Kenneth D. King, Part 1 – Background

This is the first of a three part series on Kenneth D. King.


Bark Coat, Boiled Wool. No vertical seams. Shaping created by joining horizontal, style lines.

Bark Coat, Boiled Wool.
No vertical seams. Shaping created by joining horizontal, style lines.

Kenneth D. King is a custom couture designer, an adjunct professor in the Haute Couture Certificate Program at the Fashion Institute of Technology and an international sewing celebrity. As an authority on sewing and fashion, he has written multiple sewing books and is a Contributing Editor for Threads Magazine. Kenneth’s work can be found in the permanent collections of museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and in the private collections of celebrities like Elton John, Don Johnson, and Geena Davis. He developed a class for Burda University on making a couture dress, and according to, “Kenneth’s vast construction and pattern making knowledge makes his classes an indispensable resource. His charisma and humor make them a joy to watch.”

The question is, how did a little boy born in Salina, Kansas grow up to be the renowned designer Kenneth D. King? We’ll let him tell it . . .

My mother and grandmother sewed, so I started making Barbie clothes at an early age. (I was four.) Barbie was my fashion inspiration, and in my mind, she was 27 years old, lived in a Big City, drove a convertible, went to the theater and restaurants, and only owned evening clothes. So, I guess that sparked my interest in being a designer.

Hair Jacket Photo by Jack Deutsch for Threads Magazine.

Hair Jacket
Photo by Jack Deutsch for Threads Magazine.

I started making clothing when I was in high school, and the first thing I made was a blue chambray shirt. I had trouble with the collar (I didn’t understand much about how it went together), so even today, when I’m installing a collar, I feel a little anxiety. From there, I just sewed and sewed.

As far as my education, my B.S. degree is in Fashion Merchandising, with my specialization in window display. Since both of my parents were do-it-yourselfers, I knew how to do wallpapering, building, sewing, upholstery — a good skill set for window display. That job was as close to being a designer as I could imagine, living in Oklahoma. Window display got me out of Oklahoma to San Francisco, where I eventually worked for a nightmare boss.

Having a nightmare boss pushed me into starting my own business. I had a chance to kill him and make it look like an accident (and almost did it). That was my wake-up call.

At that time, I met my first paying customer, and it changed my life.

In 1983, a friend introduced me to a woman who wanted a mother-of-the-bride dress. She’d looked in London, Rome, New York, and San Francisco but couldn’t find anything she liked. That was my first paying gig and I realized I could earn money doing this.

Next Week:  Part 2 – Questions & Answers


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