Kim Shui once told me that, “if you’re not living your brand, it doesn’t make sense.” The designer’s background firmly roots her to a culture of globalism and for her first runway show this past Saturday, she didn’t stray far from this definitive ethos. Staged in an empty art gallery on 14th Street, Kim was able to fill the space with a world of her own making. Citing that this collection was “a reaction to everything that’s been so extreme in the world right now,” Kim ruminated on introspection asking herself, what would the Kim Shui woman do and wear to take on these extremes? How did she want to present herself to the world?
Kim found vindication in the metamorphosis of activewear, taking puffed-up and bundled to embody new definition. Wrapping limbs with spritely puffy and insulated swatches of fabric, Kim’s FW18 collection teetered on the experimental while instilling desire in the heart’s of her audience. Prints, ranging from snakeskin to floral brocades reminiscent of her Chinese heritage wove themselves coyly into the voluminous shapes that Kim was unafraid to play with as she continued to tell the story of the Kim Shui woman, and in turn, her own. The outerwear, certainly Kim’s forte when it comes to design, plagued us with the question of delineating the quotidian, could we too rise to the occasion and not only be bold, but dress the part too?
Aside from the clothing, much of the collection’s appeal grew out of the casting done by Roff Studios. Diversity’s very diaspora (something Kim is familiar with growing up between the Roman countryside with Chinese parents, attending American school, studying at Duke University then Central Saint Martins) was allowed to find a most plush, full-bodied expression here. Deemed a “celebration of Asian women” by Vogue, the models ranged as did their own genesis’ and age. The likes of Jane of NewTop Jewelry was cause enough for a standing ovation and Tiffany Luu and her mother, Lily Chu, also made an appearance. The show was not fully Asian-cast but it was most definitely a nod to the fact that the Kim Shui woman is an identity etched out of individuality. She cannot be reduced to two-dimensional caricatures, trends or stereotypes.
The finale boasted the sounds of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” and that is sort of what Kim has come to represent for downtown New York’s glitterati. She emerges as a personality that breathes representation. For Kim and the woman she designs for, it is the genuineness and multiplicity of experience that allows for her to find her voice and her place in the world. As the models hit their final strut and stride, applause lingered longer than normal as we awaited the appearance of Kim at the end of the show but she didn’t appear. Yet what can be mistaken for her absence is rather the presence of the verity that Kim’s inspiration, the women in the room, had an almost equal part in the collection’s manifestation. Perhaps she just wanted us to see ourselves as she sees us, as powerful, united and ready to take on the world.