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Minju Kim Crowned ‘Next in Fashion’ 2020


Big congratulations to fashion designer Minju Kim! Minju was recently announced as the winner of Netflix’s ‘Next in Fashion’ competition.

To win Minju was up against 17 other highly talented designers from around the globe with a series of ten design tasks ranging from red carpet looks to activewear for men and women. Minju’s distinctive, signature style shone through as she went head to head in the final with Daniel Fletcher from the UK. Minju’s ten looks, designed and made in just 3-days, won her $250,000 and select Minju Kim pieces for sale on luxury-fashion mainstay Net-a-Porter.

To celebrate Net-a-Porter held a garden party, marking the start of New York Fashion Week (Feb 2020), with ‘Next in Fashion’ co-hosts Alexa Chung and Tan France wearing her creations. Guests could see Minju’s designs up close and personal as models wore her winning designs and sauntered around the informal party setting.

Minju, however, is no stranger to the FashionCapital team, we have seen her hard work, dedication to immaculate fit and unique style grow over the years. Back at Fashion Scout AW15/16, labelled as ‘One to Watch’, our resident journalist Paul Markevicius, interviewed Minju and her talent was apparent back then…

‘Minju Kim from South Korea. A fellow Fashion Scout ‘one to watch’ and a more bubbly, delightful character you would go a long way to find. First of all there’s no design box Minju fits in. That’s good, boxes are suffocating. Obliged to try and uncover her creative muse involved temporarily sharing some headspace with a woman who is gratefully, incapable of not laughing within pretty much every sentence we exchanged. This is her charm. Yet it’s all backed up by a serious-minded, perceptive and unique creative talent.

FashionCapital journalist Paul Markevicius with Minju Kim looking through her look book

There are in fact some classic influences being drawn from. Minju has a fascination with Japanese culture and styling and we see the Japanese naval tunic uniform worked into several of her designs (the same feature one sees in Japanese school uniforms), not over-played but used as a narrower width tunic collar at the back, evoking the motif and perfectly in sync with the styling of the garment without it becoming naval – more militaristic-lite. Many of Minju’s designs follow the discipline of line and form embodied within uniforms. “I like uniform style because it is clean, sharp and tailored.” It makes you think, u-n-i -form actually has an obvious, functionally directed purpose, implicit within its descriptor.

One coat I particularly admired from one hundred percent wool, in black, had exquisite, deft use of sky blue and red complements in geometric shapes at the shoulder and continued down the back in a bold, super-stylish ‘V’ shape finishing mid back. Strong line cut tapered against the female form along the length of the coat, couture finishing, design dazzle – it’s a suave, designer power-coat to die for, yet still retains a soft, feminine colour dimension, arguably agender at a subtle push. I could see traces of airline stewardess 60s uniforms in some of the designs, but possibly more about my associations than the designers’ intentions.

Minju Kim at Fashion Scout London AW15/16

The conversation moves on, after much serious hilarity to possibly one of Minju’s most influential influences. Get ready. “Of all the things I liked in my childhood, I wanted to become a super hero and save the world.” And it is evident, looking at her slightly fantastic, fantasy styling and imagery, that true to herself and her inspiration she has fulfilled this ambition in the best way she knows. The collection is her interpretation to create an identity for the super-hero for today’s woman. Brilliant.

“I’m always trying to put a story into my collection, something that has meaning for me. The superhero, is like a brave girl, one who is brave enough to be who they like and wear what they like.” Minju said she wanted to bring out the cuteness of the female, “not in a clichéd weak way, but in a more mature, positive and chic way.”

I’m thinking possibly only Minju or only someone female could have phrased that intention. But curiously enough, she truly delivers against it. The bubble-gum pink of a 50s style A-line dress and a two-piece with simple straight cut, tailored, high cut jacket and mini-skirt is sprinkled with an eye-catchingly simple, but striking pattern. Is it a yin and yang graphic, a Manga animated cartoon head or an errant paisley pattern on acid, free-styling on bubble gum?

I was proudly shown her look book full of sketches for this design and was privileged to witness how “…everything I do starts with drawing. I keep drawing until I get the inspiration for the design.” And page after page I saw the original drawings for the designs I was looking at. Inspiring. The motif, I was told, were actually “angry eyes.”

It is important to pay attention and look closely at Minju’s designs. It is not all sweetness and light. Can’t be a super-woman hero without kicking some ass. Or showing some. On another ‘cute’ two piece mini-skirt and short tailored jacket jacket, what looked like, and to her chagrin (don’t suppose such an emotion lingered around for too long in her enviable world’s a cartoon costume-designed mind) was often perceived to be Minnie-Mouse and those ears, is in fact a super-hero showing her superhero costumed-ass riding an insect as a motor-bike. Nice. Subtle and edgy, lured in by a non-Disney motif.

And no surprise to discover, Manga is never far away from Minju’s influences. She thought for a long time, and may even one day do it, that she would become an animator. “Animation is one of my things. When I design, it feels like I am making my own movie, characters come to life in my head, in my own film.” Another wonderful insight to her creative world, but it would be a huge mistake and disservice to pigeon-hole Minju as just another ‘Asian designer of a type’. There are just way too many cool ideas going on, that don’t need to be categorised and it would demean her credentials as an old-school designer who “fundamentally believes in draping. It is difficult to convey my ideas to pattern people, unless I use draping. I don’t ever want to forget these fundamental things about design…people forget what ‘nice fit’ actually means.”

As someone who sources according to design imperative, Tweed from the Netherlands, jacquard and wool for knitwear from Paris, for her AW15 collection, I don’t think anyone is going to forget this lady and her designs for a long time to come.’ – Paul Markevicius

Big congrats to Minju, this is surely the next step of an established design career in the fashion industry.

Images by Chris Daw

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