On the Runway

Fashion’s New Bad-Boy Brand

Men’s designer Adam Kimmel has a new collection with Carhartt. He tells Isabel Wilkinson about Hank Williams III, going viral—and a possible women’s line. Plus, exclusive video.

07.19.11 4:27 AM ET

Here’s an unexpected new role for country-music legend Hank Williams III: He’s now a men’s style star. The music sensation appears in an artistic new video by popular men’s designer Adam Kimmel, who releases a collection with American workwear brand Carhartt on Tuesday.

According to the designer (who says he began wearing Carhartt when he was 10), the collection was a “meeting in the middle” for two different kinds of guys: the style-savvy New Yorker who might wander into the men’s department at Barneys, and a manly man going for a weekend joyride on his Harley-Davidson. The result is a 29-piece collection of denims and plaids—part bad-boy (the video and look book feature several bad-ass motorcycle dudes driving into New York) and part metro.

Kimmel, who began creating viral videos with well-known artists to showcase his clothes before he even held his first runway show, is relatively ahead of the curve. His collaborations include the “casino collection,” with masks designed by artist George Condo, and “Dressed for Dinner,” a hair-raising video of the escape artist David Blaine swimming with sharks in an Adam Kimmel tuxedo. And his design inspirations have been eclectic too—from cowboys to the Pacific Northwest to, in the case of his spring 2011 collection, the rapper Snoop Dogg.

But the designer says it’s not all about going viral. Yesterday, Rebecca Black released “My Moment,” a follow-up video to her 197-million-hit success, “Friday,” which catapulted her to instant fame on YouTube in March. But when it comes to fashion, relatively few designers are showcasing their collections with video. (One notable exception is Prabal Gurung, who recently released a music video collaboration with singer Rye Rye to debut his 2012 resort collection.) Though Kimmel’s formula of creating original videos around his clothes before he debuts his collections seems like a wise way of branding himself online, he claims he’s not just aiming for the clicks. “The goal isn’t to create something viral,” he says. “It really wasn’t about telling a story as much as it was really creating the most amazing product possible.”

For now, Kimmel (who is married to the actress Leelee Sobieski) is focused on the Carhartt collection, which is being sold exclusively at Barneys. But more and more, he says, he finds that women are buying his clothes in extra-small sizes to wear themselves. After a year of androgyny in fashion—when Kanye West wore ladies’ clothes, and 19-year-old Andrej Pejic became a transgender modeling sensation—it’s hard not to speculate about Kimmel’s crossover appeal. It’s on his mind, too. The designer says he would “consider designing a womenswear line,” explaining that “each season I make a little bit more effort to accommodate my female customers. But right now I love focusing on the men’s.”