Being Korean, Min-Ji Kim’s graduate collection “UnIVerSaLly DoMiNanT” is about her bi-cultural identity, formed by her origins and American influences. “I used pin-up magazines from the 1950s that my grandfather collected during the Korean War whilst fighting alongside American soldiers,” she says, talking about the main narrative in her collection. “There are many images of women draped with objects sold primarily to men and I see this through the lens of strength and power of the feminine body. I convey strength through using colour, textiles, glass and bold silhouettes to capture masculine tropes that add that back onto the body,” she adds. During the Korean war, Kim’s grandfather was a pilot. His pilot suit harness, the double-breasted jacket, the tie, and the tailored waistcoats make a frequent appearance in her looks. She took these pieces and juxtaposed them with female elements, found in 1950s imagery she found – ranging from bikinis to big tulle skirts.
The designer likes to play, whether that is through materials, shapes or blowing elements out of proportion, such as the life-size tie around a model’s neck or the giant blazer that exaggerates on the shoulders, a typical element of power within dressing. “Initially, I played around with placing glass on the body as a vehicle to convey the playfulness of random objects on the woman’s body, sold to men via the magazines,” she says. Whilst she made that discovery, she was knitting on two types of knitting machines: a domestic one and an industrial one, to bring more of her own visual textile language into the collection. “It was difficult to find the balance of the avant-garde and ready-to-wear,” the designer shares, touching on an issue a lot of designers are facing. Standing out is great, but a balance is what makes a collection cohesive. By the end, Min-Ji found exactly that – a balance, which makes her embrace her identity as a designer.