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Kiko Kostadinov Robi Rodriguez Stephen Mann THEM Magazine
Kiko Kostadinov x StüssyPhotography Robi Rodriguez, fashion Stephen Mann, courtesy of THEM magazine

Meet rising menswear talent Kiko Kostadinov

Introducing the Bulgarian-born CSM student inspired by Japanese workwear and trap music

Few designers have Robi Rodriguez and Jason Evans shoot profiles of their collections. Even fewer fashion students have, but that’s not the case for Bulgarian-born Central Saint Martins student Kiko Kostadinov. Before he’s even graduated from the college’s MA Fashion course, Kostadinov’s already collaborated with streetwear brand Stüssy on a collection that was stocked in (and promptly sold out at) Soho-based boutique MACHINE-A, which sells all of fashion’s newest talents. More recently, he designed a similar collection, again with Stüssy, for DSM New York and final instalemt of the collaboration (along with an installation) for DSM Ginza

But Konstadinov is more than a one collaboration trick pony. In a sea of menswear that champions concept over quality, he is a port of unpretentiousness. Essentially he loves clothes and he loves wearing them; and that, he believes, is what fashion should be – particularly for designers. The clothes he designs sit somewhere between high-end menswear and contemporary workwear – something which he says came from time spent working with his father (a decorator) on the building site.

Some of his techniques have been inspired by this time too, many of which he does by hand including dyeing and painting the fabric, and spraying it with bleach. The overall effect in something raw and unexpected, a feeling he’s drawn from multiple build-ups and heavy bass drops of trap music.

“Cutting is what excites me,” he says, when asked what defines his approach. “But not as in pattern cutting, as in experimenting. When I talk about cutting, it’s not like I’m a fucking Savile Row tailor. Cutting, proportion and silhouettes excite me. I hate decoration, I hate it so much.”

“Cutting is what excites me... When I talk about cutting, it’s not like I’m a fucking Savile Row tailor. Cutting, proportion and silhouettes excite me. I hate decoration, I hate it so much” – Kiko Kostadinov

So what does he cut? Unlike many designers, his silhouettes aren’t as referential as a 70s flare: incorporating elements from contemporary workwear, they usually resemble something skinny and structured on bottom and oversized on top; seams are visible, as is stitching. That’s not to say that he’s without his references – Konstadinov is constantly looking for them, just not in the usual places.

“I look at clothes every second,” he says. “I’m on the train and I look at people stitching or whatever. I’m on computer, on eBay or a website – anywhere I am, I look at clothes.” This is evident from his Instagram, on which he posts everything from some clothes he’s seen on the train (and subtly taken a picture of) to a runway image from an early Yohji Yamamoto show.

Yamamoto’s clothes have had a significant influence on Konstadinov – not just images of them, pieces that he’s collected and wears. “When I first started wearing Yohji, it was a second-hand coat with lots of holes in,” he regales. “I like that when you wear Yohji you look strange. You don’t look expensive in it, you look scruffy. I like the idea of people misjudging you. I can feel it on the tube...they are confused, they can’t read me. ‘Is he homeless? Is he rich?’ They can’t read whether I’m wearing expensive clothes or not expensive clothes.” 

The execution of these clothes has been influential too because, in Kostadinov’s mind, their quality is unparalleled. “The thing that separates him from other people is that he never compromises on quality and finishings,” he explains. “Other people compromises on that for conceptual ideas but he never does.”

Konstadinov is a purist. He makes well-designed, well-produced clothes purely because he loves clothes. And, speaking as man, these are clothes that actually have an element of aspiration – something that separates them from the flamboyant designs of many fashion students. He will be unveiling his graduate collection in February, after which, a sharp ascent through fashion’s ranks surely waits.