Kelsey Ann Kasom - She/Her
Womenswear Fashion Designer & Sculptural Textile Artist
Kelsey Ann Kasom is an artist and designer who redefines how space is valued sculpturally. After graduating with honors from Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design, Kelsey worked for Anna Sui and later Valentina Kova through back-to-back seasons in New York Fashion Week. In 2019, Kelsey moved to London to pursue a Graduate Diploma in Fashion at Central Saint Martins and then in 2020 she was accepted into the Royal College of Art for her Masters in Womenswear. As well as her work regularly being featured in fashion magazines across the world, she was recently named as one of the top 5 creatives in The Dyslexian. Kelsey was identified as 1 of 5 designers and creators whose dyslexia gives them the ability to build, design, create and define the embodiment of the dyslexic aesthetic. Last year, Kelsey’s work was exhibited during neurodiversity month in San Francisco for the Dyslexic Dictionary.
Please tell us about your career
As a designer and artist, I believe in utilizing the privilege of having an expressive platform to be an anchor of communication. As a child, creativity was my voice, and as an adult it instinctively still is. I believe in challenging what fashion is or what it can be, with a focus on womenswear not as an individual body but for anyone who identifies. For me, the most exciting part about creativity is having the ability to create change that is manifested within each body of work, work that can share a unique perspective on how we can see ourselves and the world differently. There has always been an indescribable need to exhaust material iterations - to challenge the properties of what we know to then celebrate what something can become. My passion allows me the ability to question and problem solve to then innovate and shape new understandings. I do not create without my memories and that has transcended my relationship with my passion through art and design, I can redefine how space is valued sculpturally as an extension of the body both internally and externally.
I started making clothes for myself when I was 7, that was when I received my first dress form from a flea market in a neighboring town in rural America. Before that, I was draping bathroom towels, and t-shirt rags, and reworking my father's worn-out work shirts into garments for myself. I grew up with clothes passed down, never really knowing what "new" meant, but creating something different felt like what new could mean for me. This was a starting point for me, expressionism. At the time, I was really struggling so coming home from school every day and working on my dress form was a way for me to cope with what I had been going through, at home and in school. I think it saved me in many ways, I mean my life, so I always knew I had to make it my life. It was as simple as that for me to commit.
Recently I was commissioned to represent the creative community as a dyslexic artist and designer for the Dyslexic Dictionary at the Arion Press Gallery in San Francisco. The Dyslexic Dictionary illuminates the dyslexic experience of language in powerfully graphical terms. I was one of nine dyslexic talents across mediums and backgrounds in an effort to lead a paradigm shift in the way society understands learning differences. The mission was to present dyslexia as a visionary, positive force — a hyper-ability. More than just an exhibition, Dyslexic Dictionary was a forum to showcase dyslexic ingenuity, host public conversation, and gather community. I was so honored to have my work next to several postcards from children around the world, sharing their Dyslexic Dictionary words and a visual representation of their experience with dyslexia. As a child, my relationship with my dyslexia was unknown and as a result, I struggled throughout my adolescence. It means so much to me to have my work alongside children whom I hope feel proud of their ability because that is what dyslexia truly is.
I hope to continue to create in such a way that feels boundless in complexity and empowering within space, but also has depth in its meaningfulness. Outside of art and design, I hope to write a book one day. It is more of a long-term goal for me. I think my childhood self would have never seen that possible for someone like me, but as an adult, I believe in myself far more and really hope to continue to make myself proud. I can be quite hard on myself which I think is natural for ND people but in particular women. When I think about my future I can't help but revisit my past, and a lot of what I do is for my younger self, but I hope that along the way it also inspires others.
How has being Neurodivergent shaped the direction of your career?
I’ve always described the way I visualize as a rotating multidimensional blueprint with an endless scope of possibility. But, I have come to learn that is truly the gift of being neurodivergent. The complexity within my work stems from my ability to harmonize my conceptual and visual thoughts into limitless ideas; ideas that become manifested within the therapeutic physical nature of my creative process. I learned I was neurodivergent when I was 26 and then everything became full circle from my adolescence in education to my undeniable anchor on creativity. As a child, I attended a small rural education system. Without being tested, I was just placed in a class with children of different learning abilities called special education. I was just bullied throughout my education and unknowingly used creativity as a way to cope. Creativity was how I survived and it is how I excelled and fought for a chance at higher education. Without knowing my: disabilities became my abilities - shaping my work ethic and drive. But most importantly my grit.
Do you feel that your job/industry is a good fit for an ND woman?
Yes, absolutely. The space I work in always allows my abilities to shine and in most cases, it sets me apart from others by having a unique scope of perspective. The complexity within my work stems from my being ND. I feel it has given me the ability to harmonize my conceptual and visual thoughts into limitless ideas; ideas that become manifested within the therapeutic physical nature of my creative process. I feel strongly that ND people thrive in positions of creativity.
What advice would you give to another Neurodivergent woman navigating their way through life?
Know your strengths. Anchor on what makes you feel whole and never let the doubt in others shape your identity. Defy a system of doubt with action and integrity. But most importantly never give up on your dreams and that advice for any woman or those who identify as a woman.