Every New York Fashion Week, editors have their eye out for who will be the next big thing. Recent Pratt grad Claire McKinney might just be what everyone is looking for—within a few years at least. Former classmate and Celine model Marland Backus is already a fan of the fashion designer, and just one year out of school, McKinney has already landed a special exhibit hosted by Ralph Pucci and the Museum of Arts and Design (on view through the 18th at the Ralph Pucci showroom). Between preparing for her show and working her day job as a design assistant at Creatures of Comfort, the 22-year-old answered out style questions.
Define your design aesthetic in three words:
Clean, authentic, sculptural.
Thrift store trousers and a well-loved t-shirt. Anytime I can’t make up my mind I throw on coveralls.
Working under the mentorship of Ines and Desiree of BLESS and Susan Cianciolo, I designed a jacket that condensed into a seat cushion and then got to exhibit it at Maryam Nassir Zadeh—definitely a high point! In my most recent collection, the tent-sized denim dress never stops surprising me, and the several reflections on jeans keep me thinking… about designing more jeans.
How would you describe the Claire McKinney customer?
Open-minded yet can’t resist the classics. Respects simplicity but isn’t afraid to get dirty.
I buy cheap, used shoes and wear them until they fall apart, which is usually about when I start getting sick of them anyway.
Best recent discovery:
Canal Body Works—unforgettable!
Pine oil and patchouli because I’m a proud Oregonian. Hinoki by Comme des Garcons for Monocle is also a favorite.
Style pet peeve:
Anything itchy. I’m not afraid to cut out a tag if it means saving my sanity.
Jil Sander. Martin Margiela. Phoebe Philo for Céline. Acne Studios. BLESS and Cosmic Wonder for establishing their own standards of what a fashion label can be.
Construction sites. Cheap advertisements. Weird shadows. All types of uniforms.
Biggest lesson learned in your first year out of school:
Run while you still can! Feeling the pressure of the post-grad job hunt, I decided to zen out and spend a month at home in Oregon.
Fruits and veggies, baby.
A car and/or an excuse to move to the Italian Riviera.
Orient on the North Fork of Long Island for weekends away with friends. Outdoor dining and BYOB at my neighborhood Middle Eastern spot Black Iris. Unique Thrift Store for economical wardrobe updates.
Fashion week must-haves:
A steady flow of strong coffee. A quality soundtrack.
What’s always in your bag:
Almost nothing. I prefer leaving stashes of my belongings everywhere.