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Fashion / Style File

Dallas Artist Paints on Pricey Luxury Handbags, Making Designer Wares Truly Unique

Meet Kris Ammon — the Decorative Disruptor

BY // 03.05.19

During high school, I fancied myself a punk rocker. I did it more out of fashion and not for the music. At the end of the day, the hardcore sound was a little too abrasive for my delicate demeanor, but I did like that faster crowd of ne’er-do-wells.

Part of the punk rock aesthetic was drawing on everything, including clothing — embellishing high-top sneakers with Anarchy signs and leather jackets with band names like Corrosion of Conformity.

Perhaps it’s those rebellious roots that first attracted me to @kcadesignco on Instagram. How could I possibly resist a social media account replete with images of vintage Louis Vuitton totes emblazoned with painted monograms and rainbows, and Chanel flap bags boasting in-your-face skulls?

Who was this entrepreneur and artist willing to deface luxury bags — and how was she finding an elite clientele willing to paying her to do so?

The girl armed with the paintbrush is Dallas’ own Kris Ammon.

The last half decade has given rise to the notion that disrupters and geniuses are inherently the same — and that disrupters have the DNA to become the next generation of billionaires. I’d venture to call Ammon a divinely inspired, decorative disrupter.

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She fits the criteria: creating a business, unlike others, which thrives on the art of defacing iconoclastic luxury bags — albeit in a preppy way —  that most want to keep in pristine condition.

Ammon grew up around the country, due to her father’s career that had the family constantly moving all over the map. She landed at Southern Methodist University and earned a degree in marketing. A few years later, after working in the luxury arena of fashion and interior design, Ammon felt a yearning to do something creative on her own.

Given the massive bridal industry, she thought, why not utilize her talent with calligraphy and her hobby of sketching to launch a business. Armed with the skills she learned via childhood art classes, Ammon launched KCA Design in 2017. Soon after launching her business, she moved off of paper canvases and onto, well, handbags.

The transition was simple: An early client liked some of her sketches and asked Ammon to breathe new life into an old Louis Vuitton. And just like that, her niche was born.

Ammon lives and works in Preston Hollow, along with her husband, Ryan Ammon, their English bulldog, Moose, and their French bulldog, Stewie. She doesn’t churn out her creations quickly. It takes several hours to finish a monogram, as those require exacting precision and numerous layers.

Her small graphics can often be done quickly, but the more elaborate, often irreverent ones take close to two working days. Thus, the current wait-time for a KCA Design creation can take at least a few weeks.

Louis Vuittons are her favorites to paint on, specifically Speedy bags, while Goyard pieces prove difficult, with the bags’ graphics already resembling contorted M.C. Escher paintings.

Making Something Old New

When I was in Miami this past December for my annual Art Basel visit, I happened upon the Nike store which had a pop-up Lab for customizing sneakers. I loved the experience of creating my own, personalized pair of shoes and have wanted to do the same again.

I rummaged through some of my old things hoping to find something that Ammon could make fresh and new again. Hey, I am a firm believer in “shopping your closet.”

I came upon a vintage Gucci train case that I had purchased a few years back at my beloved consignment store, Vintage Martini.

A KCA Design by kris Ammon
One of Kris Ammon’s designs. In this case — literally a briefcase — you can find a tempestuous tiger.

It was slightly weathered, but I knew it had a few more decades of use in it. I’ve always been a proponent of monogramming everything in sight.

I think the saying goes: If it moves it should curtsey and if it stands still monogram it. In fact, one of the first “Billy Fong Sez …” features I wrote for PaperCity was on that topic. I arranged for a coffee meeting with Ammon to get her recommendations on my piece and to get to know her better. What she ended up creating for me was better than I could have imagined.

Over coffee that day, I realized that Ammon is always throwing a curveball. In one moment, she shares that her style icons include Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot and Iris Apfel. In another moment she provides the names of the artists on her current playlist: Travis Scott, Amy Winehouse, Future, Fleetwood Mac and Drake.

Classic and edgy in equal parts seems to sum up Ammon — and KCA Design. If Drake and Travis Scott are the theme songs for Ammon, what would her vintage bags be lining up to karaoke?

Well, let’s go back to LL Cool J’s classic, Mama Said Knock You Out: “Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years …”

Most of her bags have been around for years, but after a few days at KCA Design, they have a rebellious future ahead.

The Kris Ammon File

Age: 35 and holding.

Occupation: Artist. Tools of the Trade: Angelus leather paint, the tiniest of paintbrushes, tons of bad rap and R&B music.

For more information, check out kcadesignco.com

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