Claire McKinney is a designer living and working in New York City. McKinney grew up just outside of Portland, Oregon and moved to New York five years ago to study fashion design at Pratt Institute. After graduating last May, McKinney began working as an assistant designer at Creatures of Comfort. She now works on various side projects in addition to developing her own collection. Outside of making clothes and accessories, McKinney enjoys exploring great outdoors, cooking for friends, sunbathing and making beauty products and fragrances.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I’m a designer based out of New York, currently working on a collection of women’s clothing, footwear and accessories. Since finishing school last year I’ve been balancing a design job, freelance work and my own collection.
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I have a lot of ideas brewing for my own collection and have been producing pieces off and on. I’m looking forward to pulling this work together and showing it in September as a part of NYFW. In the meantime I’ve been working my day job as an assistant designer, as well as creating denim samples for Maryam Nassir Zadeh and producing her denim orders with my friend/fellow designer Sophie Andes-Gascon.
How did your interest in art or fashion begin? I think it all started from watching my parents work on projects, whether it was remodeling parts of the house or re-doing the backyard. I was always intrigued by the creative planning, supply shopping and production process, and then the final reflection, admiration and live-ability. I guess my competitive spirit as a young person made me produce a lot of strange objects, which became accessories, footwear, clothing, etc. just to attempt to outdo my parents and friends.
#1 fashion don’t? I don’t think I believe in don’ts!
What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? My last collection revolved around work-wear so I used traditional materials like heavy cotton and denim as well as actual agricultural materials. It was such fun sourcing the agricultural materials because I always find solace in a trip to Home Depot. I also work with leather and other hard materials, which require special tools and techniques including sanding and chemicals. I think denim will always be a part of my collection — I’m currently developing some new distressing and color treatments. I don’t see myself leaving denim out of my work anytime soon because I still think it feels so familiar, genuine and important.
What’s your favorite thing about your city? I am not a morning person at all and neither is New York City. I love that my morning interactions are fast and require no brainpower, yet I can feel alive late into the night until the sun rises.
What are your thoughts about the fashion scene in New York City? There’s so much going on in terms of small independent artists/fashion designers. The spirit has always been there but right now young people are producing some really interesting work and I feel lucky to be exposed and involved in it. It seems that the global fashion industry is responding to the New York scene in a big way. I’m looking forward to seeing how young designers will gain support in the industry as they grow.
What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? Limitless coffee, apples, lox.
What are you really excited about right now? Summer! The city gets a lot spicier when the heat rises.
If you hadn’t become a designer what do you think you’d be doing? Baking pies on a remote island with 365 days of sunshine.
What are you listening to right now? Arthur Russell, Brian Eno, The Gories, Run DMT, Alton Ellis