Dubbed one of the coolest fashionistas in Paris, the Togolese creative talks her brand G.Y.D. Studio, journey up the fashion echelons and creating clothes that encourage authenticity.
Dressed immaculately in a swathe of angles and textures, Kimberly Anthony welcomes me with an enormous smile while elegantly seated upright. She is as pristine as I expected, but the explosive laughter that shakes her entire body throughout our chat reveals a soulful woman with a spirit so generous, even she can't contain it.
The Paris-based tastemaker-cum-model, known as @Kimberlyskinny on Instagram, may have gone down the habitual path of having enough social media followers to warrant creating her own clothing brand, but hers has been a full circle and earnest journey. To bring her bold vision to life, the Togolese creative worked with local artisans back in Lomé. Her collection of oversized garments invoke long, hot summer days and make a mockery of formalities.
Born in Togo and briefly raised in Ghana, at age seven Kimberly moved to Paris' stark and unfamiliar streets — which now at 26, she inhabits with ease. Her brand G.Y.D. Studio has created a stir beyond her own expectations — she is suddenly in higher demand than ever. With her confidence deservedly overflowing, she raises her glass with a toast to my first question.
Kimberly Anthony's pre-COVID runway show in Lomé, Togo.Supplied
What are your first memories of arriving in Paris?
There was no soft landing, that's for sure! My mother moved here with my brother and I, and it impacted my youth a lot . My father would not leave Lomé and there was a lot to deal with — so, they broke up. At the time, I didn't understand why she'd left everything behind. Having to quickly adapt to a climate that I was not prepared for, in any way, was certainly no paradise. I arrived in crop tops and shorts...but it wasn't just how people dressed that made them different from us, of course.
It should never be underestimated just how traumatic being supplanted in an alien culture can be, right?
I was suddenly living in the 94 District of Paris, with my now, single-mother. I realised early on that I couldn't have the same stuff that others had. She started off as a caregiver to the elderly and, later, went into child care. Watching your mom spend her whole time raising someone else's kids is deep!
And where did this inherent love for dressing up stem from?
It grew from pain, to be honest with you. I wanted to look good even though I didn't feel good. If you're a young girl living in Parisian suburbs and can't afford the finer things, you have to work it out. I never tried to look like anyone else. Later on, at college, I was surrounded by lots of well off people. I was frequenting thrift stores, and with just 10 Euros I could assemble an outfit — my own way. What they say about style is true!
And how did you move into fashion?
I started evolving my style, but it was only when I worked for Uniqlo as a visual merchandiser that I started perfecting it. Working for a Japanese company allowed me to really appreciate how things work together. I wore Uniqlo clothes and matched them up with the thrift store finds. That's where I got into mixing workwear and clean lines into my own thing. While my social media popularity grew, I was also making moves within the company. It all started coming together!
Were you ever ready? Some daring designs from G.Y.D. Studio's second collection. Supplied
And what gave you the confidence to start designing?
I'd had it at the back of my mind for a while. So, when I went back home to Africa in April 2019, I realised that I had been in the industry for four years. I didn't have the right studies to back me up but decided to shoot my shot anyway. I didn't fit the criteria but learned to draw my own way. It was a challenge but I put my vision on the page. That was the beginning of G.Y.D. Studio. All the fabrics are sourced in Lomé and I work closely with a local team of tailors to cut and sew each unique piece. How it feels on your skin is important to me.
What are you trying to communicate through these designs?
For the first collection, I wanted to make something big and crazy without asking any questions. My attitude was 'let's just do it!'. This second collection is bigger and more elaborate because I had more time. With the second one, I'm telling a story accompanied by photos with poems that I wrote for each item. This collection is about creating a world for myself and free self-expression. There are several aspects of myself that I don't share with everyone and this is my way of doing so. When I put out my first collection, I had no advertising support but the demand was intense.
It really helps if celebrities wear these clothes in your world then?
Thankfully, those I like approached me. DJ Snake wore my clothes for Vogue, and from this new collection I've had a request from J-Hus, whom I love. I saw others around me chasing their dreams and just followed suit. Next thing I knew, I was getting requests from Karrueche Tran's stylist. I was suddenly having to work out how to fly items to LA.
Is there anyone in the fashion world that influenced your designs?
When I was 16, I was into U.S. rap and RnB — 2Pac, Biggie, Wu-Tang. That 90s shit was my life and it influenced what I am creating, today, in a big way.
Another one of Kimberly Anthony's G.Y.D. Studio creations from her second collection. Supplied
What's in this desire to create space between the body and the clothes themselves?
I want people to exist in the space I create through my clothes so they can feel like themselves. For me, you should never be judged between what your body is and who you are. People have always called me skinny and that isn't always a compliment — especially if it's said to hurt you. As an African woman, you're expected to have a certain body type when this concept doesn't exist in my world. I accept that, at the moment, society doesn't deal well with the word 'skinny' and some brands find it problematic that I use the word candidly. However, I'm not body shaming in any way, just reclaiming that word for myself!
Taking this project to Togo must have filled you with such pride and confidence. Is making something feel like 'home' powerful?
As humans, we need something to believe in and this creation is making itself. I am lost in the process and that is the gift — allowing it to flow through me. It would make more sense for me to make regular streetwear items, but I wanted to gravitate towards my continent. There, they only see big brands like Gucci and Prada. Young people have expressed to me, directly, that they love what I'm doing because it's different. They tell me of their need for more options and possibilities! Having my own atelier in Lomé where I can hire full-time staff is, only, one of my goals. Togo is a small country and if I make it, a young person from there is making it too. Inspiring people to do big things is my dream, and I don't need any credit for it. I don't need to be in the centre of the story. The beauty is that I am plugged into something way more important.