Business Korea had an interview with Kim Hyun-joo who was selected “the most promising designer in Asia” at the 2008 Asia Collection in Osaka, Japan, and talked about her profession and ambition. She also takes part in raising the national prestige of Korea in the field of fashion design by establishing a successful debut in the overseas market with a distinguished marketing strategy and her own conceptualization.
How did you become interested in fashion design?
My father runs a leather company and my mother is a florist. They naturally influenced my decision to study fashion design. After entering the Department of Fashion Design at Ewha Womans University, Prof. Bae Cheon-beom, a luminary in the fashion of Korea, helped me have interest in fashion. I am really confident with maximizing my potential energy instantaneously when creating a new design, and I think I share a common denominator with the characteristic of the fashion design field where a hundred differentiated designs should be conceptualized a couple of times every year.
Do you have your own unique process for extracting concepts for fashion design?
I really don't have any esoterica, but I used to devote myself to the subject of every season like a geek for two whole months prior to seasonal items being displayed at PRET-A-PORTER PARIS.
Research for the seasonal subject is conducted during the first month as a warm-up stage, and this period is the most important to me. For instance, in the procedure of “Crystal-clear Merry-Go-Round Orgel,” the seasonal concept of S/S season of 2010, all the carousels in the world are to be exhausted in my aggressive research process in terms of range and depth. Also, I extract particular color-chips of European carousels, determine color variations, and prepare textiles.
Then I focus on the mocking process for the next two months in the sampling laboratory in my office. My usual process is idea sketch-design-operation allocation-flat pattern design-sewing-basting-draping-sewing-details-completion-picture album.
Please tell me about the brand, Harriette Kim.
It is an export-specialized designer brand named after my English name, Harriette Kim, and targets the 0.0001% of the upper class customers, such as a royal family. I've vaguely thought that I would sell my dresses to “real” princesses because it is designed in a “princess style.” Needless to say, Rome was not built in a day, and so it has not been easy. I have begun to study international trading, to become a businessperson and develop localized items.
They are designed as being extremely feminine in style with elegance and sumptuousness, and are all handmade. The design pursuits a natural layering silhouette, and points out soft bulkiness, by using a flat pattern design and draping simultaneously.
We export mainly to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia, Britain, France, Milan, Spain, and Greece. We also have showrooms in Kuwait, Dubai, Milan, and Palm Beach.
Could you talk about your experiences in terms of region and culture?
It seems the overseas market has better conditions for new designers like me rather than the domestic market, since domestic veteran designers had to be on the same starting line as I did for evaluation. This is how I could get a lot of learning opportunities.
Setting aside that my clothing is highly expensive and for the most conservative of high class people, I think each country has its own preference for design and style. Although Paris keeps a wide-open attitude regarding new style, they used to place pragmatism preferential virtue to make purchases.
CHANEL is a good example to understand this trend. England and Germany prefer something classical or even avant-garde, just like you skim off details from Paris'.
Meanwhile, Milan seems to be the most ambivalent about handmade design, so you can feel free to express details and splendid draping.
By the way, you have to keep in mind that the Middle East prefers an individualized free-order system due to their cultural distinctiveness; they like vivid colors, and there are some restrictions on the length of clothing. You also need to be aware of different customs and laws.
What is your plan for the future?
I never wanted to have an exaggerated credit just like that a Korean designer who went into overseas market made a great achievement. Haute Couture is my ultimate dream, and in order to be there, I need to develop localized items based on exhaustive research about local culture, and eagerly approach international trades. In addition, assisting students practically by lecturing about my own experiences in the field and the overseas market is another plan, as well as building a foundation for education scholarship as well.