Fashion / Style

Kim Russell of @thekimbino is ‘RUSSH’s’ AAFW guest editor

Kim Russell

If you consider yourself a fashion person, it is likely that you’ve heard of Kim Russell. Known to the internet as @thekimbino on Instagram and Twitter, the fashion researcher and stylist is someone who is always telling it like it is, no matter who the subject of her feedback is.

Aside from her impeccable eye, which sees her conceptualise archival looks on celebrities virtually and, these days, in real life too (she recently styled a few looks for Sabrina Elba and worked as the researcher on Tems’ perfect Met Gala look), what makes Russell so arresting is her earnestness. It is not only evident in her frank attitude, but in the way she communicates her ideas, her hopes, dreams, manifestations, and reservations. She is not showing up with a holier-than-thou attitude sprinkled with truth-telling, she is just telling her truth, and it resonates with 166k (and counting) people on Instagram and beyond.

Her sheer talent for articulating both looks and her opinions is what drew RUSSH to Russell, and it's the reason she is our resident guest editor for the entirety of AAFW.

“It’s major for me because I feel like it's something that I've always wanted to do. It's one of those goals that at the end of my 20s I would be able to step into something like that," she tells RUSSH.

Her first moments of internet fame came via the now-defunct mood board site, Polyvore, where, Russell then studying as a fashion business student, put together outfit collages. She then took a few years off from fashion, working in education, before circling back to her passion as an archivist and stylist. It is quite safe to say it’s been uphill from there. While many people will reference her success to the fact that she has Kim Kardashian in her DMs, we think it’s far more exciting when she tells us about her Instagram chats with Gabriella Karefa-Johnson. Here, Russell tells us about her trajectory so far, what she’s looking forward to this AAFW, and how her strong voice is what’s pushing her forward.


There are plenty of stylists and creatives out there but none that have carved a niche quite like yours. Was this a purposeful decision or did it just grow from Polyvore?

I think both. Because it was really oversaturated with a lot of Polyvore creators coming on to Instagram, so it was getting really saturated, and I was like, “I don't want to do this or that”. It's just like dragging and dropping. It's not like what I want to do forever. So it was natural because it was super saturated and I was like, “how am I different from the next page doing what I'm doing?”


Tell us about your work with Sabrina Elba. Styling is the direction you are excited by, yes?

Yeah, I think so. Because I feel like initially that was the goal doing Polyvore. And then as I got older, I had to figure out what it is that I like to do. With fashion, it's so broad because there's so many different titles. You could be a creative director or a designer or a head of VIP… there’s a title for everything. But I realised I really like to be creative and bring an idea to life. I think with Sabrina, I just finally got that opportunity to do it. It is definitely something I want to do more of because I've wanted to do it for so long.


Speaking of opportunity. That word, alongside the word “access” is something you have spoken a lot about in interviews and your own page. Can you expand a little bit on this, and do you feel progress is being made or do you feel it’s still limited?

I don't want to look at it as limited progress because I don’t want to shit on whatever progress other people have made and are making for the rest of us. Which I guess, also, that includes my own, because if a Black South African woman who migrated to Australia and lives in Perth can do some of these things, I guess it is a sign of change, and a reference of somebody else that didn't exist before. So just like everything, there can be more changes, but we're getting there slowly. There are definitely times when I felt like as a black woman, it’s hard, because I see every other person represented, and it's just like, okay, “where are my people?”

There are brilliant people, brilliant Black women in fashion doing huge things, and sometimes I think that when I speak on those things it's been when I've been going through the shittiest time ever. It’s important to have nuance in what I'm saying, so when I say “oh, there's no representation”, it's like, when I said that, it was like in the worst time of my life ever.

So it's very easy to feel like there's nobody out there, or that everybody hates us, but there's black women in fashion who just are the best in their field.


With that in mind, especially within the Australian industry, I wondered what you're hoping to see during Australian Afterpay Fashion Week?

I don't really know what's going to happen but I'm excited because I think for me, I never really focused on Australian fashion because, 'Oh my god, I live in Perth. I need to get out of Australia and I need to know what the hell is going on in Europe, in America and the UK.'  So I really have no idea what to expect.

But other than that, I think I'm just excited to do this with RUSSH and just share it with everybody cause it's a big deal. You know?


You have such a strong voice of your own that a lot of people really trust so I wondered what was the decision behind coming on board with RUSSH, and what will that look like in terms of sharing your opinions?

I think we're at a point now where it's too late for me to be any different. The other day somebody was like, “Oh, so this is why you deleted your tweets about the Louis Vuitton campaign". I didn't delete them. People thought that because I got a bag I deleted my Tweets! It's too late for me to be any different now because people would notice if I was starting to change. I want to remain that way, and obviously it is something that's valued.

With RUSSH, it’s funny because on this call with somebody in London, I was just complaining about how I want to be a creative director. And she was like, “why don’t you try RUSSH?” And then I was on another call with Gabriella Karefa-Johnson at Vogue. She was like, “I love RUSSH.”

So when Jess (Blanch) asked if I wanted to do it, I was like “Oh my god. I spoke it into existence.”


What do you feel Australian fashion does really well, and what sets it apart from the rest of the world?

I’m excited for the Welcome to Country on the first morning. That seems really unique. You don't really see that in America or that we're really putting a spotlight on Indigenous talent. It's a different conversation, but I'm really excited about that.


Are you hoping to witness any change during AAFW? New visions or a push for diversity?

I think it's a big mix of everything and it all falls under the one umbrella. Diversity is a huge umbrella. It's not just in colour, it's in everything. Recently, I got invited to my first boutique opening. I feel like these happen every week, but I got invited to my first Valentino opening. And it was so cool and such a fun experience, and I got to meet different people in Australia in the fashion world, many people whom I have never interacted with before. That seems weird. Like, not to be that person, but to me it feels weird that that was my first one. I started doing this in 2016 and it's only now that I'm finally getting to do this.

I feel like it's not my place to be the one to be like, "you know, can you guys invite me into this thing?" I feel like fashion PRs and all those things should be the ones who are in the know of who is out there. But I try not to…I don't know. I try not to gaslight myself and it isn't because I'm this colour. Or is it? Just like, I don't know what it is. Because if it's not that, what is it?
It's just hard to toe that line between feeling paranoid. I think diversity in general, whether color, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, whatever it is, I think Australia is becoming more of an open book.


Tune into Russell's AAFW coverage online and on RUSSH's socials from May 15th.


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