.  Not only that, he is well known and beloved in the sewing community.  He travels all around the U.S. teaching sewing and design.  He is a contributing editor of Threads magazine.  He has published many CDs on a variety of sewing topics which you can purchase from his website, Kenneth D.  He also recently published a novel, All Grown Up Now: A Friendship in Three Acts, which you can purchase at  To me, however, he is Professor King from whom I have taken several courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.  From my personal experience and observations, Professor King cares deeply that his students learn, grow and develop.  As many know, his instructions are clear and he knows how to convey information.  He is down-to-earth and approachable.  He has a generous spirit, freely sharing his vast knowledge.  He is, most certainly, the ideal teacher.   

I find him to be quite an impressive individual but what I am most in awe about is his creativity and thus this interview…which follows:

TJ:  I am in awe by your creativity.  It seems to me to be in a constant flow.  Do you ever get a creative block?

KDK:  Well, I don’t really get a creative block because what I like to do is refer to my binders.  I have ideas in a series of binders.  A lot of people have sketchbooks.  I don’t draw very well.  So for me, my ideas are technique based.  I create samples and take lots of notes and put them in the appropriate binder so that if I am stuck for an idea, i go to the binders.  When I start creating, I think…what am I looking at now…what kinds of things.  

Like for example, when I moved to New York City and started teaching at FIT, on my way to the school, I would walk past the hair goods places.  So I got to see the hair goods pieces hanging in the windows.  And just seeing that made me really really want to play with those products so that’s where the hair extension goods came from.  That’s kind of how it works.

TJ:  So you are inspired by your environment?

KDK:  I would say so.  I also like to look at architecture.  This neighborhood is part of what’s called "Ladies Mile."  This particular building was built in the 1840’s.  It was a townhouse originally on 18th and Broadway.  All the buildings around here had very fancy department stores and it was a very fancy shopping district in the 1880’s through the 1900’s so there is all this magnificent architecture I use as inspiration.

TJ:  Wow!  Fascinating.  So there are people who say “I am not creative.”  Do you think creativity is something you just have or is it something you could nurture.

KDK:  Well, first off, I believe everyone has something they are creative at.  A lot of people who say they are not creative are thinking of the visual arts.  But there are people who are creative singing or dancing or teaching.  Creativity manifests in many different ways in life.  I do think that everyone has creativity.  I also really really think it’s like a muscle.  The more you use it, the more it comes.  I know people who haven’t sewn in years and feel like they can’t sew anymore.  They don’t remember sewing.  But they just start sewing and it’s amazing how in 6 months time, how creative they become and the ideas they get.  

TJ:  So what are you up to now?

Aside from my summer wear,
For summer:  3 jean style pants made from quilting cottons
 Kenneth purchased at Janie's Sewing Corner, Cleveland, OH 

Close-up of one of the pants

I am really intrigued by my projects with Fortuny fabrics.  I did an article on Fortuny fabrics for Threads magazine [August / September 2015, Issue #180, page 62] because I am a contributing editor, and I have been gifted with Fortuny fabrics in the past.  I have 3 different rather large quantities of the Fortuny fabric.  The most recent fiancee is working on a house in San Francisco.  And the previous owners had Fortuny drapes in their dining room and in their living room so when they moved out, they left the drapes and the drapes got sent to me in New York and that’s where the green frock coat came from:

What I love about the green frock coat is that if you really look at it, the color is not even because those drapes were sunbleached.  I find it’s more interesting in my mind.  So when I got that fabric, because it’s such a wild color, I really really really wanted to make an 18th century style coat but I didn’t want it to look like a costume or like I was recreating a costume so I constructed it like a jean jacket so it has the double topstitching; it has the rivets on the pockets; nail-in buttons.  The embroidery was from a place called Penn & Fletcher, my fiancee is one of the business partners there, and it was a program for a Broadway production of Dangerous Liaisons, so the embroidery program existed.  The challenge was adapting it to this particular jacket.  And the colors I chose….I didn’t want it to look like an 18th century coat…so the colors I chose were very much 1968 instead of 1768.  

TJ: I love the blue colors...

KDK:  I wanted it to look like something Jimi Hendrix would wear.  It was about 40 hours if I add in the sampling.  When you choose colors for something like this, you have to stitch it out in different combinations to see if it’s actually going to look the way you think it should look.  So between the sampling and all of the embroidery on the piece it was 40 hours.  I ran the machine so I was able to keep the cost down.  

TJ:  It’s beautiful!  So when you are working on something that involves a lot of intricate work, how do you like to work.  Do you have music in the background or do you work in silence and you’re totally focused on what you’re doing or you have rock music playing?  What is your ambience?

KDK:  It depends.  If it’s pattern work, I generally have talk radio on because pattern work is really geometry and I guess having talk radio kind of grounds me in the real world because that is what you have to do.  If I am doing embellishment or that sort of thing, I tend to have more lyrical music…something that is not distracting.

TJ:  Thank you so much for sharing of yourself and I look forward to seeing more of your creations!

KDK:  Thank you!

Above, not mentioned in the interview, is what Kenneth calls the Bark coat made out of pieces of felt.  This coat has no vertical seam lines.  

Ha!  I just had to have a Selfie!
Happy sewing!


  1. Great interview! I had no idea Kenneth had published a novel, nor that he can't draw well!
    Off to buy the novel on amazon....

    1. He's certainly an interesting fellow, isn't he! Yes, I must read that novel too!