KEVIN / FASHION DESIGNER & COFOUNDER OF PIPERI | ALAS / HOBOKEN NJ
Meet Kevin. This is a man that has overcome quite a bit and has never had anything handed to him. By day, he’s a fashion designer in the corporate world and by night, he cofounded Piperi | Alas, a womenswear line of flowing garments tailored to perfection. Kevin has some incredible dreams and will absolutely not stop until he achieves them. So do I believe that Kevin is a change maker in the design world? Yes. So do I think Kevin is Blooming? Heck yes!
HOW WILL YOU BLOOM IN THE NEXT YEAR?
The most obvious answer is that I will Bloom in the sense of growing in design and in my career. This past August, I launched a women’s RTW [ready to wear] line, Piperi | Alas, with a long time friend and also started a new job developing young men’s contemporary RTW products in September. I’d like to think that both experiences will open up a new headspace for myself which is always exciting for any creative person. Aside from my professional aspirations, my personal self is always blooming. I hope to gain a more refined understanding of my profession, become more mature in my thought processes, more compassionate in my judgments, and more committed in my choices. I always say that “I’m under constant renovation.” At times I’m torn in terms of where my end all be all is and I think this recent career change will help me get clarity. What actually makes me happy? I’m always on that pursuit.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PROCESS IN FASHION?
I had a sketchbook when I was 11 and what first inspired me, I hate to admit this, was Project Runway. It opened my eyes up to the fact that there are actual people behind the creation of these garments. It wasn’t until I was 17 that my stepmother came across that same sketchbook when I was moving into my father’s house after growing up with my mother. Like all mothers she couldn’t help herself and pushed me to explore this further. She got me my first sewing lessons, illustration classes at the FIT, and the list continues. My stepmother has been a muse to me, like a guardian angel helping me find myself and she still continues to do so.
I went to school for womenswear in Philly. I quickly learned it was quite different from the small reality that Project Runway showed me. I learned that it takes hard work, conviction in yourself and your designs, and a great amount of intellect, which at 19, I lacked.
Being a gay man, I look at women differently because I see women for who they are. I appreciate the female body and its shapes and forms; and further, all the different shapes that you can add to that body through fashion to accentuate and create movement. I love the movement of a woman’s hair when the wind catches it and also how [the wind] sweeps up the dress, it’s like a silent film in my head. I was always fascinated by clothing and how much it accentuates a figure.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO PRESS PLAY AND START A COMPANY?
I’d had it! I had been working so hard helping other people achieve their dreams and make their millions. I kept thinking, “What about my dreams?” I couldn’t quit my job because I’m not an heir to some Fortune 500 company [laughs] but I knew that I was my own person, I could create my own destiny, and shouldn’t wait for my millions to fall from the sky. It was from that point that Pietra, my friend and co-founder of Piperi | Alas, and I decided to join forces and make our dreams into a reality. We are very similar in an aesthetic and work sense. We both will fight and tear down whatever we have to in order achieve this dream. In hindsight it’s eerie just how in each other’s minds we are but also confirms what a no-brainer choice this partnership was.
I can circle back to blooming by learning to figure out what I want and what it is that I want to accomplish. As a creative person, it becomes about what I’m willing to sacrifice to get closer to my dream. What sacrifices am I okay with? What sacrifices I am not okay with?
TELL ME ABOUT A PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL OBSTACLE.
Everyone has had his or her fair share of obstacles. It’s been tumultuous in the fashion industry in terms of how unstable it is and how critical it can be. My biggest obstacle is myself. I need to overcome myself because I am always second-guessing and I’m my own worst critic. It’s awkward when someone compliments my work. I’m unable to see what they see. What I see is only the struggle and how many mistakes it took to get to the finished product. I see only flaws and where there is room for improvement. I need to take a step back, not be such a perfectionist.
A major motivation of mine is a conversation I had while interviewing for Ralph Rucci a while back. During this conversation I was told, “You do not have a deep understanding of fashion and we don’t want you. We’re not running a school here.” When I first told my family that I was going to school for fashion, their first reaction was, “You’re not going to make it. You’re not good enough. It’s too hard.”
