The Studio Visit... Linder
If you’re not familiar with Kirk Millar’s work, then it’s time to get acquainted. The Arizona-born, New York-based designer is one half of Linder and the genius at the helm of the brand’s menswear line. Part of fashion’s new wave, Millar and Sam Linder—the other half of Linder—are tearing up the rulebook, challenging tradition and confronting ‘maleness’ norms manifested within gay culture with urbane-bohemian, real wardrobe vibes.
We took a peek behind the seams of Linder’s (stunning) Gramercy townhouse HQ to meet Kirk and find out more about growing up in a town called Cottonwood, riding horses on the family ranch and meeting Sam…
Where did you grow up and how has your background influenced your work?
I’m from a town called Cottonwood in Arizona, near Sedona. There are red rock mountains on one end of the valley and a forested mountain on the other with nothing but open skies in between. My Dad would work in Western boots and Wranglers every day, and we rode horses at a family ranch that had large pastures of cows, irrigation ditches, and Golden Retrievers running around. My Great Great Aunt would have me over every week and we would watch the great epics of old Hollywood and drink English tea in her fine china. This old world glamour made my imagination soar.
How did you become a designer and how did your partnership with Sam arise?
Sam and I became friends after meeting at a retail store I’d been working in. There was a great creative connection between us. We’re both creative directors; I work on our Menswear while Sam does the Womenswear. We both photograph our own collections, and have that freedom to create our own worlds within our lanes.
How did you develop your aesthetic?
I don’t believe you can even choose. It’s a result of all these different micro decisions that come naturally to you. Your perspective cannot be something you're fully aware of - it emerges to me each season.
Where do you begin when starting a design?
It begins with a narrative that’s floating in my mind. I do a ton of research and fill in the blanks as I go. Every weekend I spend digging through as much vintage as possible, both physically and online, plus a ton of visual references. It all gets poured into the collection; collaged, evaluated, and hopefully gels together to form something new.
What are your primary creative influences?
Flea markets, antique stores, second hand shops, etc. I love the idea of the human spirit and centuries of traditions having a role in the creation of these objects that have lasting impact on our psyches.
One reviewer described your work as “artfully awkward”. How would you describe it? What are you trying to express?
Emotions and the interior life are things I’m deeply interested in, and I tend to incorporate much of my own into the work. I think it's artful because our agenda is not about commercial success, it’s about artistic expression. I think the awkwardness is partially from the fact that our interior selves are not smooth and pretty. They’re awkward and abject, but ultimately beautiful.
What’s your daily process in the studio?
I come in and right away surf the internet for references. These then becomes mockups, and then we start exchanging ideas as a team. We then move into the period of photos, presentation, etc., and that’s a very electric time. So engaging, but it takes a “typical” day off the table!
What are the most important qualities for a designer to have?
Taste, curiosity, intelligence, and conviction.
What things do you always have in your studio?
A design studio is stuffed with bits and bobs… Bolts of fabric, trims, camera equipment, computers...
What do you always have on hand whilst you work?
Coffee, and a fridge full of film.
Do you listen to music in the studio? If so, what kind of music?
I tend to listen to Lana Del Rey, classical music such as Peter Gynt, soundtracks from different films… As a romantic person I think the general desire is to listen to music that’s emotive and that spans a very wide range of moods.
Where do you go when you need a break from work?
Vintage shopping, or hunting down a new piece of furniture. I’m absolutely obsessed with finding pretty china.
What’s your favourite thing about living and working in New York?
Developing creatively. It’s a constant process, both good and bad. Secondly those around me; my creative community.
Your favourite place in the city?
My apartment, where I’m surrounded by things I find beautiful. Or the backyard at our office, which is like a little oasis to pop out to.
Who do you most admire?
I admire the process of maturation as I’ve moved into my thirties. I don't think we talk about it enough, especially in fashion. It’s all about youth and progress and change. I think we undervalue taking our own lives and our emotional wellbeing seriously. Creatively, I admire people who put the work first before the praise and schmoozing that seems so desirable.
What’s the best way to cure a creative block?
Watching a documentary on a fellow creative; their process, their difficulties. It’s a reminder that people who make strong work don’t come by it easily. I think it goes back to that idea of the desert. When you're wandering around a creative desert, you find water eventually.
Where do you go for a good idea?
Consuming other mediums helps. I’m usually in no short supply of things I could catch up on!
What’s your greatest ambition?
To live a principled, beautiful life that remains creative and full of experience.