Local designer Kenneth "KAS" Flanagan may be self-taught, but that didn't keep him from tearing up the stage at New York Fashion Week four years ago. He's also the first African-American couture designer to have his clothes showcased and sold in Sak's Fifth Avenue. Now Flanagan talks to Niteside on his journey in the fashion industry, D.C.'s fashion scene and dressing Rihanna for VOGUE.
What's your take on the D.C. fashion scene?
I hate to say this, but not too much fashion exists in D.C. because we are afraid to take that extra mile. D.C. residents may sometimes be scared to take risks due to us being such a conservative, political city. [But] I think there's so many people here from different cultures that D.C. does have the potential to be a fashion city, with more effort.
Your design was recently featured on pop star Rihanna in VOGUE; how was that for you?
It was the best feeling in the world! For a long time I was a ghostwriter to a number of designers and Max Azria was one of them. She wore a dress in Vogue that I designed awhile back for him and it was so cool to see. I've dressed her twice, and it was a privilege.
What's your biggest challenge as a designer?
Money! A lot of designers don't have the capital or resources they need to build a successful brand. I think it's a challenge for all rising designers, but if you're consistently great, the money will come.
When was the first time you realized designing was what you wanted to do?
It actually started with my mother; she was a designer as well. I'd see some of the things she'd work on and even as a young kid it blew my mind. I started drawing at the age of four, had my first art collection at the age of six, and it kind of manifested from there. I've never gone to school for fashion; it just seemed to come natural to me.
Who's your biggest inspiration in the fashion industry?
Tom Ford, hands down. I think he embodies what fashion is. His vibe, the sexiness that he puts into each design, there's no one like him.
Where would you like to see your career in the next 20 years?
I want to be a fashion icon and an icon of humanity. I want to help lift others up. There's nothing more important to me than giving back and inspiring others to do the same.