Weaving together tales of Dutch immigration, forgotten scrapbooks from great great grandmothers, and folk art collages, Linder’s Summer ’19 menswear collection charts a lineage of love. For Kirk Millar, who took on the mantle of menswear for the design house last season, it’s a natural next step after his emotionally raw ode to coming out for the Fall ’18 collection earlier this year established him as one of fashion’s most intriguing queer designers.
This time around, Millar has moved on from the ripped-out pages of queer authors that guided him and instead found solace in the idea of lineage both past and present. While drawing inspiration from a family scrapbook that belonged to his great great grandmother, he also looked towards the future. “I had thought about the relationship to coming out and the questions that come up with parents about whether they’ll have grandkids or if you’ll get married,” he explained. “I wanted to touch on how, at least in my experience, you make your own rules and how you carry on your lineage in your own way.”
Working within that narrative concept, Millar created garments that created a kaleidoscopic collage of references that marry everything from love letters and Dutch lineage to drawings of dogs and horses and florals cut from a garden magazine in the 1960s by his great great grandma. Blended together, Millar’s understated and sensitive new collection is representative of the journey every gay man goes on. As his lookbook notes, after coming out “the door opens to fantasies, hopes and questions about legacy, future, love, companionship, and resiliency.”
As Kirk Millar put the finishing touches on the collection, we caught up with the designer to talk about text message love letters, dogs, and the universal desire for companionship that drives his collection.
OUT: Your first solo take on the menswear collection for Linder was so personal and so focused on your own coming out process. Was there a moment or item that sparked the idea to look back at your lineage as inspiration for the new collection?
Kirk Millar: I’d been thinking about this idea in the season before. My collections always tend to overlap and even as I finish out this collection, I’m thinking about Fall/Winter 2019 already. I had thought about the relationship to coming out and the questions that come up with parents about whether they’ll have grandkids or if you’ll get married. I wanted to touch on how, at least in my experience, you make your own rules and how you carry on your lineage in your own way.
It’s interesting looking at your collection because these questions you bring up are so rooted in looking towards the future but there are also a lot of references throughout the clothes to your lineage and the past. Did you do a lot of digging into your family history for this season?
Yeah, there was a lot of digging. I found a website that just had the lineage of this one Dutch immigrant and my great great grandma and her kids were on there, but that’s where it ended. I know much more about it though because growing up, one of my relatives was deep into genealogy so I knew a lot about it anyway but the scrapbook was particularly helpful to have with me. I opened it up and realized how beautiful it was — especially seeing this almost folk art way of collaging.
Another source of inspiration in the collection is love letters. Have you ever written a love letter to someone?
I’m sure in middle school or something but a physical letter? No. I’ve definitely had a Valentine’s Day card but definitely not something that fully expressed my feelings. Nowadays, as unromantic as it is, there’s text messaging. I have exchanged some pretty exposing text messages.
It’s funny to think now that we’ve replaced love letters with these novel-length text messages to people we’re into. Tell me about the dogs that are on some of the garments.
The sweater with the dog on it is a drawing from the scrapbook and the dog image with the “best friends” lettering was just me thinking about what dogs are for humans. They’re basically a manmade thing. They coexist with us and are a source of companionship. I was thinking about that general desire for companionship and some people find that in dog ownership or friendships or relationships. It falls into this bigger theme of the desire to be loved.
Yeah and that ties in with the “boyfriend” embroidery too. Last season’s presentation took place in an army tent and this year, there was more of a sports theme with the sort of pedestals you’d see for awarding medals. What inspired that?
When I was designing last season, because I’d been working on the collection for such a long time, I hit this point of realization that in life and in the business, there’s always going to be hurdles to jump over. I started to think about how, in order to continue, you’ve got to keep jumping over them whether you want to or not. You just have to put out the effort to continue fighting.
Did you do track and field when you were in high school?
(Laughs) No. I am not athletic at all.
Trust me I’m not either. Now, you’ve tied music into your collections and made accompanying playlists. What’s on this season’s playlist?
This collection feels like a very big collage of a lot of different elements so the playlist is more eclectic in its feeling. It’s a lot of different references smashed together and very stream of consciousness.
I take it this one probably won’t have Sufjan Stevens tracks from Call Me by Your Name?
No, it’s actually more aggressive honestly. There are lyrics that have to do with misunderstanding someone or proclaiming to someone their intentions.
Is that a reflection of a romance you had that might’ve weaved its way into the collection or just an overall feeling?
It’s a mix of both. (Laughs)
What’s the overall mood you want to set with the collection?
Well, the last collection was a very universal but personal coming out narrative and was a bit more sensitive. In this one, there is sensitivity in it but it’s more about the idea of moving forward in strength and deciding that you want certain things in your life and you’re going to make them happen. It’s a hurdle for a lot of guys to even start dating other guys and to imagine their future. This season is about that aggressive move towards getting what you want.
Creative Director: Kirk T. Millar
Fashion Director: Marley Cohen
Photographer: Charlie Gates
Stylist: Michael Darlington
Hair Stylist: Lucas Wilson
Casting: Elliott Foote
Set Designer: Elaine Winter
Fashion Assistant: Merari Rodriguez Bonilla
Photo Assistant: Jackson Stack