Thursday, May 6, 2010

American Master: Kim Hicks Couture

Embroidered satin gown, by special order, Kim Hicks Couture. Photo Courtesy of Kim Hicks New York.
By David Pedroza, Editor in Chief
In the United States there are very few designers that have mastered the Parisian art of Haute Couture. Though this craft is respectively French, and acknowledged by the Chambre Syndicale if a couturier maintains an atelier in Paris that creates hand-made, made-to-measure luxuries, there have been couturiers in the US, New York to be exact. We have legends such as Mainbocher, who held ateliers in Paris and New York during the 1930’s-1940. Arnold Scaasi, who would be considered by many as a court designer to the wives of American politicians. And master of cut and modern American Elegance, Geoffrey Beene.

There is a contemporary designer, who has quietly developed her craft and built a following of ladies who are always in search of unique and beautiful design. Her name is Kim Hicks, a Michigan native, who has established a couture business in the Tribeca district of New York City. Kim is a true couturier at heart; her style is American sensibility with old world elegance, with a touch of avant garde flair (her favorite designer is Alexander McQueen and she loves the work of Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga). For the past 10 years Kim Hicks has been catering to New York society with made-to-measure designs through Bergdorf Goodman.

" Four leaf Clover" Gown, price upon request, Kim Hicks Couture. Photo courtesy of Kim Hicks New York

One cool and rainy Saturday morning, I was warmly greeted by Kim at her Tribeca Studio. She is a beautiful, casual, and down to earth woman with a passion to create clothes that surpass the seasonal trends. It was like going to a candy store when I entered her atelier, rack after rack, of beautiful, colorful, gowns and cocktail dresses. We went straight into talking about her views in fashion and how she was trained (in the old-school fashion) the art of Haute Couture. Kim Hicks attended the School of Parsons, and landed a job at Arnold Scaasi, one of the great, few, Americans who also studied haute couture. Kim was taught this craft, like most young couturiers would in Paris. When it was time for her to venture on her own, she braved the fashion world the only way she knew, through designing made-to-measure couture. Kim has a Love for textiles that exceed quality and beauty of any standard, and works with textile mills such as, Abraham, Taroni, and Gandini, the same textile mills that provided fabrics to master couturiers Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent.

All the bead work is done by hand and everything is finished by hand on a Kim Hicks dress. According to her clients, she has created gowns with the most comfortable inner corsets that move with the body, without compromising support. Kim always works very close with her clients, developing designs and silhouettes that are flattering to each individual woman. Gina Sanders and Alexandra Lebenthal are two loyal clients that have turned to Kim for red carpet and gala gowns. Recently, Gina Sanders wore one of Kim’s gowns to the American Woman Gala, for the opening of the Costume Institute’s new exhibition on American women and style. These women are very busy and know that they do not have to take a trans-Atlantic trips to Paris, to buy couture, they have the best right at their door steps. Kim Hicks does have the intention of expanding her business overseas, London to be exact. She has clients in London, and many women in Paris love her work as well, which she has also taken her collection to Paris for a trunk show.

Gina Sanders in Kim Hicks Couture at the Met's American Woman Gala, Courtesy of

Alexandra Lebenthal in Kim Hicks Couture, photo by Manhattan
As she took me through the racks of beaded confections, Kim explained to me her design process; she studies historical costume, whether it is a military Cossack from Russia, a dress worn by the Gibson Girls, or a flapper dress worn to do The Charleston. Some of her influences come from another great couturier, Charles James, which she has re-created a modern version (more wearable as well) of his “Four-leaf Clover” gown. Kim Hicks is also a wonderful illustrator, many of her clients have pointed out that she is one of few designers, whose gowns actually look like her sketches. She has a strong ability to create what is on paper, to look as what she envisioned. As I left her studio, I was thinking what a joy it was to talk to Kim Hicks, and to see her work. She is a rare breed of American designers that care more about making beautiful clothes, than having a huge margin. She has proven that there are some American designers that are still making beautiful clothes.

Illustration By Kim Hicks, Courtesy of Kim Hicks New York

Post Script: Kim Hicks New York is available by special order at Bergdorf Goodman, NYC. A trunk show of Kim Hicks Couture will be held at Bergdorf Goodman, Monday May 10th and Tuesday May 11th, 2010.

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