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Kristina Talks About Being an Artist of Color and Her Creative Mindset

Bob Cut Magazine + The American Craft Council Feature

I’m so excited to share the feature in Bob Cut Magazine's partnership with the American Craft Council for San Francisco Bay Area Craft Week. We talked about all things making, designing, and how being a POC in 2020 has impacted our creativity. Below is an excerpt from their article ‘Bay Area Craft Week: Four Bay Area Artists of Color Show Us Through Their Creative Mindset‘.

Kristina McConnico, BobCut Magazine, AAPI BIPOC designer


Tell us more about you and how did you get started in your field? What were the inspirations that led you down your current path?


I always knew that I wanted to be a fashion designer since I was a child. I would also say it is in my genetic make-up as my grandmother was a dressmaker in the Philippines and I have artists and designers of various disciplines in my family—fashion, architecture, graphic design, fine arts, photography, and music. I feel very fortunate that our interest in the arts and design was always something that was supported and nurtured by my immediate and extended family.

Growing up in a Filipino migrant family in St. Louis, Missouri in the 70’s and 80’s and going to a Catholic school for most of my life shaped me a lot. It was a fairly conservative environment, so I used dressing up as a form of expression. I had grandiose dreams of moving to a big city and becoming a designer. During summer breaks when most kids would be playing outside, I would stay indoors, using those months to plan my Fall wardrobe and sew everything—experimenting with different fabrics and honing my sewing skills. Plus, I love the style and icons of those decades—like Jackie O., Lauren Hutton, and Jane Birkin to name a few. They transcend time, and I try to infuse a little bit of that in my line.

When I enrolled in the fashion program at Otis College of Art and Design in LA, I was surrounded by other like-minded creatives and industry icons. I felt right at home. Along with refining my creative and technical fashion skills, Otis prepared me with the know-how for a fast-paced and competitive industry.

I was growing weary after working for two decades in the corporate apparel industry (I designed for Gap Inc., Target Corporation, and Levi’s to name a few). Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I realized that I needed to do something different. I really felt out of touch with my own self and yearned to create for creativity’s sake and not to design clothing for the masses (that was going to be produced overseas, making another company millions of dollars). That is the short story of how my brand Lacson Ravello was born. It is such a natural thing for me to design and make clothes in the purest sense. Establishing my own brand allowed me to rediscover that creative child again – the one who was always dreaming big and making something. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.


When creating, when do you feel the most powerful? What does it feel like? Give us the spectrum.


I always seem to be creating in one form or another, but it’s most powerful when I can do it with a relaxed and clear mind, in my studio, with a little detachment from the outside world. Sometimes the creativity comes in moments of solitude, and sometimes it takes a village. I also love to run ideas by my husband and trusted creative cohorts. That is when a lot of magic happens. You have an initial idea, then you bounce thoughts/opinions/more ideas, and it starts to take on a life of its own. When I land on a design idea or I’m onto something good, it can feel like an endorphin rush. When I’m in that zone, I want to keep the creative momentum going even if it’s 2 o’clock in the morning. It’s a wonderful thing.


What does it mean to be an artist of color in 2020 to you? What have you recognized or learned from creating?


In previous years, I never made my Filipino heritage a huge focus of my creativity or product. It was part of my story but never at the forefront. I always considered myself a designer first, an American second, and perhaps Filipino third. The events of 2020 have definitely made me re-examine all of this as a minority-owned business and as an artist. I feel the need to be more transparent, represent diversity, and show accountability.

Being an American-born Filipina, I naturally gravitated towards being more ethnically diverse—or so I thought. I did an exercise a few months ago where I tallied the number of Asian, Black, White, and Hispanic people that I’ve worked and collaborated with since starting my business. Seeing the numbers really put it in perspective. It made me realize that I could do more in the representation, inclusion, and support of our BIPOC community.

This is something that I’m more focused on now, and have a greater awareness in other artists and businesses as well. I believe this interconnectivity across racial and ethnic lines will have a greater impact on our culture as Americans and, ultimately, towards the products we create and offer.


If you have one, what’s a morning mantra you tell yourself that gives you that spark to get creating?


