Ivy Kirk is a Brooklyn-based illustrator and fashion designer. She studied at Parsons School of Design and went on to work as a designer at Kate Spade New York. She recently launched her first collection.
It’s hard to know where exactly to begin, so I guess I will start with some of my earliest memories. It was the late eighties and we lived in New York. Our apartment was a loft, housed in a former tobacco warehouse on South Street. It was the type of building that attracted a creative group. Some of the building’s more famous residents included Robert Longo, Gretchen Bender, Tom Finkelpearl, Cindy Sherman, Eugenia Tsai, Fabian Baron, and Kathryn Bigelow (though not all at the same time).
My parents were both creative and self-employed (at that time my mom was a graphic designer/commercial illustrator and my dad was a commercial illustrator), so we would spend a lot of time together in our loft. I remember exploring with a variety of artistic projects, but one of my favorites was drawing with my dad. It was always collaborative, and often focused around an animal wearing a dress. He would start with one part, and I would add on. It would continue that way until we were done. At that time, mice were my favorite animal, though there were certainly others.
Fourth grade is when I first remember wanting to be a fashion designer. My mom had gone to Parsons and was also teaching a class there. From that moment on, going to Parsons and studying fashion design was my goal. I spent middle school and high school taking weekend and summer courses. When it came time, Parsons was the only school I applied to.
Parsons was an incredibly focused and competitive place. I credit my endurance and work ethic to those years. I had always imagined that as soon as I graduated, I would work for another company for a couple of years. Then I would start my own line. Graduation came and it was 2009. I got a job designing clothing for Kate Spade. I felt lucky to have a job, let alone one I liked and was really good at.
It felt like overnight, but seven years passed. The company I was working for didn’t resemble the place it had been when I first started. I decided it was time to move on, but I wasn’t sure what was next. My mom had signed me up for a watercolor class for my birthday, and it turned out I really missed the more artistic side of design. That July, I left New York to take a class in couture fabric flower making, in the South of France. I started painting regularly, as soon as I returned to New York.
Painting started off as a hobby, but I found clients pretty quickly through Instagram. My first paid job was creating artwork for a jewelry company to use on their website. It was so exciting to realize that working for myself was a possibility. I loved the idea of being able to diversify what I was able to offer clients, as well as make my day a little bit more varied. Working for a big company, my life had become so monotonous.
As a designer, I had always followed the collections. Looking for inspiration to paint was so different than looking for design inspiration. As a designer, I would look for details I could incorporate in a commercial way. As an illustrator, I would look for styles I could add to, with even more drama and flourish.
Eventually, I made it back to the corporate design world. Though I was working during the day, I would still take on freelance clients and paint each evening. All the while, I was also still dreaming of starting my own collection. In addition to spending my evenings painting, I started designing my line. I found Italian fabric mills to work with, as well as a factory and pattern maker in New York. Over the course of a year, my collection started to come together (again, including collaboration with my parents - my mom took the look book photos).
Now, for the second time, I am leaving the corporate design world. The difference is, that this time I know what’s next. I am definitely looking forward to enjoying a life that mixes my two favorite things, fashion design and illustration.