“I never realized I could do what I’m doing as a career because I didn’t see anyone else doing it”, Art Director and blogger Kim Mitchell tells us. She’s been creating content for her blog since 2004 – a decade before the term ‘influencer’ would become ubiquitous...
“The first year I started blogging, I went to Bryant Park for Fashion Week, and you still showed up with a printed invitation and the volunteers checked you in using a clipboard. There was still the suspense of having seen a show live since images weren’t available immediately afterwards. Now a fashion show can be on Instagram Live.”
Her blog j’adore couture evolved from a thesis project in which she designed a fashion magazine for women of colour. As a Black woman working in the notoriously white-washed American fashion industry, it’s something she’s well-versed in. “When you’re the only person of color in the room, it can feel isolating”, she explains. “Black Americans have $1.3 trillion in buying power, and they are underrepresented in areas like fashion and interiors. The population of BIPOC is only increasing yet magazines don’t have Black editors, brands don’t have Black executives. It’s especially problematic as brands have been leveraging Black culture, but not hiring Black talent to execute. Companies need to do a better job of hiring Black employees, and then nurture them when they’re in the room.”
Now behind the art direction wheel at Gap, creating diverse content for Banana Republic as well as her long-running blog, Kim is well and truly in the room. We speak to the creative about how the blogging world has changed, why she’s been unfairly labelled as ‘aggressive’, and how fashion is becoming more democratic. In that case, Kim Mitchell gets our vote.
Photo: Shannon Righetti Strom
Tell us about your childhood. Where did you grow up, and where did your love of fashion come from?
I grew up in Philadelphia, and I love the mix of history and modernity. My maternal grandmother used to make her own clothes, and clothes for me, so she’d have patterns and catalogs around. Philadelphia is very close to New York City, and I have family that lives there who I spent time with. My aunt would take me to her favorite vintage stores and I’d pour through her stacks of magazines and be so inspired.
Was creativity and self-expression something your family actively encouraged, or were you naturally drawn to it?
My family did encourage my artistic side. I took art classes at a local college and played the flute. Once I got to high school however, they were much more practical and wanted me to focus on a major where it would be easier to get a job right away. I also never knew about art direction and design as a career path, but once I discovered it after my sophomore year of college, I never looked back.
You now work as an art director for brands including Banana Republic - what was your career path to get there?
I was working at Grey, a big advertising agency in San Francisco, and after three years, I was feeling I had hit my ceiling there. I was doing some freelance work on the side and decided to leave to do that full-time, while also networking to get a job at a fashion brand. I started doing some contract work for a design studio and one of their clients was Gap. The account manager said they were looking for someone to come on full-time, and the rest is history. Initially I was on a team on the corporate side, but eventually I moved to the Banana Republic creative team.