Designer spotlight: Interview with Jae Kim, the London-based designer to keep an eye out for
Dreamers and doers
Does the world need more dreamers?
For Korea-born but London-based designer Jae Kim, the capacity to dream is the bedrock of his label, Jaeha — "I love the journey; meeting people and dreaming of what is needed. I get excited when I talk about the Jaeha woman," confides Kim.
Jaeha the label might be two years young, but it's safe to say that it has a shot at the big leagues — a collection marked by the fusion of elegant deconstruction, dramatic hemlines and Kim's intrepid spirit. As the saying goes: The world needs more dreamers who do. So with his head in the clouds, feet planted firmly on the ground, and hands plying at the seams, we get to know this young designer by talking fantasy, heroes, and what excites him the most.
Designing for me is like connecting the dots — shape, proportion, colour and cut; producing clothes that are visually striking yet relevant
How did you start designing, and what motivated you to launch your own label?
I was born in Korea but my parents moved to New Zealand when I was young. I studied fashion in Auckland and majored in Rainwear — I was really into the technical aspects of waterproofing seam-sealing. My graduate collection showed at Air New Zealand Fashion Week and sold to several Australian chain boutiques, so that kick started my first label for three years. After much encouragement from my peers, I applied for Mango's fashion award — the Elboton 2nd edition — and as a one of the 10 finalists. I was flown over to Barcelona with other designers such as Peter Pilotto and Josh Goot. That experience really made me dream to come to the UK and further my studies at Central Saint Martins.
Two years ago, I went to a talk at Oxford University by Sir Peter Blake. I waited in line for ages so I could meet him and asked if he would draw his famous 'target' for me and he did! I heard someone laugh behind me — it was a lawyer thinking how out of place I was and brave to ask for a free drawing. We chatted and a couple of months later, we decided to launch Jaeha together in London.
Who is the woman you're designing for?
She's urban, cosmopolitan, independent and curious. Think west London slash Notting Hill rather than the east side like Shoreditch. She's the one I see chilling with her girlfriends in Westbourne Park. The woman whose mother sneaks into her wardrobe to borrow her clothes. My girl isn't typecast. She's carefree and confident, sure of herself and knows what she wants.
Jae Ha is my Korean name given by my grandfather. It means a person who carries water. Also, strangely enough, I love the colour blue. Louise Wilson called me "blue boy" because I wore blue every time she yelled at me. This is why Jaeha brand labels are blue and I always add a different shade of it in every collection I do.
You've mentioned the fantastical worlds Wes Anderson creates as an inspiration for FW16. What do you think the modern woman of today dreams of wearing?
She wants to use brands to create her own unique identities. Yes, she doesn't just have one identity. It's all about control and choice. I want to give the Jaeha woman clothes she can pair with her existing wardrobe as well as statement pieces to stand out in a crowd. I think my girl dreams about having it all and I want my clothes to help her live out her dreams.
Having worked for Mary Katrantzou and learned under Louise Wilson, what are the most valuable lessons that they've taught you?
I really loved spending time with these women. In some ways, they have shaped me to be what I am as a designer and their level of focus was inspirational. They taught me the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people who can be there to help make the best decisions. Louise Wilson always said creative people can be shy and massively self-critical. That's why we need to collaborate even if we don't want to admit it sometimes.
What aspect of designing excites you the most?
I love the journey; meeting people and dreaming of what is needed. I get excited when I talk about the Jaeha woman. Most often these are fictional characters. For FW16, I thought about The Royal Tenenbaum characters as Jaeha women, and what their wardrobes would be like. I'm really enjoy the freedom of what Jaeha can be as a young brand as I still get to experiment. I love researching. I love abstract art. Most of all, I love how all of these influences mash together in my imagination. Designing for me is like connecting the dots — shape, proportion, colour and cut; producing clothes that are visually striking yet relevant.
What do you think is the most important aspect of an outfit?
Shape, proportion and a strong silhouette.
The one thing every woman should have in her wardrobe?
A white shirt or everyday jeans.
Who are your British design heroes?
If you could only watch one Wes Anderson film for the rest of your life, which would it be?
Hotel Chevalier, a 13 minute film in a hotel room in Paris and a lovely French song in the background. Natalie Portman is so lovable, cheeky and naughty.
And what are you working on next for Jaeha?
Collaborating with amazing fashion stylists who can push me to be more than I can be. A great PR team and internal creatives. Have fun more, be confident, and maybe a presentation in the new year!
Shop Jaeha online.