There are layers to Chris Kittrell. Let’s start with the name. Kittrell the man is also Baby Alpaca the musician (both are 27) whose self-titled, debut album drops this month. Baby Alpaca, the album, takes haunting, plaintiff vocals and places them on top of temperate guitar and piano chords, which in turn rest on smart, controlled beats, which remind us of New Wave’s danciest tracks. And then there’s the look, which is complex, and striking, and quite literally, layered.
“I wear a lot of vintage,” he says, downing an Americano at a corner café in Chelsea, barely a block from the apartment where he’s currently crashing. “I wear vintage blazers a lot and pair them with other vintage shirts, dress shirts and oxfords and flannels. I’m wearing leather leggings, by The Row. I’m wearing these shoes my friend Samantha gave me yesterday. This is a shirt that I made. It’s just cashmere, just strange loosely woven fabric. And I’m wearing my grandma’s high school ring.” He proudly points out the year of her graduation. “See, ’55.” A little home-made, a little fancy, something new, something found; all combined into something striking and bold that’s also relaxed and easy; a fitting description for Baby Alpaca’s music as much as his look.
Raised on a 120 acre farm in Owensville, Ohio, fashion and music have always been a part of Kitrell’s life. “I learned to sew when I was very young—my grandma taught me how. And I was always playing music at the same time. I had a very musical childhood,” he says. He went to school for fashion, working at Marc Jacobs and The Row, but found that the industry left him no time to do anything for himself. “I really had something to say musically, and in my own fashion sense, I needed to do my own thing.”
The solution is Baby Alpaca. In a creative outburst of style and sound, Kittrell has found a place where the aesthetic layers can combine to something greater, and something all his own. “Style is very important to me because it’s a form of self expression, just like music,” he says. “I like to wear really soft things, and I love cashmere. All my clothes are worn. I don’t have a very fresh or clean aesthetic. I think my music is soft, refined, and intricate, but it’s strong at the same time. I’m tall. I have a very bold style. It’s very noticeable.”
Like Kitrell’s more noticeable looks—the loud jacket, the hair—his haunting, baritone grabs you, and, without insistence, doesn’t let you go. The songs aren’t overproduced, but manage to stay refined. The beats underscore the album with the same pop knowingness of Kittrell’s Olsen-designed leggings. On another man, on any other man, the look would fail. But Kittrell not only makes it work, he makes it something whole.
“All the layering is a mix of male suiting meets hobo meets living out of a suitcase. But also really detailed and intricate. I like safety pins. I like long necklaces.” And here I can no longer figure out if he’s talking about the music, or the sound. “It can also be flowy and dreamy and ethereal. It’s a definite mix of masculinity and femininity.” For Kittrell, for Baby Alpaca, the intended topic on which he’s opining may be irrelevant. “It comes together in the way that you feel and the way that you sound,” he says.