"My love for apparel is as strong as it is for footwear and it always has been. But the opportunities given to me were with footwear. The minute I had the chance to do apparel, I did."
Ronnie Fieg doesn't call himself a fashion designer. In fact, he tries to avoid labels all together: "I don't sit there and think about what I want to be known as." But as he runs through the huge plans he has on deck, he's more astute than ever about his role within the world of fashion. He endlessly refers back to his customer, focused on exactly what they love and what they might want more of.
It's a delicate balance. Ronnie's reputation as one of the best sneaker collaborators precedes him. But recently, he's dipped deeper into the world of apparel. His first effort, the Mercer pant, was a success that became ground zero for the jogger movement. "It was loved by many and ripped by many," Ronnie says. "You see it in every department store now."
Rewind to a week or so ago, when Ronnie opened a 3,000 sq. ft. expansion of the current Manhattan KITH space focused on apparel. He bought out roughly half of his neighbor Atrium to create a retail space designed by Snarkitecture, the design firm co-founded by artist Daniel Arsham. The new section houses not just KITH merchandise, but a selection of others, including Off-White, Stampd LA, Isaora, Acronym, Ones Stroke and Y-3.
However, the piece de resistance does bear the Ronnie Fieg name and signature: a collaborative collection with Japanese brand Ones Stroke. The line, which drops this Saturday, skews toward a higher-end of the fashion spectrum. "It's the evolution of the kid who wants to take it one step above what he's used to. I love visvim, but it's out of reach. For me, it's about getting him to see these goods and bring that world to him," says Ronnie.
While the usual Ronnie Fieg sneaker release happens in the blink of an eye on a Saturday morning, Ronnie sees the new gear as more of an an in-store exhibit: "This is less 'wow, it sold out in two seconds,' and more of letting it live in the store. I'd actually prefer people didn’t buy it online." And after seeing the pieces in person, that sentiment makes sense.
The Ones Stroke collection is the most expensive apparel Ronnie's ever put the KITH name on, which may cause a bit of sticker shock for his usual customer. But it's also far and away the best. The combination of limited supply (no more than 48 pieces were made of any item) and quality is clear. It's also much different from any previous KITH apparel and dares to give the typical sneakerhead a new look at head-to-toe style. "Ones Stroke is a brand that has pushed the limit in terms of quality," he says. "You can feel the attention to detail. When I met with Terry [Ones Stroke's founder], we gave him a bit of our perspective and the outcome was amazing. I think the product will speak for itself." The line is set of completely new styles and silhouettes that form a unique collection. You can see the entire line above, featuring:
-Reversible belted robes made of soft Japanese flannel, each featuring high-quality snap closures that sit flush and hidden from view
-Shawl collar, tie-closure, soft cotton, slant pocket blazers
-Mandarin collar jackets meant to act as a middle layer between your shirt and a heavier coat
-Shirt-vest combos with zip-off sleeves
-Shackets with side buttons and a curved gusset, equipped with a wire collar for perfect nonchalance
-High quality, destroyed denim that looks like it survived Chernobyl
-The new cinch-cuff Bleecker pant
-Reversible bucket hats
-Soft terry throws
Yes, we're still eagerly awaiting the Instagram of some kid in college that has outfitted his entire life in RF gear from his wardrobe to his bed sheets. This Ones Stroke collaboration represents Ronnie's personal evolution: "My style has evolved and my whole design procedure—how I go about designing—starts from the bottom up, from sneakers up. The apparel adapts to the footwear."
The collection with Ones Stroke shows Ronnie isn't just a sneaker designer/collaborator/the guy who made Asics coo againl/glorified color-picker, depending on your opinion of him. At this point, whether he wants to be known as a "fashion designer" is entirely up to him. "I thought of KITH as a lifestyle brand," he says. "But you have to crawl before you walk. So I used my strengths in footwear. Now I've gained some people's confidence and have an amazing team behind me. It will take time—everything does. But it will be great."
It seems the work never stops and there's much more to come. In typical Ronnie Fieg fashion, "We're already working on Fall 2015."
You can shop the Ones Stroke collection this Saturday, October 25th.