Heejin Kim’s love of visualization and installation art is written all over her collection with the manifestation of wearable art that is both cool urban wear with a twist of the fantastical. Always with an edge of unique detailing that tells a story, allowing a freedom of expression through her pieces.
From the black leather jacket that draws the eye up with its zipper detailing, leading us to the mixed black and bright pink fur around the collar, to the pink leather jacket with black thick fringe material, Kim's pieces make a statement.
All the while, Kim cleverly juxtaposes a heavy urban aesthetic through the leather jacket then adds a new dimension with a playful and surprising pink satin pant that balances urban vibes with modern and daring street style.
Thank you for taking the time to meet, Heejin Kim!
You studied integrated design at Yonsei University. What made you decide to begin a career in fashion?
I always felt interested in visualizing what I wanted to say since childhood, I was in interested installation art and in interior design. As I grew in the design world I became more interested in the concept of human beings, this intensified the intention of the humans themselves and naturally developed into the interest in fashion since clothes are the closest things to the body.
You went to St. Martins College of Fashion in London. How was that experience for you at both the college and living in London?
I only completed a course at St Martins. There were many professors that came in and out but one that made an impact on me was Christopher Grey, I remember his feedback that he had given, he was the tutor of illustration drawing. He looked more deeply into each student’s idea. He didn’t stick to the school ideas and that really stayed with me. I know that every student that went to London to study had a difficult time, they enjoyed it but it was quite hard.
What is the meaning behind the name Kimmy J?
Kimmy is my nickname, and 'J' symbolizes my friends. Because the people I’m surrounded with have the name ‘J’ in their name, so they represent the people around me. The name was people thinking about all the people I love and also a nod to myself.
I saw in a previous interview that you are quite an activist, how does this manifest itself into your designs?
I am really not very good with words; I don’t have a lot of friends to speak with. I am a speechless chatterbox! I can express myself and my thoughts into drawing and this has helped me expand my ideas into society. I didn’t know how to do this until I figured out how to organize my thoughts. Now I can and I am able to put them into my drawings. One of my ongoing projects is finding which idea to project onto my designs.
Do you always have a social message within your collections?
Sending a social message to my customers is one of my mottos. It’s what I talk about when I meet people, how to send social messages through my designs. It is very important to me to have that social message in each collection but interpret it in a fun way. I always try and find a way to do this.
What inspires you and how do you create your collection around it?
If there is a certain message I would brain storm it, if it can be expressed and interpreted through the collection, I will use it.
Usually people think of music or other kinds of inspiration, but for me the change in time and the change in society and the trends in society and the gradual change in us is what I like to express through my designs.
How would you describe your own personal style?
I always stick to a unique style, everything I wear, I always buy exceptional pieces. They have to have a specific wit or vibe or even something I could not make myself. Not necessarily expensive. I also always wear warm clothes. I can’t stand the cold! It might look to other people that I don’t like shopping but I am a picky shopper. I’m also a healthy eater, when I’m with friends I eat whatever but when I’m by myself I eat healthily and I also like to exercise but I work a lot so it’s hard.
How would you describe the women you are dressing, who is a Kimmy J customer?
I would describe them as a person who knows themselves well and is never pushed around, confident not just consuming things but has a well rounded view on life.
I read a quote in which you said, “Good design helps the development of a healthy society and mankind.” Can you expand on what you mean by this and was this your intention when you started out as a designer?
I have had this idea since childhood and in the years since then, that people have an instant reaction to visual outlets. I was trying to help people understand what the power of sympathy means, not just image, but something tangible and this is what a brand can do best. We plan to work our way up with this vision.
What is your design process like, from inspiration to final product?
I think of my message. I put it in categories, after categorizing the written thoughts. I then sketch out the details, fabric, add silhouette but recently I have been putting more time in to deciding on what materials to use.
What has been the biggest challenge for you with starting up your own company?
Since it’s only been three years, proving the value is very hard and is still underway, working towards my brand direction.
I think the biggest accomplishment I have is that I have never been in debt to anyone, achieving my goals by myself.
You’ve already been so successful in such a short period of time since launching your company. What do you think has been the key to your success?
Even though it’s been a short time, one year felt like a very long time! I never pushed or rushed things, I based things on my budget and vision and to be honest, in the beginning I felt very rushed because of my finances but after that one year I was able to continue to the next step.
If you had any advice for a new designer, what would it be?
The advice I would give? Once per week ask yourself the following questions, is there anything else I can do except this? (Kim laughs!) it’s hard so ask yourself this. Then if there isn’t, you have to ask yourself, what do I expect from this? Then finally, what do I need to do this week to achieve this?
Great questions to ask yourself in this industry or any other. Where would you like to see yourself in ten years time?
Because my current studio is not very bright, it’s not really suitable for a good
working environment, so I would like to have a nice studio with warm light coming in.
What does being chosen by Concept Korea mean to you?
As I began to launch my career, I always wanted to join Concept Korea. I really respected the designers and I am so happy to be a part of it. I want to create a great show for everyone.
Thank you, Heejin. I have no doubt you will!
All Look book photo credits - Kimmy J
Kimmy J on Instagram
Kimmy J Online
With Special thanks to the KOCCA and Concept Korea.