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Kyle Svendsen Responds to Gang-Inspiration Controversy

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"Made in America" by Kyle Svendsen. Images via Kyle Svendsen.

After Racked wrote about Kyle Svendsen's "Made in America" debut LAFW collection, he found himself the subject of a bit of controversy. Readers and other press outlets picked up on his mention of deadly LA gangs the Crips and the Bloods as a major inspiration for the clothes, and they weren't sparing in their criticism. We caught up with the busy LA resident to let him explain himself in more detail.

Can you describe your early design process for "Made in America" and the major inspirations for the collection?
"I wanted to go back to when I became inspired by clothes, and started focusing on what people were wearing and how they were wearing it. As my ideas evolved I found that I was drawn to the theme of feuds, based on the nature of the music and film that inspired me from this time. I focused on the visual associations of LA "gangster rap" and the 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, as well as the thematic links that are prevalent in both."

How did Romeo + Juliet and '90s hip-hop influence the collection?
"After seeing Baz Luhman's Romeo + Juliet in theaters, I was inspired by the way he took a classic story and translated it into a film that was relevant to modern times. Everything from the soundtrack to the visual aesthetics was absolutely perfect in my eyes. As far as the music I listened to, I loved everything from Nirvana and Guns N' Roses to 2Pac and Naughty by Nature. I remember watching Yo! MTV Raps and really admiring the style of these artists, particularly Treach from Naughty by Nature. He has always been overlooked as a trendsetter of the '90s, and of course, 2Pac has always been a huge inspiration in both his music and style."

When you decided to use the the red and blue colors in your collection, did you expect that anyone would react negatively?
"If any offense has been taken, I apologize and stress that this was not my intention. I do not intend to condone violence in anyway. Anytime you reference a controversial subject there will be negative reactions. In my research I came across a documentary about gang history in Los Angeles. I was moved by the stories of former members and the history behind the gangs. I knew I wanted to incorporate those elements into the collection. There is a dark history with these gangs, but if you look further back to their inception you see that they were not created for violence."

How would you describe your collection as a whole?
"The collection is made up of oversize separates that can be styled in many ways as well as statement pieces, gowns, ready-to-wear dresses and tailoring. It embodies the boldness, elegance and femininity that the Kyle Svendsen brand strives to celebrate."

When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
"I have always been fascinated by clothing and looking at the way people dress. When I was in college at the University of Colorado, I studied film production. As time went on I realized that I was drawn to the way the costumes added to the story, and each characters' self-expression. I decided to return to school for fashion design. After a few internships and a couple of years working for Jeremy Scott [ed note: who's no stranger to controversy], here I am, and I enjoy it everyday."
· Kyle Svendsen [Official Site]
· Kyle Svendsen's Debut Collection Inspired by Bloods and Crips [Racked]