American designer Kyle Brincefield, 28, never expected to go into fashion design full-time. His label, Studmuffin, takes its name from the custom studded clothing that he makes, where studs are fixed onto the clothes by hand.
When he moved to New York City from his hometown in Indiana at the age of 19, he had only about $700 on him. He earned his living by working part-time in bars and doing odd jobs.
"When I first started making these clothes in 2010, I just wanted something unique for personal use," explains Brincefield, who was in Singapore last month for Singapore Fashion Week to promote his label
His efforts paid off in 2011, when he met stylist Patricia Field, an Emmy award winner and stylist for Sex And The City. She offered to carry his clothing in her store and, since then, Vogue, Cosmo and Elle have co-launched collections with him.
"It's perfect for people who want to stand out, and for celebrities who like to say 'Look at me!'" he says of his label. "People see the clothes and they want to find out more because of how unique they look."
His clothing, which can be bought on Studmuffin's online store, has been seen on celebrities, including singers Miley Cyrus and Adam Lambert, and actress Emma Watson.
It is surprising that despite the popularity of Studmuffin, Brincefield continues to operate the label as a one-man business. This allows him to maintain the quality of his projects, he says.
"Custom studding isn't as prevalent a market, because it can't be mass-produced like other stud clothing," explains Brincefield, who is single.
"My work is something that machines cannot replicate. Every piece of clothing is one of a kind and no two patterns I have done are the same."
His designs include denim shorts with stunning silver studs that form words and shapes, and simple sweaters with jet-black studs covering the entire surface. Half of his clothing business comes from custom requests made by his clients. He discusses the desired patterns and the prices with them before starting work on the clothes they send him.
The time he takes on studding projects varies, depending on the complexity of the pattern and type of fabric, as all the studs are attached manually. For instance, a denim vest could take a full day to complete, while a sweatshirt can be finished in about 30 minutes.
Although the work is time-consuming and he has not received formal training, Brincefield is grateful that he can work in a full-time job that he enjoys.
He plans to expand Studmuffin into womenswear in the future, as his clothing currently focuses more on menswear or unisex clothing.
"I thought the studded stuff would seem a little too heavy for women to wear, but they're actually as popular with women as they are with men," he says, chuckling.
Studmuffin's success has in no way changed his strong sense of modesty. "It's a bit mind-blowing to find how many people know your name,'' he says.
"I think that custom studding is something that isn't done very often, and more people are learning about it."
9 THINGS IN HIS BAG
I carry studs wherever I go because I'm generally working on projects even when I'm out and about. These are English cone studs, which I buy in bulk online.
2. STUDMUFFIN SPIKE HOODIE
I usually wear Studmuffin for events, or when I want to look flashy and fun. Wearing a hoodie like this makes you fun and approachable, and it's a good conversation starter.
3. VINTAGE LOUIS VUITTON VISIONAIRE APPLE IPAD CASE
Visionaire is an annual magazine, which released this special case with one of its issues in the 90s. I've repurposed this one, which was a gift from a friend, into an iPad case.
4. DIANE VON FURSTENBERG PASSPORT CASE
This comes from the Cleo Fashion Awards. It's meant to be a women's brand but I consider it unisex.
5. CUSTOM STUDMUFFIN STATIONERY
These are all personally stamped by me. I usually send thank-you notes to people I work with, an idea that I got from Vogue after they sent me a handwritten note.
6. NIKON COOLPIX L310 CAMERA
My first career-path idea was to be a photographer, and it's still something that interests me. I use this camera to shoot my own campaign at times.
7. KENZO CAP
I take this cap with me everywhere. It's loud and fun, and matches well with a lot of the things I wear.
8. TANGS X SG FTW BYND ARTISAN RED NOTEBOOK
This notebook is new. I always need one to sketch my ideas and to take notes. You never know when inspiration will hit you.
9. BUSINESS CARD CASE
This is good to have for networking when I'm travelling.