After less than two hours of arriving into Moscow proper, I had already met a designer I got quite excited about. I was introduced to Jenia Kim, designer of J. Kim, a fairly new Moscow-based label that is proposing clothes steeped in traditional Korean attire and tradition – not as odd a proposition as it would initially seem. Kim is from a family of Korean emigrants, raised in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. That’s where the title comes from as Kim is part of a significant Korean population that have settled in the post-Soviet states. Kim then moved to Moscow to study at the Carl Fabergé College of Applied Arts as well as undertaking internships with Russian designers.
The journey from her family’s Korean roots to her Uzbeki upbringing to her current Russian surroundings forms the basis for Kim’s designs. On one hand, even though Kim is Korean, she’s re-immersing her work into Korean culture in a way that means she’s able to appreciate the appeal in the richness and the dramaticism of the hanbok costume and to recontextualise these recognisable silhouettes and motifs. On the other hand, because Kim is Korean, she’s able to ensure her clothes are contemporary enough not to be mistaken as costume. And in Russia, where there’s a renaissance and celebration of their own heritage and tradition as well as an innate appreciation of the folkloric and the decorative, J. Kim’s pieces have a natural home here.
When I met Kim, I was already struck by how beautiful the embroidery on her sleeves of her coat were.
For A/W 15-6, Kim continues her ongoing fascination with traditional Korean culture. Korean folk dancing and the movements of their long fluttering sleeves permeate the collection. Looking back at the tinted and hand-coloured photographs from the early 19th century, shades of blue, mustard and jade green seep into the mostly monochrome colour palette that reminds me of mourning robes in China, Korea or Japan. Movement is incorporated in other ways such as the decorative use of ribbons and Kim carries on her love of naive origami and children’s craft detailing on wool coats, cotton shirting and dense silk dresses. The effect is such that even though Kim has appliquéd costumed figurines with flailing sleeves all over her pieces, she has streamlined the silhouettes and abstracted the figures so that nothing reads literal. The volumes of the Korean hanbok costume are retained in this collection but not necessarily the verbatim garment shapes.
Her S/S 15 collection centres more around the hanbok components like the short jeogori jackets and the full china skirts. Kim has dissected different elements of this traditional garment, cutting and fusing them with trench coats or shirt dresses. The Korean equivalent of the obi – the otgoreum is exaggerated and made into the central feature of the collection finding its way as a neck-tie and as a separate belt that can be layered up over skirts and jeans. Both of these collections are clever culture blends that are stellar examples of how a designer can incorporate their ethnic identity into contemporary fashion, without it being about exoticism.
As someone averse to looking like I’ve fallen out of the doorway of an Asian restaurant, wearing J.Kim is one surefire way of testing its nuanced ethnic credentials. I’ve left my J.Kim belt all hanging out untied, and paired it with her beautiful black satin take on the jeogori with appliqued cranes, which was part of a collaboration she did with Russian jewellery brand Masterpeace. They’ve passed the test with flying colours. I’ll be watching out for future J. Kim collections avidly.
Wearing J. Kim x Masterpeace top, J.Kim embroidered belt with & Other Stories trousers, Celine t-shirt and Celine slip-ons
SOURCE: Style Bubble – Read entire story here.