Friday, 4 June 2010

Friday 4th June: Kim Howells Interview

Kim Howells Interview - Originally written and posted for FASHION 156

Kim Howells is a force to be reckoned with, a vision in blue mohair – she lightens and brightens up any room with her colour, boundless energy and cheeky banter. I rely on Kim for her expert styling consultancy but secretly also rely on her for sanity and laughter tonic. Any excuse to have a meeting to spend a few moments with this invigorating character is a pleasure and rarefied treat. I managed to prize her away from her technicolour nerve centre, put down her “coolbeans” ringtone buzzing blackberry and interview her about her meteoric career to be an inspiring story for young readers to 156.

I came across Kim when she was dressed as a carrot at a fundraising party when we were at Brighton University. The theme was “V” and Kim’s gaggle of fashion girls had organised a troop of vegetables complete with walking cauliflower and peas. From this moment on I knew we would get on! We came in contact at a later date when I was working for Shona Heath and Kim was next door interning for Emma Cook. Kim would stay behind after hours taken under the wing of Cathy Edwards to assist on sessions styling Allison Goldfrapp. In the same year spent in industry placements, Kim moved onto a print season at Eley Kishmoto and 3 months at a design studio in NYC. Fully equipped with knowledge and raring to go, Kim moved to London after graduating and joined my team making giant cardboard props. Not before long, a call came from “Dazed and Confused” magazine and Kim was poached to intern and latterly appointed assistant to Nicola Formichetti. She had a riot as the right hand (wo)man to one of the industries most in demand art directors and travelled the world helping him shape iconic shoots.

Fast forward only a couple of years and Kim was flying solo with a jet fired rocket back pack (actually it was a rucksack with speakers linked to her MP3 player, lols!) and zooming through London discovering designers to collaborate with. She now consults with a varied and fresh crop of clients including Piers Atkinson, NOKI, Atalanta Weller, Hannah Marshall, David Koma and myself. Not content with sleepless nights trying to keep us lot in order, Kim also takes care of the wardrobe for musicians such as Coco Sumner, Esser, Skunk Anansie and in particular Skin who she shares her studio with. As with all her serendipitous alignments, their friendship was forged on a chance encounter in Ibiza which lead to Skin walking for NOKI’s “Fashion East” show. Now the two crazy cats have fun creating chaotic stage costumes for Skin’s performances. When her nose isn’t pressed up against her MAC screen scanning statistics of new faces, she is cooking up leak and potato soup at home with Piers Atkinson. You can see pictures here of their fun filled, fun house, decked out in a plethora of sentimental acquisitions including Andrew Logan ornaments and Zandra Rhodes illustrations. I have photographed the baseball cap which Kim commissioned Piers to make for NOKI that marked the beginning of their interlinked relationship. These two met when Piers hand delivered his neon Mickey Mouse ears to Kim on location and gave her a tutorial in how to work the piece.......... and the rest is history……….

From her own house to another………….”The House of Organza” which was an exhibition and event Kim organised with Lyall Hakaria of Vogue Fabrics. Kim undertook a venture of orchestrating fabrication, curation, photoshoots, videoshoots, installation and event production…… you do! The project which brought together a group of dextrous designers resulted in not only a success story in its own right but the pieces had an afterlife appearing in a Tim Walker shoot for British Vogue. Judy Blame was one of the artists involved and is a constant inspiration to Kim. During our discussion Kim divulged that she is eternally grateful and gracious that she was able to meet and become close to one of her childhood heros. She stresses her implicit admiration for a designer who has maintained his genuine nature and remain totally unaffected against all the odds of the business. It has been an honour for her to see first hand that her pure perceived dream of the industry can be a reality and this has helped provide her with a solid grounding to stay true to inner voice.

Kim is driven by the excitement of formulating shoot ideas and the process of seeing it through to the end and the final images materialising. Spotting new talent and getting them involved in making special pieces for her concept is a real buzz and the ultimate high is being part of cultivating an image that will be around forever. Kim’s signature aesthetic to bring about these timeless looks is a bold, brave silhouette mixed with playful colour and abstract art references. Having hands-on involvement gives Kim great job satisfaction, as she loves getting stuck into each separate situation. In this way the designers she mentors appreciate her intuitive instruction and she plays an important role in executing their collection each season. For this, I owe everything to Kim! She resolves my cross wiring confusion by jump-starting my creative juices and quite simply making me laugh!

(images Kim in fancy dress, of her studio, her home, and her assistant Reuben Esser)

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