Creatives in Practice: Kody Phillips

Kody Phillips

“Give me a reason to make it.

The Kody Phillips saga is never-ending. It seems like just yesterday that Phillips was sitting in his Ohio studio, with samples of his now beloved Pilot Hoodie dangling on hangers, talking about the death of retail and his hopes of designing for some of the world’s most influential celebrities. 

Over the span of two years, Phillips and I have conducted interviews whilst sitting in seats all over the world. And while I’ve migrated from chilly winters in Ottawa, Canada to rainy days in London, Phillips has amassed an Instagram following well exceeding six figures, dropped some of his most nightmarish designs, and has had the privilege of dressing the likes of Drake and Chance the Rapper. While his design prowess and often eccentric clothing (and personality) speak to the majority of fashion innovators, his community is what helps him continue doing what he does best.

In 2015, the Kody Phillips label was shaken to its core. Describing his growth as “blips in the matrix,” he decided to veer away from the creativity-sucking world of screen printing and swiftly moved to cut and sew. His first piece, a torn-up olive jumper that was accented, and fixed, by printed images sewn to cover mistakes, was the piece that proved to him that he had something special. “It’s my first post on Instagram,” said Phillips, still with samples hanging behind him, “I think I sold like 40 of them and it was so huge to me. I was high on life.” 

In the years following, Phillips revived his creativity, ushering in new products such as his curve jeans, which were swiftly copied by fast fashion labels, and a pair of nylon cargo shorts outfitted with pockets for everyday essentials. In Phillips’ eyes, those essentials just so happen to be your phone, wallet, and a double cheeseburger made to sit in the circular pouch.

One of the most instrumental pieces from that era, and a pair of pants that I’ve coveted since its launch, are his Accordion trousers. As a small designer, Phillips was unable to order pants with multiple, larger inseams, and retain enough stock to keep his fans happy. The accordion trousers fixed this problem, as the two zippers fastened above the knee could be opened, unfolding an extra inch and a half of fabric, or three inches when both are undone. 

These pants were one of his first fully inclusive designs, allowing customers to purchase their desired waist length, and then fasten or unfasten the zippers as they saw fit. “If I look at my little sheet with Accordion pants revisions, there are like 19 of them. I started out trying to make them as adjustable as possible. They’re for people of all body types, because you can’t make a lot of skews when you’re really small.”

This admiration for his community and their belief in him spearheaded the designs of future releases. His Nylon Parachute pants have seen multiple iterations, with each design inclusion stemming from comments and emails that he’s received from social media. The most intriguing addition is a flap of nylon fixed behind the zipper as fans reported having trouble not getting their underwear caught when putting them on. 

“I mean, I take it extremely seriously. That’s a main, main, main concern because the best ad is people wearing it forever. That’s the best way. So I listened to it. Very, very loudly. Some we have to ignore, of course, because some people have bad ideas, but we listen to all, and any opinions,” said Phillips.

“It’s a vicious cycle. I’m not done with a product until I truly, honest to god, would wear it every day.”

With a community as strong as Phillips’, it was inevitable that he would catch the eyes of some of the world’s most prolific dressers. Having been featured in GQ, and slowly seeing his designs on rappers and NBA players, Phillips finally caught the big fish.

“They got in touch over email,” said Phillips in regard to Drake’s stylist. “We had to do a whole deck of leather samples, hardware samples, colour palettes, and sh*t like that. At first, I thought it was fake, just someone trying to get a free jacket. But then we went through a couple of approval processes, meetings with his people, and whatever, and worked out a deal on one white set, top and bottom.”

Unfortunately, just as fast as Phillips hit a climactic high, he hit a low. “I thought I f*cked it up. It was bad. I put a red marker on it that was supposed to erase on the first one, so I had to make it again. It didn’t come off the second time so at the very end it had a red line on it. He (the stylist) was yelling at me on the phone, I was in bed at like 10 o’clock and he was sending me audio messages calling me an amateur, I fucked it up, this sucks, he isn’t going to wear it.”

Phillips, defeatedly, checked Instagram an hour later and saw a tag on Drake’s story. The 6 God was wearing an angelic white cargo puffer jacket supplemented by his Nylon Parachute pants, both in leather. From there, Drake would take the stage in the set, making sure Phillips had a contrasting all-black set prepared for a future show.

On the heels of his Drake styling, and dressing Chance the Rapper for The Tonight Show, Phillips dropped his first collection of the year: a nine-piece capsule. This featured double-knee carpenter pants fastened with button hardware and wire-style stitching, a restock of his community favourite cargo and tank puffer coats, and the Pilot Hoodie, a full-length zip up which can be unzipped behind the bottom seam, and fully around the back, detaching into two halves. 

Phillips’ work can be purchased through his website and is teased through his Instagram page. Samples are often posted throughout the development process, and subsequent sample sales are more frequent than you’d think. A few boutiques carry his products today, and he’s looking to expand coverage into more stores across New York and Los Angeles. In the coming weeks, Phillips is revamping some of his summer looks, including “sexy shirts for sexy guys.”

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