The Great Escape With NYC's Most Fashionable Kim Jenkins
I think most of us as young teenagers have always had that dream of moving to NYC one day. I know I have. Most of the 80's movies I watched with my mom were filmed there and her fashion magazines were full of beautiful people living in beautiful New York City. I longed to be a fancy NYC lady! I was fascinated when I was super young and started traveling there frequently in my 20's. When asked East or West I was always like East..duh . But then I went to San Francisco and that changed everything for me. So rewinding, In Dallas I worked for Neill Corporation who was the Aveda distributor. Before I inherited my own territory I worked with all of the territories incorporating retail programs into salons that are still used today. I loved this because it allowed me to see so many different areas and meet so many different people. I loved the days I worked in Fort Worth, Texas. Funky Town is sooooo different from uptown Dallas and I just needed that great escape every once in a while! I spent Fridays In a fabulous salon called Salon Moda on Camp Bowie . Here I would meet one of my best friends (still to the day), a very cute fun boy I dated after my divorce, and the most fashionable "it girl" I have ever laid eyes on...Kim Jenkins. I mean working in such a fashion forward industry everyone was quite fashionable but this babe stood out! We have stayed in touch over the many years via social media and I love love love seeing all the things Kim is doing right now ! She made the great escape from Texas to the very beloved NYC and is killing it! So grab some coffee and read away!!!
Kim Jenkins is a New York-based educator and graduate of the M.A. Fashion Studies program at Parsons The New School for Design. Prior to her studies at Parsons, Kim interned as a curatorial assistant for the Dallas Museum of Art’s first two fashion exhibitions, “African Headwear: Beyond Fashion” and “The FashionWorld of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk”. During her time at Parsons, Kim co-curated with her classmates New York’s first-ever fashion exhibition on the work of designer Giorgio di Sant’Angelo and subsequently co-founded two student-run fashion publications sponsored by the M.A. Fashion Studies program: Fashion Studies Journal and BIAS: The Journal of Dress Practice. In May 2013, Kim presented her master’s thesis, “That Was My Veil”: Sartorial and Cosmetic Constructions of Resilience in Divorced Women, which investigated the role clothing and cosmetics play in transforming the self in effort to attain the psychological trait of resilience. Upon graduation, Kim began serving as a part-time lecturer at Parsons and was appointed Visiting Assistant Professor to the Department of Fashion at Pratt Institute. In 2014, Kim accepted the role as organizer and host of "Fashion Talks” at Pratt, a conversation series with luminaries shaping contemporary fashion design and scholarship. Kim currently leads the courses “Contemporary Fashion” and “Contextualizing Fashion”, which guide fashion design students through fashion history and critical fashion theory, respectively. Kim's next endeavors include a course taught at Parsons entitled “Fashion and Race” and an expansion of the publication she co-founded, Fashion Studies Journal.
Kim Jenkins Interview:
-Growing up in Texas...Did you always have your eye on NYC?
The fascination with New York happened as a pre-teen, when I had discovered “fashion” and where the action was. My interest in fashion was present as a small child, though– I was a sponge when it came to anything that communicated fashion to me in Texas growing up like “Style with Elsa Klench” on television, sifting through Vogue magazines on someone’s coffee table and going shopping with my mom.
-Officially holding a Master's Degree In fashion Studies from Parsons...describe that moment in time?
It was a moment of satisfaction and accomplishment that affirmed my passion for dress and the intimate significance of why we wear what we wear. It was a beautiful struggle from start to finish–I was broke most of the time and had enrolled in grad school at an older age than the rest of my classmates, but I was awarded a scholarship, won an award for my contributions to the program and secured a job as a professor.
- A day in the life of a NY based educator specializing in fashion theory?
Although I’m a professor, I’m not tenured, which means nothing is promised. However, being a lecturer at two of the country's finest design schools (Pratt Institute and Parsons The New School for Design) enables freedom in guiding my work/life balance and being immersed around creativity and innovative thinking regularly. On a day to day basis, when I’m not in the classroom, I’m meeting potential collaborators or colleagues for coffee or cocktails, working in my home office on passion projects and attending numerous social and educational events related to my field of study. A couple of months ago I traveled to Seattle to present research with a few of my peers who are also my friends. It’s kind of thrilling to be able to that sort of thing and I’m lucky that I’m able to explore fashion theory for a living.
-Interning as the curatorial assistant at The DMA for their first two fashion exhibits..what was that like? What were your hugest take aways?
It was incredible. I’m indebted to Kevin Tucker, former Decorative Arts Curator and Dr. Roslyn Walker, curator of the Arts of Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific–I basically cold-emailed the Dallas Museum of Art inquiring about an opportunity to volunteer as a curatorial intern, and as luck would have it, they needed someone with an interest in fashion as they were organizing two of their first-ever exhibitions related to fashion and adornment, respectively. During my nearly 10-month stint as an intern, I gained invaluable insight into how a large-scale exhibition is conceptualized and unveiled to the public. Also, needless to say, I learned a great deal about African headdresses and the oeuvre of Jean Paul Gaultier.
-So intrigued with your thesis "That was my Veil" . How long did this take you to prepare and what was the inspiration behind it?
I was one of those grad students who entered the MA Fashion Studies program know exactly what I wanted to investigate for my thesis, inspired by a former co-worker who took advantage of the transformative powers of dress, cosmetics and “body projects” (altering the body mechanically or surgically) to attain resilience after a divorce. The writing and interviewing process took about six months, and although I submitted my thesis in 2013, my topic remains relevant in the media as well as a fascinating conversation at social gatherings. Whenever I explain my thesis to someone, they can either relate or they at least know someone who can relate.