Those have been the voices in the back of my head that I have to battle everyday. I feel this relentless urge to prove myself rather than believe in myself.
HOW DID YOU PRESS ON THROUGH THAT?
I’m stubborn as hell and a big supporter of the fake it ‘til you make it mantra. When I come across negativity or don’t get a job that I want, I bitch and moan and vent and then I harden my shell, hone my abilities, and carry on like it never happened. But I still sometimes very much struggle with my own belief in myself. Hate can sometimes fuel the fire to push on, for sure.
It hurts, though, when the people that are supposed to be your pillow turn out to be the knife. It’s a mind fuck. I’ve had family say, “Maybe you just aren’t that good, Kev. If they wanted you they would make room and find the money to pay you.” As a person and even more so as a creative person, you have to reach a point where you truly don’t care to please anyone but yourself. And when you do finally reach that moment of “I don’t give a flying fuck about your opinion,” it’s that moment when you find relief. For me it’s a slow game of tug-of-war but I can feel myself starting to win.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE COMING OUT?
I’m very lucky that I don’t have an extremely tragic story and that I grew up in a community that was educated and more open-minded. I had the typical bullying shit and maybe it’s a character thing but I never let it get to me. At the end of the day, I can’t give into that bullshit because you don’t even know me, really.
I didn’t realize that I was gay until I was forced to think about it when someone in Junior High called me a faggot. I obviously knew what “gay” meant but I didn’t really know if that applied to me or not. I never thought about it and I didn’t even know how gay men had sex. So I looked into it… and I was like, “Okay, you’re right. Congratulations! You put the square peg into the square hole. You’ve labeled a gay guy!”
It was hurtful at times because I was a young kid. I wasn’t bothering anyone and I didn’t want to be bothered. Now that I’ve gotten older and assumed a gay man’s lifestyle, I’ve grown more comfortable with my surroundings and my family. So comfortable that my stepmom can tell you about my first “gay encounter!” [laughs]
SO, TELL ME ABOUT WHEN YOU LEARNED ABOUT FEMINISM.
Before I was old enough to really form my own opinion, I saw things in black and white and didn’t read too much into anything. Boys were boys and girls and girls and that was it. I didn’t sexualize, I didn’t compare, I didn’t judge. I just saw people as people. The only differences I saw between people were the color of their skin, their height, the color of their eyes and hair. None of those observations made me feel positively or negatively or superior or inferior; whether it was a male or female, (straight or gay didn't exist to me when I was a kid), black or white or Asian or etc. As an adult I try remain nonjudgmental, however, I can be extremely judgmental and critical but never because of skin or gender or sexual orientation.
I think I truly learned what feminism was, aside from in my high school teachings, when I truly embraced my sexual identity as a gay man and when it started to affect me in my adult life. I learned that I wasn't thought of as an equal. I could truly understand that what women wanted was exactly what I also wanted and deserved.
DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A FEMINIST?
Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s very sad that there even has to be a feminism thought process. It’s like when people ask me, “How do you feel about gay marriage?” I feel like, “Well why are we even talking about this?” It’s obvious. I’m a feminist because women deserve to have the same amount of rights as men. We’re all here, we’re all contributing and we all need to be respected for that contribution.
I think we can agree that we are not all equal in a literal sense. Some people are tall, some people are fast, and some people are great painters. Our personalities are certainly not equal, neither are our looks nor are our skill sets…but those characteristics are not what determine whether or not you get to treat me, a gay man, or anyone else differently. And if you disagree and you’re a shitty person, you can go somewhere else with all the other shitty people.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR?
One of the reasons why I want to design is to make women or anyone who wears my clothes feel comfortable. I want to design clothing that helps a person be the best person he or she can be. I want to be remembered for being on the side of those who feel like there’s no one on their side. If you’re plus size, I see you and I am going to design for you. I am not just designing shit to make money or to be famous, although that’s great, but I want to be remembered for making people feel good in terms of my art.