Jamie Kim is a Korean designer residing in NYC. She has experience in both menswear and womenswear, but specialises in men’s ready to wear. She aims to create contemporary clothing that combines classic and modern trends. Jamie recently worked for Corridor NYC and 3.1 Phillip Lim.
We had the chance to interview Jamie about her work, experiences so far and her hopes for the future. Here's what she had to say...
Solstice: Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? What did you like to do as a child/teenager?
Jamie: I am a fashion designer based in New York from Korea. I grew up in Korea, studied fashion design in Korea, and studied menswear and international trade and marketing at FIT in New York. I'm currently working on my personal label and working for the New York luxury fashion brand. When I was young, I wanted to be a diplomat, so I focused on my studies. My parents also wanted me to work in another country and experience different cultures and people, so it was one of the careers they recommended. However, while I was only studying, I became a high school student who enjoyed watching Project Runway.
Solstice: How did you get into art & design?
Jamie: When I was in high school, I enjoyed learning about various kinds of art through the media. Fine art, movies about them, exhibitions, fashion Tv shows, etc. I always wondered about the world outside the country where I was born and raised. Then one day, my mom asked me a sharp question (what do you really want to do?), and I realised then. What I want to do. And, I happened to come across Korean designer essay book, so I started to walk the path of a fashion designer. So I started studying art, and I majored in fashion design in Korea eventually. Since my first year of college, I have set a vague goal of studying fashion and working as a designer in New York, and I have been able to study more details about Menswear and fashion industries that I was more interested in in in New York.
Solstice: Do you think studying at university/fashion school is essential for a prospective designer? How did it help you to realise your dream of becoming a designer?
Jamie: I don't think that needs to be necessary. Just as there were many talented designers who didn't go to fashion schools in the past, there are so many talented people who draw their dreams as designers even if they don't study at famous fashion schools.
When I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer, I thought that the only way was to go to school and study first. Because there was no one around me who knew or could help me with fashion. I would say it helped me a lot. Many future designers could study and share their opinions together, and not only my design view existed, but I could see and feel many different design views in one space. Also, I was given opportunities to receive criticism from professors and current designers, and opportunities to approach the fashion industry more easily at school. From these many opportunities, I was able to get thoughts and convictions about whether or not I would move forward as a designer. I think there are many ways to get into the fashion design. Walking down the path you want more will eventually help you achieve that dream.
Solstice: Who is your favourite designer? Who has influenced your work the most?
Jamie: I admire Rey Kawakubo. Her combination of classical and deconstructionism is impressive, and her own designs that reinterpret various silhouettes using bold materials and colours are inspirational. She also communicates the messages and meanings through design, and I could expand my perspective on design. She influenced me as a designer to have an attitude of dealing with everything from various attempts and perspectives, not just one point of view.
Solstice: What have been the challenges of starting your own brand/business and keeping it running?
Jamie: When I first drew my brand, I thought a lot about branding and design aesthetics. When I was working as a student, I focused on the artistic elements and interesting details and methods that can be expressed by fashion design, but in the process of creating a brand, I tried to find a way to show my thoughts and my design perspective to more people and communicate. Along with fashion design, design starts with art, but in the end, I think it is an art that needs to have commerciality, so it was challenged to maintain my own personality but consider popularity.
Solstice: What is your process for creating a clothing design, from initial ideas to finished product?
Jamie: I focus on inner voices and thoughts as a way to draw the first thought. And I usually go out on the street and observe people's lifestyles and routines, and get style inspiration from them. It is my hope that my collection permeates people's daily lives. It then finds a practical, functional, but unique fabric. Determining the fabric is also the longest thing to do. With such inspired materials, they create designs with sketches and devote time to pattern making. Because what I care about the most is the fit and harmony of detail. Then I make various necessary guide materials, communicate with the factories, and work on the production stage to achieve my design intentions as best as possible.
Solstice: Is there a particular piece of clothing that you are particular proud of creating?
Jamie: I like the coat of my collection the 'I' voice is central. Inspired by a classic double-breasted trench coat, the coat added an exaggerated body fit with different lengths and slits at the front and back to highlight it, an abnormal-sized sleeves and folded cuff, and a naturally folded, notched collar lapel. In order to emphasise the volume more, I used wool fabric with a novelty texture with weight. In particular, in order to convey the message and ideas of this collection, the artworks of romanticism in the 19th century were embodied in graphic prints, printed on silk, and shown effectively using zippers to be detachable. These details were one of the ways I showed the concept of this collection well, so I liked it, and the reactions were great.
