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Fashion Graduate Profile: Justin Kennedy

Justin Kennedy, 2008 BFA Textile and Fashion Graduate

Justin was selected by 2000 Guest of Honor Oscar de la Renta for a design internship at Balmain in Paris, France. Today Justin has Kennedy Design Studio, where he creates textile designs for Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Zac Posen, Gaelyn and Cianfarani. He also has his namesake label, Kennedy Collection.

Expand on what you did to get where you are today.

I started KENNEDY DESIGN STUDIO in 2002 with Nobue Shinohara, 2001 Academy of Art University BFA Textile Design Graduate. I picked up the phone and cold called people to set up appointments for prints. I kept calling until I got an appointment and went from there. I started KENNEDY COLLECTION in 2007 to get my own line out there for people to see.
What did you do when you interned for Oscar de la Renta at Balmain in Paris?

I worked with Oscar and his design team in the design studio sketching ideas for the show, dressing the fit model, helping choose accessories such as buttons, feathers, etc. I was the only intern ever allowed to work with Oscar in the studio.

What was he like? 

Oscar is a great man - very respectable, polite, talented, generous and charming.

How did it help you with your career?

I got a first-hand look at the full process of a couture show, from the sketching of ideas to seeing wonderful one-of-a-kind embroideries come from Lesage to going through fittings and finally the end result of the show. This knowledge helps my career. I also met many people in the industry like Francisco Costa who is now the creative director at Calvin Klein. He was working with Oscar at Balmain at the time I was there. I now develop prints for the Calvin Klein collections.
What are you working on now?

I have just finished and shipped out the Spring 2008 KENNEDY COLLECTION to stores. I’m developing the Spring 2009 collection, teaching online at Academy of Art University, developing prints for Calvin Klein Spring 2009, and working on t-shirt designs for DKNY.

We hear you get some last minute calls from clients.

I had done tons of development with Calvin Klein for Spring 2008. In the end I was told nothing would be used. Then I get a call at 4 pm on Sunday, the show was at 4 pm on Tuesday. I had 48 hours!

They needed me to come in. They were adding more prints last minute to the collection but didn't know if there would be enough time. Fortunately, I was in the area finishing up an Academy of Art University portfolio review near Bryant Park, so I stopped by to see what they needed. I went back to my studio to start developing, getting screens ready, and printing. They had a car pick up the printed fabric Monday night around midnight and it what came down the runway the next afternoon.

Favorite thing about New York City?

Wow. Favorite thing about New York. Being able to get around the city is very easy and it is the fashion capital of the states. I love the seasons except for the hot, humid summer.

Favorite thing about San Francisco?
The second fashion capital of the states. Love the consistent weather and it's a clean city.

Favorite thing about the School of Fashion?
The textile lab and being able to express my own creative style as a designer.

Where have you found inspiration lately?
Looking at the Maasai Tribe in Kenya and Northern Tanzania. Using the natural way they wrap fabric around their bodies for protection and mixing that with a modern New York style.

What is your most valued possession?
Nobby [Nobue] and Amber [their dog].


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