Designer Kim Sun Ho of menswear label Groundwave is a name to watch out for. Kim is a young designer with only a few seasons under his belt, but he and his designs have already taken the world by storm. His collections have shown in Paris and Italy, and are stocked all over Europe and in Hong Kong (I’ll be sure to check his line out at local department store Harvey Nichols!). After his show, I asked Kim, who is incredibly soft-spoken and humble, about the inspiration behind his collection, the crazy hair seen on the models, and what it’s like to be a young designer in Korea.
From left: Kim Sun Ho. The backdrop at the show.
Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the collection?
In general, I was inspired by nature, harmony and architecture. There are a lot of old, historic buildings [in Korea] that have both a Chinese and Western element to them, and finding a balance between the two is really important there. Specifically, I found the Bulguksa Temple [a famous Korean Buddhist temple] particularly interesting. There are two towers there, one by itself isn’t pleasing at all, but two together really looks right. So the collection is about architectural symmetry and harmony, as seen in these kinds of buildings. The fabric choice and silhouette is actually inspired by Buddhist monks I saw at the temple.
What is the relationship between architecture and monks?
For this collection, they’re tied together by the concept of harmony and symmetry. As I mentioned, there’s a harmony between East and West in old architecture. I wanted to bring that same harmony in the choice of fabrics as well. I used the fabric that’s specifically for Korean monks’ clothing. The fabric is dyed with coal, so it’s always gray, which is why the collection is mostly gray, black, white and beige, and the fabric is very natural and organic. I also used herringbone, which is a Western fabric. The two fabrics – the herringbone and the fabric of Korean monk clothing – don’t look like they’ll go together, but I think I managed to make it work in my collection.
From left: Kim is wearing the monk’s fabric; the same fabric on the model.
The layering in this collection is very complex. Is the Groundwave man wearing all the layers together, or is each piece designed to be deconstructed from the look and worn separately?
I don’t know., I mean, I don’t see myself as a business man, I don’t really think about the customer or how he’s going to wear it. Ideally he’ll be wearing the whole look, but at the end of the day, I just want to create and show what I want.
What kind of man is the Groundwave man?
The concept of the brand is really about being comfortable, so he is someone who likes soft fabrics and simple colors. It’s definitely not a mature style either.
There was some crazy, almost wind-swept hair on the models in your show. What was that about?
The collection and garments this season are really calm and neat, almost depressing because of the muted colors. The hair made the collection less severe; just to spice up the looks a little bit [laughs].
How difficult do you think it is for a young designer to become famous these days?
It’s a lot harder here in Korea than it is elsewhere. For a brand to be well known, it has to get into a major department store, major chains like Hyundai, Lotte and Shinsegae. But in Europe, there are a lot of multi-brand shops – shops that carry many different brands – and this is one way for your brand to get noticed. It’s not hard for a brand to be carried in a multi-brand shop but it’s really hard for a brand to get into a major department store in Korea.
How do you think Korean designs differ from what is offered by Western designers?
Koreans are quite picky and we like to focus on details. If you look at Japanese style for example, menswear I mean, it’s quite crazy. If you look at Korean menswear, it looks very simple and almost boring from afar, but once you look closely you’ll see that all the designs are in the details, like buttons or trim.
Your brand is really popular in Europe and in Hong Kong. Why is that do you think? Do you think your designs are more appealing to Europeans?
Actually, I started showing my brand in Paris and Italy, so I think that’s the reason why it’s better known there. I haven’t really shown my brand very much in Korea, but I think when I do in the coming seasons the brand will take off here. It’s really exciting to have so many people wearing my clothes in Europe, but actually, I still want to be more popular in Korea [laughs].
This article is part of the The YesStylist Seoul Fashion Week F/W 2011 Coverage.