FEATURE Kevin Christiana
Image Credit: Brad Walsh

Rock ‘n’ Roll Movement

by Ari Bendersky
Designer Kevin Christiana hopes to create a stir with new brand Andrew Charles.

"My accessories are my tattoos" is a bold statement for a clothing designer, but when you are the lead menswear designer for a forthcoming lifestyle brand inspired by the history of rock 'n' roll, it makes perfect sense.

Project Runway season four alum Kevin Christiana teamed up with Andy Hilfiger (yes, Tommy's brother) and denim specialist Michael Blackwell to launch Andrew Charles, which will hit American stores in late 2011, the idea being to outfit everyone from teenagers to their parents. The goal is to make everyone still feel cool—because who doesn't get down with a little rock? 

We spoke with Christiana about what it's like to work with the Hilfigers, what we can expect from the line and what is was like to be on Project Runway.

JACKarcher: Who is Andrew Charles? 
Kevin Christiana: Andrew Charles is Andy Hilfiger but Andrew Charles is also this rock 'n' roll guy who is mysterious. He's got this swagger. He's a Mick Jagger type ... yet without a face.  He's got this cool, funky look. He's got this way of dressing up. He's got this way of functioning and playing. He's this cool rock 'n' roll guy. 

JA: How's the relationship with Andy Hilfiger? 
KC: We have full reign of design and creativity and Andy is hands on, he's there every day. He's our muse and inspiration. It's his lifestyle that we're designing off of and his rock 'n' roll career, his collaborations with rock and pop stars. He's the music and fashion king pretty much. He was in bands and was a music-marketing guy. He did a lot of Tommy's [Hilfiger] music marketing.

JA: What has the process been like to produce this first line for Andrew Charles?
KC: The process of collaborating with Andy and whoever else we're talking to—musicians, designers—we're having a great time coming up with new ideas: What's the new thing in denim? What's the new thing in T-shirts? What's the new thing in outerwear? It's really tricky because you have to do something new, but you can't scare the customer away. It has to be tasteful and it has to be interesting and it has to talk rock 'n' roll without being so literal.

JA: Talk about the line, what's the aesthetic and who is your audience?
KC: The audience now, well that's changed over the years. We're targeting someone who could be between 18 and 45. Rock 'n' roll, between Rock Band and Guitar Hero, you have 12 year olds who know who the Beatles are now. You can put a Beatles T-shirt out there and some young kid will like it, but their father would as well. That's another thing. The whole industry has changed, where moms are dressing like daughters—the demographic has spread. It's a wide spectrum. There's something for everybody in the line.

JA: So what will it look like?
KC: There is a denim and chains aesthetic. There will be skinny jeans. We have animal prints popping out of certain areas, which totally reads rock 'n' roll. It's like a little pop of cheetah under a collar. Now it's just apparel—shirts, pants, jackets, Ts. 

JA: What are you hoping the launch of Andrew Charles will do for your career and your profile?
KC: The guys I work with, between Andy, Tommy and everyone else, they're so cool. The learning process of doing something mass market is going to be great for me. And being involved in creating a movement is something I've wanted to do for a while. 

JA: What sort of movement?
KC: A lot of it is the rock 'n' roll part of it. Everyone has a little bit of rock in their lines, but no one has made a full-on clothing line based on the history of rock 'n' roll. If you remember when hip hoppers had clothing lines out there – you'd see all of these brands making great money and creating a lifestyle. It was in a different genre and no one's done it with rock 'n' roll. It's a collaboration of music and fashion, but a different kind of music from what the consumer has seen.

JA: What do you have to say to Project Runway now?
KC: I already said it to them. I told them they were going to see me in the industry. 

JA: Do you feel like you got booted too early?
KC: I feel like it was a game. I was a pawn in a chess game. I felt like I was going to get eliminated sooner than later for not giving that full-on drama. I'm the same person now as I was on the show. I felt like I wasn't giving them enough of the drama. I feel like they were waiting for the right time.

JA: So back to Andrew Charles: Why won't the line come out until late 2011?
KC: We're taking our time on this one because you only have one shot to make an impression. 


JA: What do you absolutely need to do in the morning?
KC: Get up and towel dry my hair. A bad towel dry can set up for a bad day.

JA: What one essential item do you take when traveling?
KC: I need my face cream. My Kiehl's face cream.

JA: Where's your favorite vacation spot?
KC: Wildwood Crest, NJ. It's my family vacation spot. It always brings back memories. It's not the typical Jersey shore.

JA: Is there a single piece of technology you can't live without?
KC: My iPod touch.

JA: What's your favorite accessory?
KC: My accessories are my tattoos.

JA: If you could do another reality show, which one would it be?
KC: Dancing with the Stars.

JA: If you weren't designing clothes, what would you be doing?
KC: I would like to play drums. It unleashes so much tension.

JA: Who's your favorite band right now?
KC: Steve Conte and the Crazy Truth.

JA: What's your go-to guilty pleasure food?
KC: Shake Shack cheeseburger.

  • Ari Bendersky eats, lives, plays, hunts and sometimes sleeps in Chicago. In addition to JACKarcher, he’s also the editor of Eater Chicago and has written for the New York Times, RollingStone.com, the Associated Press, Out, Chicago and more.