Solstice: Is sustainability important to you and your designs? What are your opinions on fashion’s problem with overproduction and waste?
Jamie: The questions you asked are exactly the ones I'm concerned about these days. It has been a long time since the fashion industry discussed sustainability. However, there are many issues that can raise sustainability at many stages, so I think I should choose and decide the best way I can as a designer. As for overproduction, I would say we should consumers quickly and accurately analyze what they want now, and aim to get clothes to consumers without leaving anything behind through sales data analysis. Also, I think clothes that go to consumers' closets should be designed so that they can be worn and kept for as long as possible. Slow fashion is also one of the important factors in how sustainability can be practiced. The waste is also one of the serious fashion issues. Recycling, upcycling, donation and sharing should reduce the number of clothes we go to the ground, producing and ordering the right amount of fabric and subsidiary materials at the production stage, and producing the right amount for sale per season. In order to minimise the harmfulness to the environment even if such materials or garments become waste, I think it is also something that designers should keep in mind about selecting and using natural or recycled materials.
Solstice: What would be a dream project for you to work on?
Jamie: My dream project is probably a collaboration with brands doing make our lifestyles. Through collaboration with brands such as Patagonia, Nike, and New Balance, I imagine it will be another fresh combination if a collection with my designs on their innovative fabrics, technologies, and ideas comes out. It seems that daily wear can be presented to consumers, not just functionality and utility.
Solstice: What are your plans for your next collection?
Jamie: The next collection will consist of more expanded and eye-catching clothes. While maintaining my design aesthetics, practical and functional classical and utility, hand drawing or graphic work will be applied on my collection gets more artistic and interesting. It will present more emotional mood with soft and modern colour palette, fabric development, and added knitwear collections. Also, I am looking forward to launching my women's wear collection in a short time.
Solstice: The pandemic has hugely affected the fashion industry, but how did it affect you and your work? Did you learn anything new that you probably wouldn’t have had without the pandemic?
Jamie: Through the pandemic, I learned how much changes in people's daily lives influenced the fashion industry. Because they spend more time at home and even work, consumers these days are no longer busy with uncomfortable and unnecessary clothes. Therefore, when I do my collection or work for the company, that part has become the most important factor. Since people have come to realise that fashion has no longer become a part of their lives and understand their own bodies rather than outward beauty, I consider and think that part put on my design works.
Solstice: The fashion industry has thrust itself into the digital space over the past couple of years, especially with NFT deals and digital fashion shows. Will you be stepping into that world, or are you still very happy with staying in the physical world?
Jamie: I enjoy drawing and making clothes and feel happy. But we have to keep pace with the times. Even fashion magazines, which were only seen on paper, can now be viewed with the touch of a finger in the palm of the hand. Even I am learning software that implements my clothes with 3d. I think NFT or digital fashion shows are an interesting world that can break down the barriers to fashion for more people. I'm excited that I'm living in an era where both worlds coexist.
Solstice: Would you like to live and work in any other fashion city? London, Paris, Milan? Maybe somewhere in Asia, like Tokyo?
Jamie: To be honest, I haven't thought about living or working in any other fashion city other than New York recently. Starting and working as a fashion designer in New York City seems to be a good city to promote myself and my brand worldwide. I've just started my career as a designer in New York, so there's still a lot I want to know and a lot of things I have to do. After peaking as a designer in New York, the next stop will be probably Tokyo?, where my favourite designer lives.
Solstice: Do you think you’ll be branching into any other types of design in the near future?
Jamie: Yes, maybe I can show you a collection of women's wear. The concept and style will be completely different from my men's collection, which will be a collection highlighted by voluminous silhouettes made mainly of stiff fabrics. I also focus on material development and novelty fabrics, and I would like to call it Princess Casual Streetwear.
Solstice: What do you hope you’ll be doing/where do you hope you’ll be working in five years?
Jamie: I hope I'll continue to show my collection and work for fashion brands in New York. I think there are so many things I haven't shown you yet in my sketchbook, and I still have a lot of things I can do for fashion brands. And I believe that my collections will spread out around the world and communicate with people living in other cities through my designs.