Kimberly Goldson is an emerging Black designer who uses fashion to nod at powerful women. Bold colors and patterns are the foundation of her collections. Growing up in Brooklyn, the Project Runway runner-up sought inspiration from the eclectic fashion that consumes the famous borough. Carving a path from BK to TV, Goldson is the perfect example of what it means to have a vision, put it on paper and somehow turn it in a gold mine.
EBONY: How would you describe the Kimberly Goldson line to someone who hasn’t seen you on Project Runway or seen your collections?
Kimberly Goldson: The Kimberly Goldson Collection is for a woman who is very confident. When she walks into a room, she will be noticed. It’s very covert in its sexiness because it’s not overly skin bearing and tight-fitting. It’s tailored, so the sexiness is there in the confidence. It’s not for the faint of heart. We want the ladies who wear us to feel very bossy. If you’re not the boss yet, you’re aspiring to be the boss.
EBONY: In watching Project Runway, one of the things that seems to separate designers is who’s been trained formally and who hasn’t. What are the benefits and drawbacks of not having been formally trained?
KG: It’s interesting, because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do when I went to [the Fashion Institute of Technology]. I knew I didn’t know how to draw or sketch, so I figured I couldn’t be a designer. So I went in for merchandising. I now have the merchandising background and have served in different capacities at fashion companies. All of those skills have come into play on the business side of what I do now. It’s invaluable. A lot of designers who have a design background just want to make clothes, and just figure it will work out. [But] I know there’s more to putting a collection together.
EBONY: Between selling pieces of your line on Zappos.com and getting your own hashtag on the show, #PR9Kimberly, what role has social media played in constructing your brand?
KG: The Internet is huge, and it’s funny because I’m so social media dysfunctional. When I was on the show and it was airing, I received an onslaught of Twitter followers, Facebook friend requests, and emails from people loving what I do and being inspired by my story. That was probably the best thing that ever happened in terms of the media for the business. People fell in love with the pants; they became a phenomenon in and of themselves. People still constantly ask, “Where are the pants? Where can I get them?” When Zappos approached me to do the mini capsule collection, it was great to have a place to put the product out until I got it together, and it kickstarted the brand for me.
EBONY: Within the industry, there has been an ongoing conversation about the inclusion (or exclusion) of Black models in high fashion. But we don’t talk much about how that applies to Black fashion designers. What has your experience been so far as a Black female fashion designer?
KG: It’s disheartening that we don’t have good representation, because so much of fashion is taken from our style. I was really nailing down the point of view of the brand, and it really birthed from me wanting to be high fashion and wear high fashion clothes, but still wanting to infuse my Brooklyn flavor. So many times you see that on the runways and major collections, but they don’t nod back to where they’ve gotten it. There’s no reason why there’s only a handful of successful, household African-American names in the fashion industry. When I left Project Runway, one of the last things I said as I was walking off the stage was that I was going to continue to pursue this fight and change the face of fashion.
EBONY: How has the “Brooklyn look” inspired your work?
KG: It’s exactly what my brand is speaking to—the fact that we are polished, we are eclectic, we have a range of styles. It’s all infused in this one neighborhood, this one borough. It just allows for more creativity. You see everything here. I love where Brooklyn was, and where it’s going now.
EBONY: It’s evident from the show that you and Tim Gunn had a true bond. What is the importance, especially for a young designer, of having a mentor in the fashion industry?
KG: I was fortunate that Tim and I clicked on the show in that way. I said it time and time again: I’m his favorite. When he came to my house to critique the line, he helped me make mojitos. I have footage of him muddling limes! We’ll have lunch and I’ll run ideas past him because he’s been in the industry for so long. When you’re starting a brand… it’s important to have a mentor to guide you into what steps you’re supposed to take, to help you avoid some pitfalls. It’s a learning curve, but I think that having a mentor is very crucial.
EBONY: One of your other passions is giving back to the communities that supported you. What causes are you involved in?
KG: I’ve worked with Fashion Fights Poverty in the D.C. metropolitan area. I taught a fashion boot camp class last summer. In May I donated some clothes and spoke at Newark Technical High School’s fashion show. I think that’s my biggest: working with teenagers and young kids. Because I have been on my own since I was 17 and had to figure it out by myself.
EBONY: What kind of advice would you give to someone teaching themselves how to design?
KG: Learn pattern-making first. That was probably my biggest downfall because I didn’t, so I had to go a roundabout way. It’s very technical, but it’s worth it. Someone emailed me the other day and said he was starting design, and he had a passion to go one way, but the market was calling for something else, and he didn’t know what to do. I said to him to stay true to who you are as a designer, because that’s when it’s going to be more authentic and have its biggest reward. When you stay true to who you are as a designer, people will want to buy into it.