Get to know Kenneth Ning, our latest Creative Lab Designer
Muay Thai. Boxing. Grit and grime. Oakland. These aren’t necessarily the things that first come to mind when one thinks high fashion and New York City runways. But in the case of designer Kenneth Ning, these are the things that fuel his creativity. And it shows. Since launching his eponymous line in 2014, Ning’s become known for his dark, elegant perspective and a design outlook that probes the outer limits of draping, silhouette, and construction. For his Anti-Hero capsule collection, created in conjunction with the O.N.S Creative Lab, Ning drew on all of these influences, creating a vivid collection that’s perfect for uncertain times. On the eve of that collection’s release, we met up with Ning to spend the day with him, buy fabric, and check out his Muay Thai training regimen.
You’re a fashion designer, but today we went to a Muay Thai gym with you and I’ve heard you also train in boxing. What attracted you to combat sports like those?
Muay Thai is a form of art in itself. The movement is very calculated, beautiful, and ugly at the same time.
Do those sports relate to your work as a fashion designer at all?
I am drawn to harsh but fluid motions of the sport which inspires me to recreate the the motions in the garments.
Your design style is very unique, particularly in your ability to incorporate youth culture, street elements, and technical touches into high fashion collections. Being a bit ahead of the curve on that, what do you think about the way fashion has gone crazy for streetwear and street cultures lately?
It’s great that street culture is accepted more widely now. It opens up more markets to design into.
Do you think digital media’s made it easier to get into the fashion game or do you think it just creates more noise, making it harder a young designer to cut through the static and get noticed?
It helps younger brands to establish a foundation and show our work but it’s a crowded battlefield for visibility.
All of your work seems so closely tied to New York City, and it’s amazing mixture of elegance and grit. What does the City mean to you?
No matter where I go, I always come back to New York, feeling like it’s the center of the universe. It’s great to have so many cultures coming from one city.
Outside of New York, where do you like to travel? How do other places influence your work?
Aside from market meetings in Paris and factory visits in Italy, I like to hide out in Oakland, where I grew up.
With your Antihero collection with O.N.S, you went for a dark, minimalist look that’s offset with pops of red. What do those colors—and that name, Antihero—represent to you?
Subversion and grime.
It can’t have been easy to launch your own line and brand. How were you able to pull it off?
Support from friends and family and everyone I met along the way who believed in me.
Do you have any tips for other young designers coming up?
Since my brand is still fairly new, I would say stick to your vision but be open minded. There are no formulas for doing things in this industry. Just do what feels right and partner with people who have strengths that you lack.