-Tell me about your"Fashion Talks" In depth. and these are open to the public, correct?
“Fashion Talks” is a conversation series organized by the Department of Fashion at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. The talks happen every fall, and I’ve hosted the talks since 2014. It’s a dream job because I’m able to participate in the organizing process, brainstorming conversation topics and inviting our brilliant guests. The topics and guests that we pursue must accomplish two things: educate our students and guests and progress the culture and system of fashion. Past guests have included popular fashion critic Simon Doonan, CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist Becca McCharen, avant garde designer Gabi Asfour (of threeASFOUR), fashion editor Katharine K. Zarrella and fashion designer Adam Selman. Past talks have addressed ethics in fashion production, cultural appropriation, under-researched topics in fashion theory and the state of menswear.
- What has been your fave "Fashion Talk" event to date and why?
I’ve actually enjoyed all of them, but if I had to choose, I’d say my conversation with designer Adam Selman last fall. He was insightful, honest and fun, and doesn’t take himself too seriously which is refreshing in the world of fashion. Added to that, he brought along his friend Amy Sedaris, who joined in on the Q&A! Our students are still telling me about how much they enjoyed that talk.
- You have talked about conscientious shopping. How do you be more of a conscientious shopper?
If the fashion business had to depend upon me, it would most certainly collapse. My method of consumption isn’t realistic for many, so I can only make suggestions as to how someone can be a more conscientious shopper. I rarely purchase new clothing–my wardrobe consists of vintage, secondhand, gifts/heirlooms and one-of-a-kind pieces designed by fashion students. I’m not interested in buying new clothing–with the exception of lingerie, leg wear, shoes and athletic wear. Of course, I realize that at some point the old clothing I wear was once new and mass produced, but if I can help it, I don’t purchase newly mass-produced clothing. If you must buy new and shop at places that produce trend-based items on a mass scale, please consider the labor practices behind those companies or brands and the environmental cycle involved in the items you’re purchasing.
- Hugest Aha's from your Stephen Burrows conversation?
I’d say his casual and intuitive approach to fashion. He understands that his trajectory was filled with luck as he (much like many other design students) was simply doing what he loved. He was a young design student at F.I.T. just “designing for his friends” and next thing you know, he’s offered his own boutique space at Henri Bendell and then whisked away to France to be a sort of U.S. fashion design ambassador during "The Battle of Versailles Fashion Show” back in 1973. By the way, he never liked the use of the word “battle” when describing that legendary event in fashion history.
- Where do you shop? (NYC)
Beacon’s Closet and Amarcord Vintage. Also Century 21, which is incredibly divisive because it sometimes makes people cringe like Bed, Bath & Beyond (and I love BBB).
- Where do you shop? (Fort Worth)
No shops in Fort Worth at the moment.
-What is the most stylish spot in NYC? And the most stylish spot anywhere in the US?
I enjoy seeing what people wear for brunch at The Smile in SoHo and the AfroPunk Fest in Brooklyn. SoHo, L.E.S. and Bushwick has some of the best style that I observe on a consistent basis. In the U.S.? Texas, of course.
- Who is your style inspiration?
Alexa Chung, Catherine Baba, early Abbey Lincoln and images and clothes from the 1930s, 60s and 70s.
- What is your guilty pleasure?
None that are guilty.
- What was your first fashion moment?
There’s a photo of me being held as a baby at my Christening, and I had this deeply intent stare towards my godmother’s fancy hat. Which explains my fancy hat collection.
-Oldest thing in your closet?
It’s difficult to parse my vintage wardrobe–probably one of my hats or a piece of jewelry.
-What are you wearing today?
An early 1970s navy blue pinafore micro mini dress.
- How do you practice beauty from the inside out?
Through 28 ounces of room temperature lemon water a day. And compassion.
- Best advice you have ever received?
One key piece of advice is to stay in tune with your unique perspective and gift on this planet, as no one else has it. Also I went to hear RuPaul speak at the New York Public Library and he says wherever he goes, he locates the EXIT sign.
-Spring Summer item you are coveting?
I don’t really have anything on my wish list–I typically find the items I fall in love with sporadically.
-Advice you would give to women waking up and looking in the mirror and getting dressed in the morning?
Fashion yourself in way that expresses how much you love yourself and how you want to feel.
- Advice you would give to the young woman wanting to move to NYC and pursue a career in fashion?
Do it if it will challenge you in a positive way and help you discover your boundless potential.
- Fave places to eat in NYC? Fave coffee?
Los Tacos No. 1, Sweet Chick, 983 and Forrest Point in Bushwick, Ample Hills Creamery, The Smile, Fonda just to name a few. NY has developed and refined my dependence on coffee, so I typically brew my coffee at home. If I must buy it by the cup, I go to OCafe, Joe’s, Think, Peck’s and Dillinger's (Brooklyn) since they are around home and work.
-One thing you miss most about Texas?
Clean air and scenic landscapes–though I can also find that upstate in New York, I just haven’t pursued that yet. Oh, and the best Mexican food and barbecue!
-Whats next for Kim?
More teaching, more talks and a fashion theory-related project that I’d rather not describe at the moment because I’m superstitious.
See, such a babe ! Cannot wait to see what she adds to her resume and closet in a year !!!
Shop my favorite "weekend in NYC" items here ..