OC Introduces: Jin Kay, Parsons' Womenswear Designer of the Year
Feeding into OC's lifelong tradition of "you heard it here first" introductions, this year we welcome Seoul-born designer Jin Kay
into the fold. It was pretty auspicious that Jin should win Parsons' Womenswear Designer of the Year award in the same year that OC chose to feature his home country. But maybe that just goes to show how much exciting stuff is coming out of Korea right now.
Jin's graduate collection, "Silence of Shadows," impressed the panel of industry professionals with its subtle shapes and technical finesse. "I like to make something very poetic and conceptual but wearable at the same time," says Jin. Inspired by an essay comparing eastern and western understandings of light, the clothing plays with the distorted silhouettes of shadows.
James and I went to the Parsons Fashion School—the building that also sent out Alexander Wang and both halves of Proenza Schouler—and Jin talked us through his pieces. We're super excited to be the exclusive stockist of Jin's first collection and can't wait to see what comes next.
Shop all Jin Kay here
Photos by James Parker III
Alice Newell-Hanson: First of all, congratulations on the award! Let's start by talking about the collection. Where did you begin?
Jin Kay: I read a book, In Praise of Shadows
, written by a Japanese author [Jun'ichirō Tanizaki] in the 1930s. It compares the ideals of beauty in the east and the west, and the biggest difference is the idea of light and shadow; the west celebrates the light and the east celebrates the shadow. It felt very personal to me too, because I was raised in a small town in Asia but I've lived here for ten years. So I wanted to bring the subtle beauty of shadows back into this loud, chaotic world.
ANH: How did you realize the idea in your clothing?
JK: I outlined the shadows of various garments and made those the patterns for my clothing. And they're all cut from one piece, because shadows don't have seams. A lot of the hemlines are also distorted or elongated, in the way that shadows are.
ANH: Can you tell me a bit more about Jun'ichirō Tanizaki's discussion of shadows?
JK: The way he describes the contrast is very poetic and beautiful: he says that while western cultures celebrate the music, we celebrate the silence. And he also compares the kimono with western dress. With the kimono, the idea is covering the body, but the western idea is emphasizing the curves. The contrast of those elements is very interesting.
Another example is that traditional houses in the west are built to let in direct sunlight but in the east, there are long roofs which create shadows. By living in that environment, eastern cultures build their aesthetic inside, so it applies to how people talk, what they draw, what they use—because all those forms of creativity were created inside. So their interiors are often very plain and minimal, but they use a lot of golds and whites to punctuate the darkness—and those can only be respected in a dark setting.
ANH: Where in Korea did you grow up?
JK: I was born in Seoul but I grew up in Busan, a city by the ocean. So I grew up watching water. I think that kind of influenced my design philosophy; I like something subtle and quiet.
ANH: And how did you get into design?
JK: I was interested in art but I didn't really know what design was before high school, when my art teacher recommended that I go to Parsons. I paint, I take photos, I'm interested in a lot of creative fields but I think fashion is the perfect medium to express my ideas. In architecture or interiors it takes a lot of time to build one thing, but fashion is more continuous.
ANH: What's your plan now that you've graduated?
JK: I'm going to Gucci for an internship next month. The Parsons competition is run in association with TheFancy.com and PPR Group, which owns a lot of different luxury brands. So, luckily, when I won the womenswear award I got to apply for an internship at one of their companies. Gucci was one of my choices because I respect a woman with power and subtle luxury. Then, when I get back to New York, I'm going to work on my accessories collection. I also admire a lot of designers in New York—designers who push the boundaries—so maybe when I get back I could work for a company here, or get my next collection ready.
ANH: What can you tell me about it?
JK: Right now, it's confidential! But I want to show it to Opening Ceremony!
Shop all Jin Kay here
USA vs. Korea