Designer and craftsman Kingsley Walters discusses how his upbringing in Jamaica and multi-disciplinary career as an artist and creator has influenced his perspective on style, and what sustainability means for him.
"Making things in a traditional way is like sharing an opinion. I am speaking through the things that I make."
Multi-disciplinary artist and designer Kingsley Walters is no stranger to hard work. His brand, Kingsley Walter Studio, makes extraordinary hand-made leather products which speak to the experience, talent and vision of their creator. As he sits down with SIRPLUS, he tells us what inspired him to begin working with leather, working with this ancient material and crafting it into must-have items for the modern day.
How did you get started in the world of design?
Kingsley: I started practising just over five years ago. I spent the first couple of years trying to build up my skills. I started out just selling on the Broadway market in Hackney, just making small stuff like card wallets, that sort of thing. Sometimes I sold stuff, sometime I didn't! But it slowly get my interest going. And then I started to receive a few commissions from friends, family, and random people who saw my stuff online. It was slow, obviously, but it gave me the encouragement to carry on until I found my style, until I really started to enjoy it.
Your studio has this wonderful kite logo. Can you tell us about the background to that?
Kingsley: It reminds me about growing up in Jamaica. I left when I was 11 years old, but that's old enough to remember a lot. During school holidays, we would run around in mango fields, and play football against other kids, or make homemade kites and fly them in playful kite wars. Sometimes, we would put all our money together, so the winning team in the kite wars would have made enough to go to the shop and buy drinks and bread. Jamaica contributes massively to who I am, so when it came to deciding on a logo I went back to my roots. That’s where it all started - making kites from scratch, by hand. Making things in a traditional way is like sharing an opinion. I am speaking through the things that I make.
Tell us a bit about the relationship between leather and sustainability.
Kingsley: My approach to sustainability is rooted in quality. I didn't study fashion, it was never at the forefront of my mind originally that I needed to have a story to tell about how my brand is sustainable and have some new narrative to push out into the world. For me it all started with quality, with the sourcing of the material. With leather, there's a bit of a misconception about it being unsustainable because it comes from animals, but that's the opposite of the truth. Obviously I would never work with a material where an animal had to die for it. But leather is available, in abundance, and it makes remarkably durable pieces of clothing. Sustainability is not just about buying the latest eco-material, it's about avoiding buying things again and again. If you have some good leather shoes, you're gonna have them for five...ten years maybe. For me, sustainability is about quality and making stuff that lasts.
Kingley wears SIRPLUS's textured polo shirt from his SIRPLUS selection.
"Sustainability is not just about buying the latest eco-material, it's about avoiding buying things again and again."
How do you relax when you're not in the studio?
Kingsley: I listen to audiobooks a lot. I just finished listening to Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead - it was great. It reminded me to be a bit more stubborn now and then. I'm currently listening to Robin Sharma's The 5 O'Clock Club which is all about self-disciple and routine. First thing on this list is getting up at five in the morning, which I've been trying to do. It works for me because you get to experience London when no one else is around, and the streets are completely quiet. It's amazing. I do some exercise, get some adrenaline pumping, and do a bit of yoga. I find it hard to watch stuff on TV, or to sit through a film. My friends had been trying to get me to watch Star Wars recently, but I just couldn't sink my teeth into it. I did try though - and I liked that there's a lot to learn from Star Wars. I like the idea of the force and the concentration needed to control it. The force being in you - that's a message I liked to see in the world. I think that's why it emotionally connects with people - because people want a force to believe in. Something that tells them they can do this.