Alexis Kirk in 1970 wearing a necklace of his own design.
29 December 1936
|Died||17 May 2010
New York City
|Residence||New York, United States|
|Education||Harvard University, Rhode Island School of Design|
|Known for||Jewelry and fashion accessory design|
|Spouse(s)||Hope Sands (1971-1973, divorced)|
Kirk, although born in Los Angeles, and brought up in New England, self-identified as Armenian. His father, Paul Kirk, was an artist for Walt Disney, and his grandfather, Charles Vemyan, worked as a glass craftsman for René Lalique. Some of Alexis's grandfather's jewelry is reportedly preserved in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
Alexis Kirk studied art under Walter Gropius at Harvard University, and also attended the Rhode Island School of Design before becoming a lecturer in painting, sculpture and music at the University of Tennessee.
Alexis Kirk's first design, which he personally wore, was a collar of Islamic glass beads and assorted charms, typical of his early work which featured amulets and symbols drawn from cultures and religions around the world, including the hamsa, Indian Paisley motifs, and Chinese fish. Kirk was very superstitious, with a strong interest in the occult and spirituality, which was reflected in his work. He started out with a small studio in Newport, Tennessee, selling jewelry to clients such as the Senator's wife. This led to a contract to design a budget-priced line of jewelry for the Hattie Carnegie company, which was a commercial failure. Following this, Kirk decided to move to New York to set up business there.
His first jewelry collection won him a Coty American Fashion Critics' Award. The following year in 1971, he diversified into clothing design, designing garments as a backdrop to his jewelry. His first fashion collection was based upon medieval designs, with tunics over hooded metallic bodystockings suggesting chainmail.
His work, in addition to spiritual, occult, and ethnic influences, used materials such as exotic woods, pewter and plastic alongside more traditional metals and stones in silhouettes based upon organic human and animal forms. The Duchess of Windsor, who said "I am absolutely fascinated by fake jewellery[...]; I think it is so good", owned a number of pieces by Kirk made from cork, wood, feathers, faux lapis lazuli and gilt metal. Kirk's work was always designed on a large scale, the designer favouring sculptural designs in striking shapes and materials which made a statement.
His famous clients, alongside the Duchess of Windsor, included Cher and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Kirk's elephant themed designs, made since 1972, were worn during the 1980s by the wives of Republican leaders, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush, although the designer was a registered Democrat.
Before his death, Kirk was the owner of a retail organization called Dream Diamonds Online.
- Lambert, Eleanor (19 September 1970). "Ethnic Theme Monopolises Front Seat in Fashion". The News and Courier. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- Christy, Marian (12 November 1973). "Kirk Goes Futuristic for Fashion". Reading Eagle. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- Christy, Marian (3 November 1971). "Jewelry has Occult Theme". The Beaver County Times. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- The 1970s: Fashion: Awards
- "Medieval Costume Intrigues Alexis Kirk". The Press-Courier. 3 August 1971. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- "Accessories Hard To Ignore In Spring". 6 April 1984. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- "Wallis Simpson 'cork and feather' jewellery auctioned". The Telegraph. 28 Sep 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- De Santis, Florence (3 February 1986). "Big Jewelry Is Beautiful". Ludington Daily News. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- "Oversized Jewelry Gets Favor .". Waycross Journal-Herald. 23 March 1985. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- "INTIMATE PARTY OF WHO'S WHO IN DESIGNERS". The Sacramento Bee. April 9, 1987. Retrieved 29 November 2012. "Alexis Kirk, best known for his belt designs, wandered by the bar, looking for any reporter with a ready pencil."
- "Spring '86". Williamson Daily News. 22 April 1986. p. 10. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- "F!D 1984". The Dallas Morning News. August 17, 1988. "Dallas Fashion Awards/American Style honors Ruth Scharf, Maggy London, Harve Benard, Alexis Kirk, Brenner..."
- Anderson, Susan Heller (August 9, 1984). "New York Day by Day: Pachyderm Turns Polticial". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- Alexis Kirk - Biography[dead link]
- "Matter of Kirk 2011 NY Slip Op 51185(U) Decided on May 10, 2011 Surrogate's Court, New York County Glen, J.". New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431. Retrieved 29 November 2012.