By: Malcolm Mayhew
When it comes to hand-painting that Hermes or adding monograms to Vuittons, Dallas-based artist Kris Ammon is definitely making her mark. Ammon spent a decade in luxury fashion marketing before deciding to combine her professional experience with the artistic talent she’d been developing since childhood. She founded KCA Designs in late 2017, and since then, she’s hand-painted countless cross-bodies, totes, satchels, jean jackets, leather motos and more, creating one-of-a-kind, wearable works of art.
FWTX: Putting paint on high-end handbags? How did you ever get that idea?
Kris Ammon: About four years ago, I started doing fashion illustrations, but I also was painting more on the side. I had a good friend ask me one day if I would consider painting on her bag, and that got me started. It was really as simple as that; I just finally tied together so many things that I love into one super-fun, full-time gig!
FWTX: Where does your inspiration come from?
KA: I like to get inspiration from a variety of sources — sometimes that comes from collaborating with a client and starting with what they might like; then we expand on that based on the piece. Other times, I find inspiration in music, wallpaper, movies — really anything. I am constantly sending myself notes and emails as soon as I get an idea or taking screenshots of things I come across online so I can remember them later when I need them. I will paint just about anything with the exception of stripes.
FWTX: OK, now I have to ask: Why no stripes?
KA: I knew you would ask! Very simply, if a client wants stripes, they are typically going after the Louis Vuitton Mon Monogram or a classic Goyard look. I don’t want to directly copy other artists, and they do incredible work. My thought is, “Why not just go directly to them for that?”
FWTX: Then you get to be more creative, and they get a cooler bag — a win/win! Is there a style or an image in particular that you get a lot of requests for?
KA: The requests are honestly all over the place. I do a fair amount of monograms, but the amount of “other” requests is higher. I find that many of my clients have animals or symbols that are very meaningful to them, and they want to incorporate them into the design, which I think is very fun.
FWTX: I know you’ve painted a lot of bags, but is there one in particular that stands out — a design you’re particularly proud of or that you enjoyed painting?
KA: It is so hard to pick a favorite, but one recent design that I really loved was a leopard that I painted on a Louis Vuitton Neverfull tote. It took quite a bit longer than my normal graphics, but I think it turned out great, and the client adored it.
FWTX: Does it ever make you nervous to be painting on a canvas that’s worth thousands of dollars?
KA: When I first started, I was very nervous to paint on clients’ treasured pieces. I will never forget how I felt when I painted my first Birkin. I was terrified. I am not sure if I took a breath during that entire process.
FWTX: Is there any handbag that you think would be almost sacrilegious to paint on?
KA: I would almost never tell someone not to paint something if they have their heart set on adding a design to it, but I always remind them that it is permanent and they should choose carefully. I think the only thing I would not paint on personally is a piece that I inherited. I have a vintage Gucci bag and wallet that I got from my late grandmother, and I would never even think about painting that, but anything else, why not?
FWTX: I know you paint more than just bags. Tell me about some of the other pieces you’ve transformed.
KA: I have a lot of requests for made-to-order denim jackets. I can paint, monogram and embroider them, and in some cases, I can even design and create custom patches and brooches. I just created a custom denim jacket for my little niece — it’s posted on my Instagram — and it’s thrilling to see how much she loves it.
To book a custom design with Kris Ammon, direct message her through Instagram (@kcadesignco) or email her for a quote through her website, kcadesignco.com. Meet with Kris in person on Aug. 30 at a pop-up event at Byrd+Bleecker from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. (2070 Kenley St., Fort Worth, 817.989.1500; byrdandbleecker.com; @byrdshop).
By: Malcolm Mayhew