How to transition from being a Graphic Designer to becoming a Fashion Designer?
Amongst the candy-pink lockers, offcuts of sequinned fabrics and extravagant toiles in the fashion studios, sits Joshua Kim. Dressed in black sweat pants paired with Adidas (“It makes me look and feel like a ninja ready to take the chaos”), he is reading Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance and worrying that he is turning into a hopeless romantic. “I used to shy away from love, because I saw anything other than work and success as a waste of time. But now it’s all I think about. Without sounding so needy, I love love and want love!” Perhaps a slightly sentimental statement, yet the Graduate Fashion Diploma student’s honest admission of his emotional naivety is somewhat refreshing.
Armed with his self-chosen ‘life’ soundtrack of Rihanna: “You can do anything and everything to her music. Work, clean, think, dance, kiss: everything”, a love of the pastel colored, movie-perfect houses in Primrose Hill, and the admittance that if he wasn’t studying fashion, he would aspire to be a dancer in music videos; Joshua Kim’s sweet and playful personality is a welcome antidote to the unnecessarily serious fashion stereotype. He describes himself as “the pastor’s kid from a Pleasantville type beach suburb in California”, he initially thought of his nature as a stigma. Now, he thinks of it as the conceptual highlight of his work, for it allows him to “experience everything for the first time.”
These new understandings are documented in his diary, recording not only those of an artistic nature, but also observations on his physical, emotional, spiritual and mental state: this is a fantastic source of inspiration. Loaded with personality and thoughts on newly experienced things, his sketchbooks become an abstract form of life writing, and his collections embody his identity, serving as “self-portraits”. Joshua readily admits that he is an emotional designer, finding stimulus not in factual scientific theory, but in sociology that he can experience himself, and thus relate to: the modernist ideal of ‘art as life’ never rang so true. He is applying this method of working to his current project, which despite being in the initial phase of research, he is excited about! “I like the direction it is going. It’s the most personal collection I’d ever do; it follows the emotional journey of the opposing lifestyles I have adopted ever since I moved to London.”
Joshua originally studied graphic design in Chicago, switching to fashion because it was a discipline which felt more comfortable and natural. He recalls his earliest fashion memory aged five: “I wrapped my bedsheets into basic dress and put a pillowcase on my head as a headpiece. No sewing, tailoring or draping. Just feeling majestic.” Since being on the course, he has been pushed to realize just how uncomfortable it can be, and though challenging at times, he appreciates the excitement and diversity of it all. “Everybody is from different parts of the world, which makes us depend on visual language to communicate, a crucial element to designing. And I get to see and appreciate the most unimaginably unique ideas.” He cites this way of working as essential to his development as an adult, and as a result of this, his work has become more honest. David Kappo, tutor on the Fashion Diploma course, has taught Joshua to focus on what he really wants and enjoys, as opposed to trying to be intellectual for the sake of being clever. Consequently, designing a collection comes more naturally to him – though naturally doesn’t necessarily mean easily, and he admits it is a painful yet fulfilling challenge to interpret honest interests into something that is fresh.
Despite his idealist aesthetic, Joshua Kim is by no means superficial. When we speak about the industry, he notes that “though the industry is obsessed with more expressive menswear, the majority is still traditional, obviously because of consumers. But I want that day when putting a man in non-traditionally masculine clothes is not a statement anymore and gender bending isn’t even a concept. Clothes are clothes for all.”
Joshua is equally by no means one-dimensional. In contrast to his more light-hearted pastel projects, his industry project with McQueen was a much darker affair: he crafted a series of jackets, shirts and a mask encrusted with rich fabric manipulations. “I came up with a story where forbidden love committed suicide and reincarnated into diamonds.” The resulting garments, photographed against a handmade, silver foil set, are evocative of tragedy which has been long associated with McQueen, and the encrusted masks make for a surreal, macabre image.
For someone who seems to have learnt so much in just the past few months of being at Central Saint Martins, I wonder what the future holds for Joshua: “Well, in five years time I’ll be 29, which is an age that requires a bit of sophistication and organization. I want to be satisfied with myself: love the city I live in, love the way I look, and be working constantly, balanced with a fabulous social life. Basically I want what everybody wants: perfection!”
Until then, Joshua has to survive the remaining crits of the year, for which he has devised a go-to routine to celebrate. “I Skype my family. Then go binge, dance, and kiss; every time.”
Words Lily McGonigal
All images courtesy of Joshua Kim