Last September, on the final day of Fashion Week, Jen Kao presented her very conceptual take on fall 2009: a black-heavy collection of jersey tops, paneled dresses, and a breathtaking, sweeping, floor-length sequin gown. We caught up with Kao at her studio in NYC to talk about her favorite designers, her mix-and-match personal style, and her great love of anything that sparkles.
What’s the inspiration behind your fall '09 collection?
Pyramids and X-rays, structure and underlying strength. The idea of the surface of everything shattering at one moment in time to expose what will really last indefinitely. In general, stories inspire me. As does life and the things you can’t see.
What type of person wears your clothes?
There are a lot of different types of people that wear the clothes. Mostly women, sometimes men. Always people who have a defined sense of who they are, what they want to wear, and how they want to wear it.
Describe some of your favorite pieces from your fall collection.
There’s a floor length beaded gown with weaving details and a sequined hoodie with beaded-wing embroidery. I also love this lace and matte jersey short-sleeve paneled gown for evening and the micro-minidress version of it for day. The easy, sheer jersey tanks and tees, and the jersey-draped pants are great for everyday.
What was the first designer item you bought or wore?
A vintage yellow Paco Rabanne makeup case. I used it to pieces.
Who were some of your favorite designers growing up? What about now?
I loved Galliano, Gaultier, Versace, Chanel, Helmut Lang, and Missoni. Now, I’m really into Nicolas Ghesquière, Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Undercover, Rei Kawakubo, Bernhard Willhelm, Raf Simons, Dior Homme, and Stella McCartney.
Who are your style icons?
Kate Bush, M.I.A., Natasha Khan, my mom and my grandmother, and Denise Huxtable.
What pieces or labels do you wear most?
I’m a layerer. Especially with jewelry, sometimes it’s a little Mr. T. I wear a lot of my own collection, Margiela, Dior Homme, Dries Van Noten, Undercover, Stella McCartney, Y-3, Ksubi jeans, Eddie Borgo. In most cases, I like to mix a little of everything together: new and old, men’s with women’s, luxury with budget. For shoes, it’s usually either boys’ sneakers or crazy heels. I love a great-looking leather backpack. And I love anything that sparkles!
Any hidden gems?
Hidden gems for me are the freak things left on the sale rack that nobody wanted. I want them.
Is there an item you are currently coveting?
Natalia Brilli’s leather-covered skeleton playing her leather-covered drums.
What trends are you into this season?
Any trends that you wish would disappear?
The idea of trends.
What’s something every woman should have in her closet?
A caftan, great underwear, and plenty of sheer-jersey basics.
Finish this sentence: I never leave home without …
Headphones and big hair.