Adam Kimmel was fashion’s new big thing until he decided not to be. Now he’s back, recharged and redirected, as creative chief at desk space disruptor WeWork
As second-act professional re-routings go, Adam Kimmel’s is an attention grabber. In the late noughties, the native New Yorker was the next big thing in men’s fashion. Kimmel’s designs reimagined and outfitted his kind of American hero, from cowboys to SoHo bohemians, Jackson Pollock to Snoop Dogg. He also helped revolutionise the way fashion brands communicated what they did and who they were. Circumnavigating the conventional catwalk show, he used film – a tuxedoed David Blaine swimming in a tank of sharks – and theatre, including a casino full of models wearing oversized masks designed by George Condo.
His now much-sought-after lookbooks were born of loose drop-in sessions and his clothes were modelled by everyone from hotshot young photographer Ryan McGinley to LA art eminence John Baldessari and actor/artist/photographer and counterculture totem Dennis Hopper. Kimmel, in a way nobody else quite had, suggested fashion was an integral part of the larger creative enterprise. But, in 2012, he shocked the industry by cancelling his spring/summer 2013 show. He wanted to take a year off, he said, to spend time with his young family, to experiment, to learn and grow. That year came and went and Kimmel all but disappeared from view (his reputation as a designer of contemporary fashion grew in his absence). Last year, though, he reemerged as the new chief creative officer of desk space disruptor WeWork.
Founded in New York in 2010 by Adam Neumann (now CEO) and Miguel McKelvey, WeWork has grown from niche darling of MacBook and backpack freelance hot-deskers to very serious supplier and manager of office space around the world, as disruptive in its market as Airbnb has been in hospitality. A new round of funding this spring from its largest investor, the Japanese SoftBank, will push WeWork’s valuation to at least $40bn, making it one of the world’s most valuable private companies.
As of December last year, WeWork had 400,000 ‘members’ at 400 locations in 99 cities and 26 different countries. It already claims to be the largest private real estate tenant in London, Washington and New York, and those figures will have grown by the time you read this. The company is having a serious growth spurt. In 2018 alone, it added 200 locations in 34 cities and plans to keep growing at that kind of pace.
The company’s business model sounds simple enough. WeWork takes long-term leases on big commercial properties, chops the space up into smaller pieces, and sublets on shorter, more flexible terms. The brand’s secret sauce is those more flexible leases; the added extras (chic yet comfortable communal spaces, free coffee and ping pong tables); and perhaps, most crucially, the design. And that’s where Adam Kimmel comes in.
Kimmel took up the WeWork post in autumn 2017. (He is not the only big name recruit: in May last year, Bjarke Ingels was signed up as chief architectural advisor). After six years out, toying with the idea of launching a sportswear, skate or surf line, WeWork offered Kimmel something he could commit to. ‘It just started with a few conversations with Adam [Neumann] and it was like, “This is so interesting and such a cool thing”,’ says Kimmel. ‘I just gave it a shot and it clicked with me. You can’t control your fate. It finds you and you just roll with it.’
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