Jin Kay, born as Jin Woo Kim, in Seoul, South Korea, developed a longing for the creative industry that was influenced by “conceptual and poetic design philosophy”. It was not until after he ventured to New York City, where his passion for art and design evolved. Kay began studying at the Parsons the New School for Design, in which he was honored with the AFT International Fashion Award and the International Scholarship at Parsons for his excelling career in design. In 2011, the CFDA honored him by selecting Kay as one of the Top 10 Designers with Honorable Mention and he recently earned the 2012 Designer of the Year from Parsons. Kay has interned for prominent fashion labels such as Derek Lam, TOD’s, and Oscar de la Renta. He has completed his first ever Ready-To-Wear collection, titled “Silence of Shadows”. His work and creativity has earned him to be featured in V Magazine, The Korea Times, and L’Officiel Hommes. To view the work of Kay, click here.
Could you explain what your “conceptual and poetic design philosophy” entails?
I would say that it is a way of defining my creative process. I get inspiration from many different places – books, movies, paintings, music, exhibitions, and with everything that is happening right now. One thing evolves to something totally unexpected and then it becomes a concrete idea.
For the recent collection, I got inspired by all the work that I did in the past year and all the places that I visited before I had to create my senior collection in Parsons School of Design. I had the opportunity to travel to Paris and look at the YSL exhibition at Petit Palais and the beautiful garments on display triggered some ideas in my head. After Paris, I had the opportunity to travel to London and took several courses in Central Saint Martins and learned about 3D Fashion Design. Lastly, to finish this creative journey, I read a book that my roommate who is an architect recommended to me and it connected all the dots for my collection. The book is called “In Praise of Shadows” and it was written by Junichiro Tanizaki in the 1930’s in Japan. All of these moments and ideas inspired the subtle beauty of shadows that is stated in the concept of my senior collection. I don’t have a set of things that inspire me. I can only state that I am fascinated by abstract and whimsical ideas.
What encouraged you to pursue a career in the fashion industry over other creative industries?
I started to dream about fashion design when I was in high school in New York. Before that moment I didn’t know a lot about fashion or design in general, and I was always intrigued by art. Now I can say that I see fashion as one medium to express myself and my personal vision. I enjoy having the ability to design and create something new every season. I feel that compared to architecture, interior design, or other creative fields, fashion design is the perfect medium for my continuous design experimentation.
Is there any designer in particular whose work has inspired you to become a fashion designer?
I respect designers and artists that have a design philosophy. Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada, Marc Jacobs, Martin Margiela, and Thom Browne have inspired me to become a designer. I wouldn’t specifically say that I only get inspired by fashion designers. Architects, artists, filmmakers, and musicians constantly influence my perception of beauty. I don’t follow a specific set of guidelines or aspire to a cliché of what is considered beautiful and I always try to design based on what is influencing me at that moment.
Has the Korean culture influenced your designs in any way?
I was born and raised in a small town in South Korea and I can say that Eastern culture has definitely influenced my design approach. I’m not interested in designing something specifically Eastern or Western. I try to design with a holistic approach to every season with a consideration and respect to everything I’ve experienced throughout my life in Asia and the United States.
With your established history of internships with prominent designers, what advice can you give to those seeking the same career path?
I have worked with prominent fashion designers and houses such as Oscar de la Renta, Derek Lam, Christian Cota, Marc Jacobs, and LVMH. I believe professional internships are the most important and efficient way to learn about the real fashion Industry, and it is a great way to compliment your academic education.
Through all the internships, I was able to collaborate, assist, and design with a creative team, which helped me to develop and share new ideas and to think about every element of the product. I think it is very important to be persistent, work hard, and to try to get every single lesson out of it. There is no specific formula that I can provide to get a good internship experience, but I would advice that is good to be open to different opportunities, no matter the style of the designer or the size of the company.
How did you come up with the idea to use the novel, In Praise of Shadows, by Junichiro Tanizaki as inspiration for your first collection “Silence of Shadows”?
My really good friend who is an architect recommended the book to me and I was captivated by the way it compares the beauty between East and West. While the Western World exposes and reveals beauty, the East rejoices everything that is hidden, quiet and mysterious. I was fascinated by this juxtaposition and metaphor.
After I read the book, I was looking outside the window of my apartment and realized there are so many beautiful layers and different qualities of shadows. Some are multiplied many times, distorted by the surface, and there are also heavy shadows and light shadows. I thought it would be interesting if I bring those quiet and subtle shadows into this loud and chaotic world. So I took the shadows of the clothing and my flat patterns into actual clothing.
Is the collection a first look into what will become your signature style with its technical construction and a basic color palette?
Not necessarily. With this first collection I learned how to translate a concept into something concrete and wearable, and also about all the work that it entails to produce a cohesive and solid representation of my design philosophy. I believe that with this collection more than creating a signature style, color palette, or technical construction, I have been able to visualize my muse. Someone that is analytical and reserved, but at the same time very strong and creative.
Where do you see your label in the next few years?
After being named designer of the year, I’ve been contacted and have also received very good news from several friends, organizations, and colleagues. I’ve been receiving a lot of support and assistance from different designers and organizations so I will probably have some good news very soon. At the moment everything is still “in the works” and confidential, but I will definitely be involved with several events during the upcoming Fashion Week in New York City. My exposure to the fashion industry in New York and my career at Parsons have prepared and motivated me to establish my own brand and I hope to do so in the near future.