To celebrate the launch of Monster Ultra Gold and the new class of creatives embracing it, we’re profiling up-and-coming artists excelling in their craft. They’ve also reinterpreted the can’s bold colors and turned it into an exclusive capsule collection of their work, which we're sharing here.
The popularity of upcycling and DIY fashion projects has soared in recent years thanks in part to a cultural shift in rethinking the industry’s environmental impact. But for South Side Chicago designer Kristopher Kites, whose recent accolades include being named RSVP Gallery's first Designer-in-Residence, it was his only way out of a troubled environment.
Kites’ work over the years has encompassed everything from custom T-Shirts to furniture and even rugs, but his main claim to fame is the custom jewelry pieces he creates using seemingly haphazard objects. The end result falls somewhere between funky jewelry and wearable art. We caught up with the up-and-coming designer over email to see what’s on the horizon for 2021, what he’s currently working on — including a new Monster Energy project, and more.
Tell us a little about your professional background and how you started your design career.
It started from the South Side of Chicago, sewing clothes and whatever I could find, with the goal of making something no one had ever seen. I had a lot of ups and downs and knew I had to come out with some hot shit to get me out of the hood — I graduated high school third from last in my graduating class. A whole lot of work and failed ideas, but along the way I came up with my favorite collection of plastic jewelry, Conversation Pieces. Once I saw how many conversations it started on the street, I dropped and it went up from there. I was 18.
Where do you usually draw inspiration for your creations?
Cartoons and my childhood! That was the best time of my life and just that pure joy and happiness and carelessness channels through all of my creations heavily.
Your custom jewelry pieces have been spotted on many celebrities — who’s been your most prominent client and what did you create for them?
It’s kind of hard to pick because I love everyone who’s rocked my pieces. So, I’m gonna say two guys who I’ve had the honor of making pieces for. First, Don C — I made him two Astro Boy pendants at the beginning of me taking off and he loved it. And then also J Balvin! He probably has the biggest collection, but the Matte Rainbow Necklace we dropped for the Arcoiris Tour was definitely a piece I’m proud of from both of us.
Talk to us about the inspiration for your Monster Energy project and the creative process behind it.
A whole lotta gold. It instantly synced with me that I needed to make some monster stuff, and Monster has a bad boy reputation in my mind, so I had this chain I was working on that I had on ice — the Big Boy Skull Chain. I knew it was the perfect time to bring it out. It was cool that I was asked to mess around with ‘gold’ even though I make a lot of plastic jewelry.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?
Trying to be original and just keep fresh and new ideas flowing! A lot of the environment I’m surrounded in, in streetwear is copying or heavily taking inspiration and I just fight to bring new things to the table.
You’ve had an incredible year in 2020 career-wise and was announced as the inaugural Designer in Residence at RSVP Gallery last October — tell us about that experience.
I was just sitting back and putting together 2021, and a lot of things came full circle. It was so amazing being welcomed into RSVP Gallery because I modeled for them for years in high school, hoping for a sales position, and now I’m the Designer in Residence. It’s too crazy and I’m so appreciative of it.
One of your most controversial projects involved destroying a limited edition hand-painted Supreme porcelain Cupid figurine — what was the reaction like from fans and artists, and are you working on anything similar for the future?
It was crazy but in my opinion not crazy enough. I’m gonna always want things to go 10x better but that was a project me and Eric Whiteback worked on together for over a year. It was so fun making every single step of the project. I’m definitely gonna break more of my work and others because breaking things is fun, and more sculpture bags too. The Powerpuff Girl Heart Case I teased over a year ago is still highly anticipated, so I may drop that next month if it fits in the schedule. I’ve been super eager to drop that.