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Designer Bio: Christopher "Kiki" Terrels

By: Rachel Handel Filed under: Fashion

September 2, 2015

Current Student (4th quarter), Associate of Applied Science, Fashion Design, The Art Institute of New York City.
“This entire process has taught me so much about time management, construction, and technique. Thanks to [my education], I can actually bring my creative visions to life for the runway.”


Christopher “Kiki” Terrels grew up watching his father work in a manufacturing plant—leading him to earn an engineering degree from the University of Utah. But inspired by the creativity that he’d shown and cultivated as a child, he soon turned to fashion—specifically, functional men’s snowboard and ski gear inspired by the Utah mountains.

His New York Fashion Week collection, “Ironclad,” is influenced by medieval armor mixed with modern functionality. “I want it to have a rugged and durable feel while not being too heavy-handed. I’ve designed these clothes to be suitable for any occasion,” he says. Kiki adds that his design process centered around achieving the look of structured armor while keeping the clothes appropriate for the Spring-season. To prepare for the show, Kiki decided to return to his hometown where he feels comfortable and focused.

Before arriving at The Art Institute of New York City, Kiki had never taken a formal art course. “I thrived as a student and a designer due to the interaction and extensive feedback from my brilliant professors,” he says.

He appreciates designers like Billy Reid who create high quality and reasonably priced garments in the United States. “I’m also inspired by Sally Leon (who I first discovered through her work with the ‘Levi’s Commuter’ capsule collection).” He admires Leon’s belief that there’s something exciting about fusing innovation into products that he grew up with, while maintaining their brand identity. “It’s incredibly challenging and rewarding to maintain the balance of craft, sustainability, and performance every day.”

Kiki recommends that current students understand that passion and dedication is imperative in the fashion industry. “Fashion design is a lot of work. If you have the drive and desire to learn, this degree will be achievable.” He adds that at times, students may wonder why they’re learning a particular skill—but he knows that it all comes together in the end. “Your instructors do know better than you and if you listen to what they have to say and apply that information, you will learn things you never thought you could do.”

Keep up with all the designers here!

Stream the show live at 8PM on Tuesday, September 15.

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