Who is Kendall McCready?
I’m a world builder! I’m creating the surrealist femtopia I want to live in. AKA Kendall World.
I’m a fashion designer trained in couture, painter, installation artist, reader of radical texts, hapa, San Francisco baby, princess of Chinatown, surrealist, intersectional feminist, the rampage of joy, rooting for you!
I’ve been making and wearing my own designs every day since I was 8. Seeing something in my mind and making it a reality is a singularly empowering experience. It made sense to me that everything around us was made up in someone’s mind before it existed in our physical reality. All the buildings, all the clothes, all the rules of who got to do what and why: completely made up. I saw my reality as something to be created, and I still do. Now, I realise it’s a political act to bridge the gap between your imagination and your reality.
Would you say studying at CSM has allowed you to express your artistic flare more than you would have in the USA? How?
On studying at CSM: Studying at CSM was like living in a dream. The immediate sense of belonging I felt there is something I’ll carry with me forever. Growing up, I dreamt I’d move to a magically new city, find a creative community where I belong, make work every day and then go out with my artist friends. That’s the dream. I pinched myself all the time. It felt as if my younger self was watching my life like a film, and I could whisper through the screen that it was even better than we imagined.
CSM, but specifically David Kappo and Patrick Lee Yow, pushed me to embody my work and live a life that feeds my work: to live and work at the moment for the moment. The actual work comes easily to me, but being brave enough to live your life so that your work actually means something is fucking scary. But there’s no other way. CSM’s culture and London’s creative spirit both have a raw authenticity that made me feel safe to embody my work. Like reaching the island of misfit toys, you have permission to be your fullest self because everyone around you is being their fullest selves.
On leaving America: As an artist, I felt a huge weight off my shoulder the minute I left America. There’s an innate appreciation for art in the UK and Europe that America lacks. It makes me think of when James Baldwin wrote, “Something very sinister happens to the people of a country when they begin to distrust their own reactions as deeply as they do here and become as joyless as they have become.”(p.53 The Fire Next Time) American culture teaches us to dissociate from our humanity; from our instincts and joy. Therefore, it finds art to be worthless, lest it is commodified: then its value is its sticker price, not the inherent worth of connecting with someone. And yet, many of my favourite artists, writers, designers, thinkers, and doers, are American. They create despite, and in contention with, the constant vitriol and culture of commodification.
While I may prefer to live outside of America in communities that feel more supportive and resonant to me, I am so proud to be American. Everything I do is rooted in my hunger for liberation. That hunger comes from a love for myself and others, a wish to see us all liberated. America may shout the loudest, but the white supremacist patriarchal techo-feudalism we live under has no national allegiance. My work imagines how being free of this could feel.
How does your background impact your designs?
Pride is a big theme in my work. I’m so proud to be from San Francisco, I’m so proud to be mixed Cantonese American and white. Growing up with a Cantonese American mom, I did not learn how to be a woman, I learned how to be a Chinese American woman. My understanding of my body, gender, sexuality, and place in society is Chinese American. While there are Chinese motifs visible in my work; both in the fantastical architectural structures that lend themselves to Chinatown grandeur, or the classic landscape paintings that resonate with my soulscapes; the deepest thread of my identity that can be found in my work is a spirit of ferocious pride. Shame plays a big part in Chinese culture, especially around women’s autonomy and sexuality. Extending the pride I have for my people and my culture to my body and myself is the way I show up for my ancestors that did not have the privilege to liberate themselves.
What defines your brand?
Fashion is alchemy: it helps us transform into ourselves. It can do this by connecting us to our joy, a powerful sense of ourselves. My brand centres joy as a practice of liberation.
Even when you cannot seem to find yourself, the sparks of joy that you feel, are you. Joy can guide you back to yourself. Practising joy through the sensuality, ecstasy, and humour of fashion is everyday alchemy for your liberation. Your joy, pleasure, and power are my deepest wishes for you.
I create portals, love letters, armour, treasure, and adornments for your body and your life. Fashion and art help us give meaning to our lives by anchoring ourselves in the tangible manifestations of our spirit. Like Dorothy’s red slippers, it brings you home. When you’re lost, I hope my work can act as a compass back to you.
We would love to know more about your latest collection. What was the reason behind your collection being inspired by a fairytale?
Fairytales are often only the preface: the story of meeting your true love ends when your life with them begins. Graduating into the pandemic felt like being stuck in the preface. Since everything was put on pause, all I could do was recognize the story in this preface to my real life. Happily Ever Right Here, Right Now was my way of reframing that no-man’s-land as a fairytale.
The armour-like jackets, the birds, and wings, the billowing trains of fantastical prints, and the concealed love letters, were the magical moments I created in solitude. I gave that chapter of my life importance by seeing it as an adventure of its own. In isolation, I could see more clearly the roles I actively created for myself. A fairytale in which you play all the characters was my metaphor for understanding the roles you play in your life.
I made that entire collection in my childhood bedroom. Many of the patterns that I created were bigger than the floor space I had, so I would work on one section of them at a time. I made everything; every print, every pattern, every stitch, and sourced all the materials. I modelled, did my own makeup, styled every photo shoot, and my amazing sister and best friend took the photos. While producing the collection during the pandemic was a bit frustrating, it also made me feel like a rascal for making such an iconic collection in the same room that still houses all my stuffed animals.
Realised that collection felt like a necessary running start. There are details of that collection that have become some of my signatures. While I call it my debut, it feels more like a seed than the centre of my brand. The collection and film I’m working on now feel like the nucleus of the world I’m building.
Can you tell us more about the new collection and film you're working on?
A Field Guide to Kendall World.
What is Kendall World?
Kendall World is my soulscape. I believe we traverse our own spiritual landscapes while navigating the physical reality we share. I want to adorn myself in the physical manifestations of my spirit, who I truly am. I wish for us to bridge the gap between the material reality we share and the wonderlands of our imaginations. We are those wonderlands.
We’re all living in someone’s imagination anyway, that’s what social constructs are, why not define them for ourselves? Why not create our own symbols, our own definitions, our own monuments and traditions, instead of accepting the current cultural practices and signifiers as if they’re laws of nature.
As an emerging creative, who would you love to model your designs as a way of showcasing to the world your art? And why ?
There are so many artists I’d love to work with, from FKA Twigs to Rina Sawayama to Doja Cat to BTS. But, the person who has always showcased my art to the world is me. My brand is about being an ordinary superstar(one of my fav Rina songs). This is no different from showing up to fourth grade in outfits that I made. I live my life in these clothes and want to create the spaces for them to be worn. This is my normal.
3 words to describe your design brand? Why?
Rampage of Joy.
One of my lovely, talented friends described my graduate collection as a rampage of joy. My brand is rooted in what it looks and feels like to harness joy and surrealism as tools of liberation. What does liberation look and feel like to you? How do we actually do this and not just talk about it? That’s why I make fashion and installations instead of writing a thesis. I want you to experience this intuitively and somatically because that’s more empowering. At the end of the day, I want my art to feel like the best party you’ve ever been to, the wonderland of your wildest dreams come true, a rampage of joy. I have this deep intention of radical imagination with my work, but when it comes down to it, I just want you to feel the most, abundant and at the moment, completely alive.
Edited by GLITCH Team