Large pussy bows. Knee-high socks paired with sandal slides. Stark white details set on dark, autumnal colors. Cocoons! Waist ties. Arm ruffles. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to make fashion-sense of the above details, the answer might very well be in Korean born, Russian based womenswear designer Jenia Kim of J. Kim. In a matter of five official seasons that Kim says were mostly experimental but have been redirected to serious just this past year in Paris, the young designer attempted to contribute to the larger fashion narrative. She’s implemented an acutely whimsical though technically impressive tone to ultimately beg the question: what do we want from our clothes?
Below, an interview.
Name: Jenia Kim, of J. Kim
Location: Moscow, Russia
When did you launch your label? In 2013 I made my first serious collection. Before that I experimented a lot. My brand is still in the making. I’ve worked for 5 seasons already, but my first presentation abroad happened only this season in Paris.
Why did you launch your label? I dreamed about it my whole life. Even when I was in school I told everyone that I would be a designer and have my own store. I believed that I’d achieve everything that I dreamed about in childhood and started working on it. For me, designing collections and developing my brand is pure emotion and happiness. I’m actually a little crazy about what I do.
Do you believe that a designer should be producing four new collections every year? Why or why not? At this point, it’s hard for me to imagine. You need so much energy and creative force to make four collections per year. I made four collections this season and it was very challenging. Concentrating on one more than the others is inevitable. I think two collections per year is enough — three at the most. In that case they’d be more elaborate, I’d put more work in them and not suffer from glut.
What do you feel like you are doing differently in this crowded space of fashion designers? I’d like to believe that over these five seasons I have developed a signature style. I never tried to be like someone else — on the contrary; I was always afraid of that. In the beginning I wanted to show people the beauty of traditional Korean dress and culture but make it modern and wearable. I think I’m the only designer who is promoting Korean style while being located in Russia.
How important is the American market for you? I want as many people as possible to see my clothes, to find unique and special clients who love the product. There are many different interesting people in the USA, I am sure that many of my future muses live there. I fell in love with New York after my first visit in 2013. I realized what a crazy number of possibilities life gives us.
How do you want women to feel when they wear your clothes? I want them to feel special. When a woman wearing my clothes enters a room full of women, she feels confident and comfortable. She knows she’s unique and truly beautiful.
Where do you take inspiration from? Before starting a new collection I always try to leave Moscow. This time I went to Samarkand and Milan. I usually walk through the city streets, visit museums and then draw a lot. For a while I’ve wanted to visit Korean villages and small towns. I always get the purest emotions and a fresh stream of ideas in places where nature prevails over civilization. These are the best places for processing information that we receive.
What is your favorite piece from your collection? I like sundresses and t-shirts with appliqués best because they’re the most comfortable. And the wrap-around skirts with ruffles! They can also be worn with jeans or culottes.
What do you think are the most attractive qualities in a woman? Childish spontaneity, sincerity, vulnerability combined with the power of spirit.
How about in a garment? Something that makes you want to save it. It could be a nice soft sweater you can’t not wear, or maybe some details that are especially touching.