Kirk Millar, the Driving Force Behind Linder’s Menswear Line

Kirk Millar, the Driving Force Behind Linder’s Menswear Line

Kirk Millar delivers his first solo men’s show for FW18.

Kirk Millar delivers his first solo men’s show for FW18.

Text: Danielle Combs

Each fashion season marks a turning point where designers are able to display their latest conceptions, allowing purveyors to witness fashion conceived in an entirely new way. This radical era of expressionism is being ushered in with menswear designers like Kirk Millar of Linder, who seek to bring forth creativity in its purest and most authentic form.

Last spring, the designer-duo behind Linder burst onto the New York scene with an undeniable presence and skill-set for designing men’s and women’s clothes, always with a downtown edge. For FW18, Sam Linder and Kirk Millar decided to shift gears by having Millar design the menswear collection while Linder focused his efforts on womenswear.

Now, with the unveiling of Millar’s first solo menswear collection, it’s apparent that the rising NY brand is well on its way to redefining the traditional men’s dress code. In an exclusive interview with VMAN, Millar discusses the deeper meaning behind his FW18 presentation, how Linder was conceived, and the reason behind designing separate collections.

Where did you grow up? And did you find that your respective upbringing influenced the way you perceive fashion or art?

I’m from a small town in Arizona called Cottonwood. It’s right near Sedona. There was a very small JCPenney where I’m from, and like, Walmart. So I think I started getting into it in high school. Buying my first fashion magazine from the grocery store was an experience. Not that it was bad. It just was, "Oh, you’re interested in fashion?" It was very odd. So I think that I learned most of what I know about fashion or how I perceive it once I moved to NY. But I think that this collection in particular, being so personal as it is, I think that there are certain elements that are very almost antique in a way. I come from that small town and I am third-generation, so my great grandmother grew up there for most of her childhood. So there is also a long lineage and a lot of artifacts from that time, so I think that’s even part of why this collection looks that way and feels that way. Almost like little treasures, in a way.

How did everything fall into place in terms of you getting involved in fashion?

I had been at just a small college studying fashion, which it was crazy that there was even any program in Arizona.. Then I started modeling in Arizona. Then I came here and did that for a couple months, went back, decided to move here. So, it was kind of a mix, but I never really ended up modeling much. I think that I ended up learning more about myself creatively by the steps that I took once I got here.

How did you and Sam meet? And from there how was Linder conceived as a brand?

It started out while I was working in a store. At the time, he was doing art photography and came into the store. I think he was killing time before he was meeting up with his girlfriend at the time, and we were talking about what I was in interested in. At that point, I was working for a set designer and doing interior design. He was moving into a new place, so he was like, "Let me see if there’s any work that you might be interested in." I know he had some other people in mind at that time, and then two or three months later from that interaction, he popped back into the store and was like, "OK, let’s work together on this." So we did that briefly, and from there, we became friends.

I think both of us felt like there was some kind of connection there as far as sensibility or interest in certain things, so it just came from there. So then we started -- he  was asking me what I was interested in, and I said menswear. We talked about doing an online store. So it’s been quite a windy road from buying other people’s stuff, which now I can’t even imagine doing because the activity is so different than designing. We started selling our own stuff and other people’s. It was always with the idea that we would offer something different, and I think that that’s the vein that stays true to what we do.

How would you describe the Linder man?

I think everyone, these days especially, doesn't really buy into a head-to-toe brand. I think they’re usually mixing a lot of different things. I would say our guy is someone who knows what they’re buying and likes to buy into many different like-minded, interesting brands. It’s always hard to say that, but I feel like, nowadays, it’s much more eclectic than it used to be.

What is your creative process like when you’re designing a collection?

This one in particular because it was the first one solo for men’s, or for me in general, and I kind of stepped away from office logistics as much as I could for about a month. I was driving everybody here crazy because I was locked up in a room basically, and I got in a quiet place and allowed myself to follow instincts that I don’t think I had in a long time. I think as you go along, you tend to push those aside because we’re so busy. So stepping away from it and almost having a sabbatical of sorts in our office was the starting point, and I had somewhat of a color palette in mind, and it clicked what I wanted to say with the collection. Some of that stayed the same, but it also really morphed into a completely different thing by the end.

How did you and Sam decide that this season you were going to split up womenswear and menswear?

I think the honest answer to that question is we had been doing many seasons together. Not many many, but you know, we went through some seasons together. I think [with] the last one, we realized maybe that we were pushing against each other sometimes instead of being able to express ourselves. I think he had really been the one interested in adding women’s. That was always something which he was like, "This is our natural next step." I, from the start, was kind of really more into menswear.

I definitely consider Linder to be one of the new rising forces in fashion. Do you see your brand changing any way how fashion is perceived in New York?

It’s always hard to see the effect of the outside because I think so much of what we do as personal, and through the six months you’re working on it, it feels like it’s really you’re kind of reaching out into the dark and unsure of where it’s going. I think that would be a hope for sure. New York is full of so many creative people, and I think I realized that a lot of commercial stuff is here, which is not bad. "Commercial" is not a dirty word. I think it’s more just that even the way [we work with] outside people that we work with, we do push them. Even our factories have to be pushed to try new things that they’re not being asked to do by anyone else. But I hope it does change the way New York is perceived because I think there are a lot of creative people here. I think that it’s kind of a shame that sometimes, even Men’s Fashion Week, not just in New York but even in London where it’s so crazy, and I feel like they have such a short amount of time. It feels like it used to last a little longer. So I think that we’re in an interesting time where you can see people moving their shows around. We obviously changed the way we’re doing it as well for men’s.

What are some improvements you’d like to see happen in the fashion industry?

I think, especially in men’s, I would love to see the calendars change a bit. I think that men's being last and then potentially being seen as the weakest of men’s weeks, I would love to see us being able to start so that there is a bit more of an advantage because nobody’s looking at Paris and being like, "Oh, well we used all of our budge," you know? But I think that’s something I would love to see change. I would also love to see more designers take risks, and for stores and buyers to take more risks because I do think there is room for non-advertisers, it tends to still be supportive. I think a lot of brands are playing it safe. A lot of retailers are playing it safe. It would be nice to see a little bit more of a perspective from certain designers.

UP NEXT

Peek Inside Patrick Gibson’s Fashion Week Photo Diary