symbols Magazine: So if you wouldn’t mind, tell us just a little bit about who you are, and where you came from.
Autumn Lin Kletponglert: That’s a huge question. Well my dad is from Bangkok, Thailand, and my mom is American. And I’ve been living in the Philadelphia area since I was in college. So I’ve been here fifteen years. I started out at the University of the Arts, and I was a textile major. I worked for a few years and then I got my masters from Drexel University in fashion design.
sM: Were you always fascinated with fashion?
ALK: I was artistic as a child but I didn’t know that I wanted to study fashion until I was studying abroad in Florence while I was an undergraduate. I was just so inspired by the clothing and the culture, and just the street fashion and the design of fashion. Even in terms of street fashion, at the time, you know there wasn’t much of a global fashion market. Today, in terms of communication, things have really sped up, but at the time I was living there I was seeing trends five years ahead of time. So in 2000 I would see something and then 2005 it was sort of just rolling around in the US finally.
sM: Since you weren’t really a fan of fashion growing up, after you became immersed in it, who were your style icons?
ALK: When I was in undergraduate student, I was sort of finding myself as an artist. I went to private Christian schools so there isn’t a real big emphasis on art. So it’s not as though I wasn’t interested in it, it’s just that I didn’t know at all. A lot of the information was new information to me. As an undergraduate student I was studying in fibers, textiles, race, cultural things and I was constantly doing what we call “Art on the Body”. Putting it on the body, but not having any sort of design background. It was always more of an artistic experimentation. Then, as I learned more, I was like, ‘you know what? I need to take a pattern making class’. So I finished my program.
The first fashion class I took was in Florence. I took some summer classes in weaving and fashion. It was so technical for me. At the time I didn’t think I was really bitten by a bug, but I really couldn’t stop thinking about it. By senior thesis time I knew I wanted to pursue fashion. So that’s what I did.
sM: You said that your father is from Thailand. How does that influence your aesthetic?
ALK: It has a lot of influence actually because Bangkok has a really wonderful young designer movement. They have their own obsessions with fashion. They have a lot of high-end malls there. They have Bangkok Fashion Week. They have a ton of fashion-oriented events that focus on young designers.
They have an amazing silk, leather, and wholesale market because of their proximity to South China, and because of the manufacturing that also goes on in Bangkok. So it’s a huge inspiration to me, not only in terms of the materials that I can attain, but the young designer culture and the market there.
So many people know that I’m from Thailand, yet they assume I have more, of an ethnic kind of vibe to it, like the traditional culture but I’m much more about the now, the forward, what’s happening in Thai culture now, the designers coming out of it.
sM: As far as edgy designers go, that are native to Thailand, who are you really into right now?
ALK: Wonder Anatomie. He’s really amazing. He went to Central Saint Martins, and then I feel like he interned with Marchesa. You just see that in his work. He creates these textiles. It’s not quite paper and it’s not quite leather. I don’t know what it is, but you can wash it. They won’t tell me what it is because it’s his own thing.
He’s just a little unknown designer. He does these amazing pieces. The last time I was in Thailand he did this amazing laser cut vinyl that he then pinned up three dimensionally. He’s just doing really incredible things. Laser cut, skeletal looking, things. He graduated from Thai Design School. His parents don’t have money to send him overseas, but they set him up enough to buy fabric and get a little stall in the market. Even though he sells his stuff for $10 or $20 US, Thailand is a really great climate for a creative person. You’ve got not only different culture, but a very fashion forward market. The younger generation is obsessed with fashion. Everything from high end fashion to young designer fashion. Then you have really great silks and exotic leathers. All my exotic leathers come from Thailand.
sM: I’m sure everyone is curious, why zippers? I mean is it just the structure that it creates or is there something else to it?
ALK: Well I’ll tell you the story. So as a student I entered this competition called the Arts of Fashion Foundation. They are an international organization that puts together students and designers. They do master classes. They’re all about promoting creativity. And they get them internships with great companies.
So, after I entered as a student, I was then approached to enter the debut series, which is for young designers after graduation. The president of the Arts of Fashion at the time called me and told me about this designer competition that she thought I’d be perfect for. The company and sponsor is YKK. Right then, I knew what I was going to do for the competition. They only wanted the creation of an interesting closure, but I knew I had to go with my idea. So I made my very first zipper dress. I’d just bought a few yards of raw zipper and my zipper chain. I wanted it to be all zipper, or as much zipper as it possibly could be. I really loved working with it. It’s so sculptural. It seems to marry the two parts of my brain, one that’s interested in artistic fine arts and, the other, fashion.
sM: Is there anything else that you have a passion for that appeals to you besides the zipper?