I have mantras to clear my mind, relax, etc., but, to get the creative juices flowing, I like to “cut out the noise”—free myself from social media chatter and most digital forms of communication. This means being in my physical-happy-quiet space (usually the studio behind my house), where I can hear and envision what’s in my head. I have my sketchbook readily available to jot down my thoughts and ideas. Sometimes I’ll play some music, but I do relish the silent moments. With everything that’s going on in our world, I’m embracing this extended quiet time.


What would you tell your day one self if you had the chance to relay early onset advice?


Oh, I’d tell myself a few things, but the main message would be along the lines of: “Carpe Diem” and “Keep Calm and Carry On”. I would tell myself that everything is going to be okay and to keep moving forward. Follow your own vision, and never compare yourself to others. Don’t lose sight of what’s really important—which is life, health, and family. Turn off the noise, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Have faith in yourself that everything will work out.


What about your community, do you feel, has benefitted your work, others work, etc? Is it going to classes? Seeing a group of people weekly? If not, what do you wish your community had more of?


With the limitations, constraints, and isolation we are all living with during the pandemic, I’ve had to rely on my local community more than ever. My fellow makers, craftspeople, and design cohorts have been my cheerleaders, therapists, and shoulders to cry on. It has been great to see the general outpouring of support and connectivity on various digital platforms such as social media and “seeing” my friends and family on Zoom chats. I’m also grateful to have my customers and followers that recognize the importance of supporting locally and sustainably-made fashion. Despite our physical distance, we had to connect on a different level and these bonds have made us stronger. It’s an inspiring space to be in, and Lacson Ravello would not be here today without this community.


Tell us about what you’re bringing to the Bay Area Craft Week? What can readers expect for this year even though we may be all crafting from home?


I’m showing my latest collection that was inspired by Jaipur, the colorful destination in India. “The Pink City” Jaipur, is known for its crafts, vibrant textiles, and architecture. Every piece in the new collection nods to this vast city, rich with culture and history, and meshes it with a laid-back, West Coast sensibility. It’s my way of traveling without leaving home.

Colors such as saffron, oxblood, indigo blue plus a hint of pink and you’re looking at the intense yet harmonious palette of our new collection. Playful floral embroideries and bold stripes speak to Jaipur’s architecture and the high-quality fabrics serve as a canvas for new silhouettes and details.

Functional back ties, peek-a-boo backs, and cap sleeves have been incorporated into the fun and functional collection, so you can keep cool and stand out. With high-quality pieces perfect for layering, you’ll have a variety of looks to carry you through the seasons.


Do you have any events, online or otherwise, coming up that our readers should know about?


This August marks the five-year milestone for Lacson Ravello and five years of being cancer-free. It has been quite a journey. During these past few months, I’ve had more time to pause and reflect than ever. I’ve been asking myself, “How do we move forward in these times? Where do we go from here?” I’ve been tossing around a few different ideas. Here’s a synopsis:

Go “seasonless”. That is to say, design fewer season-specific collections.

I will offer no more collections that launch just for the Spring or Fall months, because frankly, we don’t always shop like that. Most of us buy our clothing, because we love it and can see wearing it different ways season after season, year after year. I want Lacson Ravello to be timeless, versatile, and designed for longevity—offering a defined and stylish core collection that you can build upon. You may still see a short sleeve in the warmer months or a long sleeve in the colder months but we’ll always be thinking of how our clothes can be worn now and beyond, layered with the last or next collections. All of this aligns with our belief in #BuyLessChooseWell. I think it’s a practical and sustainable direction for our brand.

I want Lacson Ravello to be your “at-home uniform.”

Let’s face it, working and schooling from home is here to stay – at least for awhile. I’ll be offering more knit essentials and relaxed loungewear—but not just your run-of-the-mill sweats. Think of the “Elevated Sweatshirt” and knit tops that are Zoom-ready and look great from the waist up.

Addition of more sizes (XL/16-18).

I’ve heard my customers and I’m responding. Expanding our size assortment (even just adding one size segment) is a huge undertaking for this small company. Adding another size to the mix whether it’s a smaller or larger size involves a shift mainly in pattern making, inventory, and costs. I feel it’s a step in the right direction and I’m diving in with the addition of XL/16-18 to our size range.

Goal to be use 100% sustainable materials by 2022.

You may be asking, “Don’t you already use sustainable fabrics?” Yes, we do, but we can do more and better. Now that there are more sustainable fabric options than ever before, we want to make a more conscious effort and impact!


Read more on Bob Cut Magazine.


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