NEW YORK, United States — This month, the BoF Spotlight shines on Jin Kay, a 26-year-old, Seoul-born, New York-based womenswear designer who won this year’s Parson’s Womenswear Designer of the Year award, following in the footsteps of creative luminaries like Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler.
“I always wanted to create something that didn’t exist before, but at the same time I want to make clothing that’s classic and timeless,” says Kay, whose debut ready-to-wear collection, entitled “Silence of Shadows,” is a rare blend of conceptual flair and commercial savvy.
While developing the collection, Kay was inspired by Junichiro Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows, a volume from the 1930s which compares the way Eastern and Western cultures perceive beauty. According to Tanizaki’s analysis, the West celebrates beauty that is exposed, while the East celebrates beauty that’s wrapped in mystery and shadow. Kay, who grew up in Korea, opted for mystery and set about trying to bring the “subtle beauty” of shadows to life, in three dimensions, with a collection in exclusively black tones that plays with varying degrees of transparency, using both light fabrics like organza and chiffon as well as heavy fabrics like polyester, wool and synthetic leather.
When laid flat, some of his garments look like mere panels of fabric. But they snap together to become pieces that drape beautifully on the body, notably an a-line dress and an easy organza blouse. These pieces can also be fastened together in a variety of ways, giving customers flexibility in how they wear them. And while these garments are indicative of Kay’s knack for clever construction, his tailoring skills are also impeccable.
Make no mistake. Although Kay embraces the avant-garde, for him, fashion is also about selling. “We tend to look for things that excite us and once we saw his collection we instantly felt how special it was,” says Carol Song, head buyer for Opening Ceremony, who snapped up Kay’s debut collection, as part of a seasonal focus on Korean designers. “We took this opportunity to nurture his brand with him by working in tandem on materials, pricing and deliveries. Not surprisingly, he was already well versed in so many areas — probably due to his excellent Parsons education.”
With one of the best emerging designer websites in the industry, Kay also understands the importance of a strong digital presence. “The beauty of a website is that it’s always open; it can be accessed in different countries and there are no time-zone or language restrictions,” says the globally-minded Kay.
For this month’s Spotlight, Kay has re-imagined the BoF logo in striking fashion. “I deconstructed the logo in a similar manner to the concept of my most recent collection, reflecting the poetic and subtle beauty of the clothes I aspire to portray,” says Kay, who is currently doing a coveted internship at Gucci, a position he won at Empowering Imagination, a contest sponsored by luxury conglomerate PPR, Parsons and social commerce start-up The Fancy, last July.
As for the future, Kay aims to grow his incipient label. “Once my internship at Gucci is completed, I plan to introduce my next collection,” says Kay, who wants to expand into accessories and design objects, a commercially savvy move. Indeed, though Kay’s aesthetic may be highly directional, he can’t seem to escape the commercial ethos that his alma mater has instilled in him. And that’s a very good thing.
The Spotlight is BoF’s showcase for emerging talent employing creativity and business acumen to make their mark in the fashion business.