ALK: I’m very much into textures. Before I did zippers, I did pleating. I was known for my hand pleating technique as well as doing a lot of layering. I would cut things up into pieces and layer them. Repeating an element is something I like to do.
Right now I’m also fascinated with technology and fashion. I’m fascinated with laser cutting, 3-D printing and LED lights, but that’s very expensive. I just think the future of fashion is in technology. I’m thinking of ways technology can help us further advance what we wear. How will that contribute to what we wear, you know. If I buy one more thing without pockets for my phone I’m going to die. It’s the technology age, why can’t they put a pocket it in for our phone, in our clothes.
sM: I’ll go to the clubs, and you know I have my phone, I have my money and I have my ID. I don’t want a clunky pocket. So where am I going to put it? In my bra! I definitely agree with you. The future of fashion is in technology and hopefully utility as well! So onthat technology note, what are you listening to at the moment? What’s on repeat for you in your car, iPod, iPhone, etc.?
ALK: What’s on repeat for me? I have to look. My friend, who I met at Fashion Week, he’s from Norway, I’ve been using his music as my runway music. So I’ll often put my runway music on repeat. It’s his band Stalker. We’re always listening to Matt’s album. Always. Matt’s my DJ. He really likes to introduce me to a lot of great new music. So we’re listening to the Fear Cult album all the time. You know who I sort of like? I can’t even say her name right. It’s that Iggy something. She’s like a hardcore rapper white girl.
sM: Iggy Azalea.
ALK: Yeah, yeah, yeah, her.
sM: So do you like any of the subculture brands right now, like Lip Service and…?
ALK: Yeah. I love Lip Service, I wear him almost every day… Anything about fashion I’ll probably know, but if you ask me music questions, I’ll probably have to do a call to answer you. I love Lip Service, love them. Skin Graft, gorgeous, gorgeous. They showed in New York Fashion Week for the first or second time this season. I’m very happy for them. If I ever worked for anybody, ever, it would be Skin Graft in a minute. They have such gorgeous stuff. The Tripp NYC brand as well. I think what they do is great. Whenever I see their products like outside the New York area, I’m just like ‘this is so forward. It looks so great’. I miss shopping in LA. Like at wasteland, I feel like I’m just sort of defined by wasteland, in a way. They had some Tripp leggings, and I was like, ‘these are so gorgeous’. Even some of the newer brands I think like Widow and what’s it’s called? The clothes at Kill City. They are a little bit more, I don’t want to say normal, they’re still edgy. Grown up Goth kind of.
sM: Are there any brands that you think could use like a facelift as far as style and taste level are concerned?
ALK: Not really. I mean there’s obviously some places you walk into and you’re like ‘oh this is so corny’. I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head. It’s like the clichés still exist but not necessarily in the brands.
sM: So probably a silly question, but do you ever design for yourself these days?
ALK: In the beginning, when I graduated, I did high end gowns, but I look a certain way and I realized there was a contradiction. People would look at me, and then see what I designed, and there wasn’t exactly a connection. That’s when I started the Heartless Revival brand.
At the time I graduated the economy wasn’t that good. So selling dresses for thousands of dollars as a new, young label was hard. So that’s when I started doing more research into subculture and subculture fashion and things like that. What inspired my label was the gothic clothing exhibition at FIT. It solidified the importance of gothic fashion in the culture, not just subculture. From that point forward I felt like you really started to see a gothic trend in mainstream fashion.
sM: Is there a disconnect? Do you feel like there’s a disconnect between being in the hubs of fashion, like LA/New York ,and then being in Philly?
ALK: Yeah, there’s a little bit of a disconnect, definitely, but Philly is mad cheap. It has its own vibe. It’s got a lot of creative people. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been a lot of rough patches, but it’s taken me a long time to find them. But yeah, there is a disconnect. I think it’s like New York, I think the climate in Philly is like how New York’s was in the ‘70s. It wasn’t nice, it was dangerous and cheap, and it was rough. That’s kind of what we have in Philly right now. We’ve got really cheap space. It’s rough around the edges. You’ve got a lot of creative people. So hopefully something similar happens.