Interview with BobbyK of Austin Fashion Week
Aug 17, 2012 - by Melissa Hebin
BobbyK is not the typical art school snob youre likely to find in the fashion industry. His desire to face his worst fears, along with a fiery Irish background and condition that causes him to see music, has led him to become a strong designer. His edgy clothes and equally edgy attitude make him a fascinating force to be reckoned with.
We had a chat with Bobby Kelley, the designer behind the brand, and got an earful of compelling stories and charming sass. Read the interview, look through the gallery and check out his collection from Austin Fashion Week. We know you wont be disappointed.
Studio shots - Daryna Barykina Photography
NYC shots - Delaney Schenker
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Who is Bobby K as a brand?
There are two parts of BobbyK womens and mens. The BobbyK woman is a downtown girl with an edge. Shes naturally charismatic, not afraid of color and theres a certain dark side to her. The BobbyK man is a guy who likes to be daring and try new things. Hes a confident, independent individual.
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Where did you get your start?
I started designing when I was 16. It was casual, just for fun. I had maxed out my high school schedule with art classes, so I started taking portfolio classes. I went into fashion design class with a friend; she hated it and dropped out halfway through, but I got into it.
After school I moved to Gainesville, Florida and started pushing really hard to pursue it further. I started in accessories purses, wallets, that kind of thing and then moved on to apparel.
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From early in your career, youve pumped out collections with 40, 60, even 80 looks, which is a lot for a budding designer. Whats the secret to your speed?
Im synesthetic, which is awesome. Synesthesia is a condition in which your senses overlap; when I hear music, I see color. I can taste colors. So when I listen to a song, that song will immediately generate itself into an emotion, a feeling, a style I can listen to a song and create an entire 20 or 40 pieces out of it. As I hear it I can see the flow and the structure of the garment I can see the colors, fabrics and shapes, the girl thats wearing it its all there. With that, I can go from concept to full collection in about a month.
As far as my sewing speed, people think Im crazy. It takes me an afternoon to make a dress. I learned to sew through hundreds of years of trial and error from an Irish immigrant family. When I need to put something together, I already know what not to do. I skipped over a lot of those mistakes that other designers have to encounter.
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You mentioned that you went straight from high school to fashion design. Have you experienced any difficulties in the industry from taking such a direct track?
I learned everything from my grandma. Shes old school, old world; she had to sew to survive as a kid. She taught me pattern-making techniques in the old farm-clothes style. I may not have gone to classes, but I bought all the textbooks and taught myself. I think fashion is all about newness and doing something different, and I offer that from having a different background. I think its admirable that Ive busted my ass to get to this point.
Nine out of ten designers that I meet, I get along with. Theres no reason for me not to. Though theres always that one designer that says ugh, you dont have a formal education? To that I say get out, bitch. Designing clothes is what I was built to do.
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What is the inspiration for your latest collection?
Style-wise, I was inspired by the band Sleigh Bells. The way that their music comes across to me is very hard and soft at the same time.
Really, this year has been hard for me personally. Every New Year I give myself resolutions that are personal growth opportunities. This year it is to overcome my fears, like my fears of snakes and flying. I got over the fear of flying. Snakes are still on my docket.
The fear that inspired this lies in the fact that Im a very private person. I dont tell many people who I really am. Ive tried to become more open and talk about my feelings more. This collection is fearless in this one, Im designing for me more than anyone else. Ive gotten a better response this time than ever before, so it seems to be working. I think the wearer can see more of me in it.
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What are you looking forward to in the future of the brand?
Im looking forward to being picked up and sold in more stores. Im getting out there more. Im going through a re-branding process, which is bringing BobbyK to the next level. My website has been re-designed by Parisleaf, a sustainable company that plants trees for every order they get. Patrick Sanders, the lead designer, put my vision together 100%. Im super happy with it.
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