Exploring the Best of 80s Vintage With Kilo Kish

Kilo Kish is in New York for only a few days. Before she heads back to her home in California, however, she’s picked the store Spark Pretty, which she found on Google, for our shopping trip. We’ve never met but my boss, Vogue.com’s editor Chioma Nnadi, says we will get along. And how could we not? Within a few minutes of meeting Kish, I am immediately taken by her. The L.A.-based musician is standing outside the colorful Lower East Side store wearing a vintage black lace Victorian top, Doc Martens with leopard print pony hair detailing, and an XXL leopard print hat. “I typed in ‘fluffy leopard hat’ and this was the first thing that came up,” Kish tells me. It’s fitting: She’s a Taurus who shares my exact birth date. We love extreme comfort but also unbelievable glam.

Kish’s music videos are spliced with pull-no-punches lyrics and electronic thunks reminiscent of hipster tunes from the mid-’00s. (She cites Karen O. and Courtney Love as clothing influences.) For the video for “Bite Me,” she wore metallic pink prom dresses a la Pretty in Pink; for “Bloody Future,” she sported a Canadian tuxedo. Kish is truly a chameleon. But recently, there’s the Dynasty vibe to her style: bold colors, big shoulders, and an itty-bitty nipped waist. She tells me she’s been gravitating toward sequins as well. Typically, she’ll take her vintage finds—she mostly buys secondhand—and get them tailored and altered. “I’ll change the dress completely, so I end up making it my own in a way,” she says.

Exploring the Best of 80s Vintage With Kilo Kish

The vintage store Spark Pretty seems like the perfect place for Kish and me to peruse. It’s a playhouse of ’80s hits with all-things bedazzled and acid-washed. The interior is covered in pink paint, with posters of big-busted babes covering the walls. The shelves are decorated with rows and rows of trolls, Barbies, and a pink bubble television. There are multiple chairs in the shape of high heels, one with leopard-print fabric covering it. The woman behind the desk, co-owner Amanda Dolan, has her hands full today. That morning, the store was featured on NY1 and her phone line is blowing up. “We like to bring a sense of humor to our inventory—truly something for everyone. Statement pieces with a twist to start conversions!” she later writes to me, with her business partner Meagan Colby. “Our style is a nod to the best, cheekiest parts of the past.” The wackiness of the store syncs with Kish’s look. Whenever Kish picks up a sequin-slathered dress or a beaded cropped jacket, I can see her nipping the waist or shortening it to fit her style.

Kish tells me that her style wasn’t always so reminiscent of an edgy Molly Ringwald. “I grew up in the South and my school was really preppy—Lacoste polos and madras shorts, Vineyard Vines,” she says. “At the same time, I grew up in an era where Myspace was cool. I saw these people in New York and I got to see the styles that they were wearing.” Growing up, she’d buy issues of Vogue and try to re-create what she saw in the magazines. Eventually, she moved to New York where she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology for textile design and began making her own clothes once again. She still creates clothing; back in 2018, she launched saucy-cutesy merch dotted with cherries. Eventually, she wants to design her own line.

Exploring the Best of 80s Vintage With Kilo Kish
Photo: Courtesy of Liana Satenstein / @liana_ava

I love watching the singer get excited about clothes. She wiggles into a hot pink, long-sleeve dress with a dropped ruffle skirt like she is a cool mom at a Bat Mitzvah. Another dress—black, with polka dots and tiered ruffles—is a little loose, but Kish notes how she can easily cinch the waist. She gets me so fashion-ified that I end up trying on a small pair of high-waisted denim pants with squiggly green print. Unfortunately, these pants flatten out my butt, and Kish agrees that they’re a no-go. (Spark Pretty doesn’t only sell vintage but also clothes from small independent designers.)

Eventually, Kish surprises me by passing on the bold-shouldered dresses and funky frocks, and instead buys an oversized T-shirt with Mickey Mouse printed on it. “When I dress up, I wear something overly formal. But besides that, I wear big T-shirts all the time,” she says. (Again: big Taurus energy!) She also buys three plastic charm bracelets dotted with cherries and dice for her and her friends. I follow her lead and buy one too. I can’t pull off Kish’s delicious jazzy look, but if I can get a piece of it, I will.