Kristopher Kites is barely old enough to legally drink, but the Southside Chicago native has already built up an impressive list of accomplishments in his young design career “fake making clothes.” He’s worked alongside reggaeton superstar J Balvin to craft custom jewelry, had his designs worn by LeBron James, and even been cosigned by Beyoncé. Earlier this month, Kites added a new accolade to his resume when he was announced to be the inaugural Designer in Residence for Don C’s and Virgil Abloh’s famed Windy City boutique, RSVP Gallery.
“I feel like this opportunity can help me in my design career because RSVP gave me an opportunity that a lot of people would withhold and probably didn’t even think was there,” Kites tells Complex. “So now, after all of the drops release, others will see my full capabilities and want me to piggyback off of what I’ve done, to come to their brands and design.”
Kites’ offerings have grown to include limited releases of T-shirts and rugs over the years, but he has mainly gained notoriety for his collection of custom jewelry that includes everything from plastic Gucci link and barbed wire chains to pendants featuring iconic cartoon characters like Jimmy Neutron and Goku encased in translucent cubes. Through his new appointment, Kites will be able to stretch his creativity even further with the access to RSVP’s facilities. He will be responsible for developing his own collection, collaborating on individual pieces with RSVP’s in-house design team, and even brainstorming marketing strategies.
“Kris is family. So it was honestly only natural we work with him on a collection together. But also because Kris is a visionary. He sees things like no one else can. That’s a quality we appreciate and want to share with our community and the world,” RSVP Gallery Los Angeles manager Lance Jackson tells Complex via e-mail. “Kris had already shown us his passion and creativity with our pop up collaboration in Los Angeles. But it was obvious we were just scratching the surface of what was possible to create together. So we decided to give him the opportunity. He can set the blueprint for future designers to expand upon.”
The RSVP Gallery Designer in Residence program was introduced at the top of October as part of the brand’s 10th anniversary digital yearbook that documented everything from memorable releases with superstars like Travis Scott and Lupe Fiasco to alumni like Aleali May and Easy Otabor. Already known as a space that has helped give a platform to young brands like Fear of God and Just Don in their earliest stages in the past, the Designer in Residence initiative is RSVP’s way to move into the next decade with a new approach to the same idea.
“We’ve now entered into a new decade of RSVP and were looking at ways to intentionally give back to young designers using the platform that has been built in that time. Considering everything that’s happening in the world, we want to do something positive to encourage creatives in a very proactive way,” says RSVP Gallery Managing Director Dawn Apang. “The DiR program is basically a commitment to making space for young designers and giving them a platform they might not otherwise get this early on.”
When it comes to Kites in particular, he has a long history with RSVP as a shopper and a Chicagoan who just wanted to work there. In the digital yearbook, he recalls always making sure to put on his best fits before visiting the space in hopes of impressing the staff and getting hired. He never was, but eventually would be recruited to model in a handful of lookbooks. A few years later, he's now able to finally say he's working with the RSVP team. Growing up designing, he also says co-founder Don C was a big inspiration to his craft.
“Don C meant the world, to be honest. Seeing where he came from, he was a man of many talents, seeing all the collaborations he’s had, how far his designs have reached across the world, and just also being different. When he came out with snapbacks and the shorts, everyone wasn’t really doing it. Everyone was doing T-shirts and what was common. He went a different route with it and opened up streetwear to those avenues,” says Kites. “RSVP didn’t inspire me to design, but Don inspired me to design, to see that you can be in that atmosphere and still take off.”
Kites says he already has some ideas for how he will bring his ethos to RSVP in the coming months. Home goods is something in particular that he mentions he wants to tap into while working with the boutique.
“RSVP as a store is very important, but I also want people to live that RSVP lifestyle at home,” says Kites. “To have the same cool vibe that’s everlasting when you walk in.”