One image from designer Ronnie Fieg’s new book, 10 Years of KITH, stands out as emblematic of his journey. In the photos, Fieg’s childhood friend Joey Coronado, now grown, sits on a bench outside of PS 178 in Queens, wearing designs from Fieg’s brand: a hooded jacket, brown cargo pants, a knit beanie emblazoned with the NY Yankees logo, plus a pair of Nike Air Force 1s. “That’s my best friend, and that’s where we met and where I learned about and fell in love with product,” Fieg said in an interview. “That was a real moment for me.”
Beyond personal significance, the photo shows how adeptly Fieg has mined his own past and his obsessions to forge his brand and its network of shops. Nostalgia, aspiration, obsession: Those themes are the through lines of the book, which Fieg is releasing to commemorate his first decade in the business.
While he started as stock boy at his uncle’s footwear store David Z, over the last few years Fieg has gained a reputation for runway shows that are akin to daredevil theater: the time he put his show audience on a moving bleachers, whisking them to various tableaux featuring collaborations with Versace and Tommy Hilfiger, or the time he bathed the ornate interior of Cipriani with 360-degree immersive video, transporting the audience to the New York skyline, the Eiffel Tower, or snow-capped mountaintops. So why the sudden pivot to printed media? The uncertainty of Covid, he said, prompted some reflection: would he even be able to throw his typical massive party? That led to something deeper: “It made me really start thinking about what the show meant,” he said. Fieg noted that today even huge media events like the Oscars or Met Gala demand a tremendous amount of attention, only to disappear as quick as they came. He was after something more permanent. “I started thinking about what the milestone needs to represent and how people need to perceive it as something that could be everlasting,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing for me.”
Fans know well that Fieg has been expansive in his thinking over the last ten years. There are the collections, the ambitiously varied collaborations, the retail spaces that attract consumers like moths to a flame. Kith feels less like a clothing brand and more like a metaverse all its own, with particular aesthetics and codes. To winnow all that down into a single tome, Fieg enlisted GQ creative director-at-large Jim Moore, who has a bit of experience with this sort of thing.. The idea struck him when he picked up Moore’s “Hunks and Heroes” off his office bookshelf for a little inspiration. “There’s a cinematic approach to a lot of these photos,” Fieg said. “And that’s the way that I see photography, too.” Add to the mix Eugene Tong, the heavy-hitting streetwear stylist who’s worked on most of Fieg’s collections, and they had a menswear power trio. Fieg likened it to working on a team that included Kobe and Shaq.
The book is full of touches of KITH’s visual identity, like the oversize product shots on white, lit like sexy sportscars in a commercial. “I love a really clean still life shot,” Moore said. “I want to see the sneaker, feel the suede, really see the texture.” In that way, the book is a testament to Fieg’s love of product—his desire to understand why some things become more than just a thing you wear or eat.
But the book also replaced the runway show—so there are new clothes here, too, with the brand’s fall collection styled by Tong and shot by Sebastian Kim. “Ronnie is just so specific about the way things should look,” Tong told me. “And we have these styles that he’s perfected over the last few collections, certain silhouettes. You know, we’ve worked together for a long time, so we just understand the way things are supposed to look, and these certain codes of the brand, a language.”
It’s certainly Fieg’s most grown-up outing – understated colors, soft, relaxed shapes, and items that are instantly recognizable as KITH signatures (coach’s jackets, tapered joggers, fleece zip-ups). There’s even a sharp suit with a tonal Yankees logo.
There’s also a powerhouse section of shots with iconic actors and friends of the brand, or, as Fieg calls them, “New York OGs” — Adrian Brody, Bobby Cannavale, John Turturro and Michael J Fox. And then there’s the actor Michael K Williams, appearing in perhaps his last photoshoot before his unexpected passing. “It was amazing having conversations with him, you know?” Fieg said. “He was so excited—he’s a product guy, too, like me. And he was just such an incredible guy. We had been texting and he was supposed to come over to my house for Shabbat dinner.”
It’s all done with the assured, serious quality that’s characterized so much of Fieg’s work. So did anything about putting the book together surprise him?
“It brought back some painful memories of growth,” he said, before clarifying. “Painful but joyful. More joyful than anything else. I saw how we’ve been able to grow. Evolving the product is one thing, but then growing as a business and opening shops, thinking about how we’re going to offer great products to the world in the most exciting way possible — that’s what we’re here to do.”