story by Charles Beckwith
photos by udor
When I began the interview with designer Gemma Kahng, having looked around the presentation before speaking with the designer, I asked how many collections she had produced, thinking this was a second or third season misstep for an emerging designer, forgetting that I had looked up her previous work the night before. It was nothing so sparing, and this collection was so far off the mark from her previous shows of strength it was almost unreal. Gemma Kahng found popularity in the 1990s, but lost it for a while, then had a fairly strong comeback with her Fall 2011 GenArt runway show, which got significant positive press, and has shown strong work for three seasons. However, with this Spring 2013 collection, she seems to have again gone off the tracks.
Taking inspiration from gardening at her farm upstate, the designer appears to have created a new line of ill-fitting leather looks made to match one’s Crocs. The collection presents itself as a bizarre cross between dominatrix-wear and an elementary school construction paper cutout project. Sexy in all the wrong ways. Our photographer had gone in to document the presentation before I arrived for the interview, and when I caught up with him later and asked what he thought about the collection, the blood ran from his face and he simply shook his head. During the interview, the designer had trouble focusing on the questions and seemed to have attention deficit issues, which might explain the issues in the collection. There are strong elements here, but they are covered in kitsch, turning the potentially chic to tacky costume. This designer is obviously capable of so much more, evident from what has been shown in the past, and it seems she needs rather desperately to find a collaborator with locked-in high end sensibilities who can help her edit and get out of the weeds and back on point if her success is to continue.