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Meet Kirsten L. Thompson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kirsten L. Thompson.

Kirsten, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started my career in fashion in retail – of all places, oddly – with the Sears & Roebuck Company. But I have had a love of fashion since I was six years old. I clearly remember dressing my younger sisters, wearing my grandmother’s clothes, cat-walking around her tiny rural home, and dressing neighborhood friends and kids and schoolmates. I even rented my clothing to some of them! (My mother put a stop to that.) At Sears, I worked in the home decor/designs department and then shortly after was promoted to assistant manager of the shoe department. I threw mall fashion shows, learned the art of relating to people in a retail environment, and how to manage myself and others.

At the time, I was just about to graduate from high school (two years early) and knew that I needed my own money if I wanted to have the freedom I truly desired. This revelation came about after asking (more like begging) my Mother for a pair of expensive jeans, to which her reply was, “If you want anyone’s name on your behind, it can be mine!!” She then proceeded to write her name A-G-N-E-S on my right rear pocket with a black Marks-A-Lot marker and made me wear them to school! I was absolutely mortified. I always tell this story because it did several things for me. It made me: a) appreciate how hard my mother worked to provide for us and b) helped me understand that I needed to make my own way and never to ask anyone for anything.

Fast forward a few years, after a few semesters of college, and I landed a position Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth – where I was an assistant manager of Ladies Sportswear. Soon after that, I moved to a full-line Saks location and worked as a liaison store for companies like Theory and Dolce & Gabbana, I was recruited by Neiman Marcus and encouraged to put my name in the hat for the Prada liaison position. I learned invaluable lessons in all of these positions. Once I left retail, I decided that the best thing for me to do was go into business for myself… and here I am!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I have certainly had my share of share of obstacles to overcome — some of them personal – others professional. But there is a science to conquering those challenges and learning from them. It literally rewires the brain! Early on, I remember various executives saying things like, “Well, to be an assistant buyer, you need to be really good at math,” suggesting that I probably wasn’t.

There were also microaggressions throughout my career, in various forms because – let’s be perfectly frank – this is not an easy profession and can be even more challenging for Black Men and Women. But I refused to ever to “stand down.” And I have succeeded in making my own lane; instead of asking, I create. It isn’t easy, but it is immensely rewarding when things work out the way you planned envision.

Personally, learning how to manage time effectively and marketing my skill set without compromising integrity or values will always be a tightrope walk. But we are all continuously learning and growing, so I am not ashamed to say that these are aspects I am still developing. I hope to never stop gaining knowledge, fine-tuning my craft, and learning from others. Because I am pretty sure that when you stop … you cease to be alive. Metaphorically and physically.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I operate as a sole proprietorship currently and consider myself a Creative Director. I am a wardrobe stylist and work as a personal stylist for clientele, but I also do editorial work. I don’t want to be limited in my creativity, so I also do fashion show production and curate fashion and art events.

I periodically do set design, in addition, being a stylist, and I have published writings as well. I relate to fashion as more than trends and labels, garments and big business. It is a language unto itself: culture, art, tradition. Messages can be sent to the world when you put a garment on or create a look that expresses how you feel. And the same goes for the campaigns and projects I work on.

Ultimately, I want people to FEEL something when they see my work. And fashion is, most decidedly, a business. But that does not preclude those of us in it from making a statement within that context from making an offering to the world that reaches beyond commerce. I am proud of the little niche I have created and, although awards are not my sole motivation, I have had the immense pleasure of receiving several for my work.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
There is a lot on the horizon! I will finally launch my website in 2019, and it will be a home – or a destination of sorts for – all things fashion and art. I will be doing a bit of blogging/vlogging, as well as establishing other content that I want to see and haven’t found, So I am creating it. I will be forthcoming and say that this is something I was afraid of doing before.

I thought it would overwhelm me! But I realized that in order to do what I ultimately want to do, I have to own content on my own platforms (shout out to Harold and Gylon for stressing this to me over the years – it finally clicked!) I will also continue to curate events and work with young and independent designers to grow their brands. The rest is all a surprise!

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