2:45 pm - 08/08/2011
Q&A with Andre Kim's son, and deets on the future of his father's legacy
A year has passed since fashion pioneer Andre Kim left us, but his legacy continues through the Andre Kim Design Atelier in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, which is currently headed by his son Kim Jung-do, 30, whom he adopted in 1982.
“I haven’t been able to clear his personal effects from the atelier because I still haven’t been able to get over the fact that he’s gone,” Kim Jung-do said.
Andre Kim was Korea’s first male fashion designer. He opened his own boutique in 1962 and four years later became the first Korean designer to hold a fashion show in Paris. Since then, he has held countless fashion shows in both Korea and notable places throughout the world, including Angkor Wat, Cambodia, in 2006, and Qingdao, China, in 2007 in anticipation of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Born in 1935 at the height of Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, Kim played a central role in bringing Korean fashion to the world while also drawing attention to the idea that fashion is a form of art at a time when the terms “fashion” and “designer” were still distant to Koreans.
Top: Dressed in garments by Andre Kim, Korean actors Kim Hee-sun, left, and Lee Byung-hun, walk at a fashion show held in memory of Andre Kim in Seoul last November. Above: Andre Kim holds his twin grandchildren as his only son Kim Jung-do and his wife look on in the background in 2006.
Well known for ritzy and puffy multilayered evening gowns adorned with lace and appliques and his wedding fashions, the iconic designer’s client list included Michael Jackson and some of Korea’s most famous celebrities.
Apart from the contributions Kim made to publicizing Korean fashion abroad through fashion shows that he regarded as cultural events, he was also committed to social causes.
For the four decades after he laid a solid foundation for the Korean fashion industry, Kim was known for giving donations to numerous relief organizations and holding events that served as networking venues for social, political and business figures.
Last week, in order to commemorate the first anniversary of the designer’s death, the JoongAng Ilbo met with his son to talk about his father’s legacy and where the Andre Kim brand stands with its new CEO.
The following are excerpts from the conversation with Kim Jung-do.
Q. Andre Kim’s fashion shows in Korea always attracted a lot of attention. How do you remember him preparing for fashion shows during his lifetime?
A.Apart from being devoted to designing his signature gowns, I also remember how keen my father was on selecting the models for his shows. He had three to four televisions at home and would use them to see if there were any up-and-coming celebrities who would be a match for his design pieces.
Actress Kim Hee-sun is one good example. She is just one of the many Korean actresses and actors who emerged as a star for appearing in his fashion shows. And I think that was why so many celebrities considered his fashion shows as a springboard to greater fame.
What are your memories of Andre Kim as a father?
He was the best parent a person could ever have, and I am so grateful for that. When I was a teenager, he would always bring snacks to school and even when I became an adult, he would call me more than once a day every day. And whenever we would go out for a family outing, he was always busy taking pictures of me rather than of himself. But he was also very stern when it came to discipline.
I also remember how lonely he got sometimes, and he would urge me to have children all the time as soon as I got married. As a grandfather, he loved his grandchildren to death and showed his love for them in the same way he had done for me. I still can’t believe he’s gone.
Andre Kim had a total of 10 licensed brands. Was it difficult for you to manage all the brands after you were appointed the CEO of the company?
After my father was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006, he always involved me in his business to prepare me to be the successor of his brand. I participated in various events with him beginning in 2009 to learn more about the fashion industry.
And since I am working in close partnership with current department head Lim Sae-woo, who has worked with my father for over 30 years, the burden is less.
[Andre Kim left a 50 percent share of the Andre Kim Design Atelier in Sinsa-dong and an 80 percent share of the boutique in Yongin, Gyeonggi, to Lim.]
Have you seen many changes in the brand’s customer base compared to last year?
The number of customers visiting the boutique really seemed to plunge at first. But classical musicians and entertainers, including soprano Sumi Jo, still visit regularly to purchase dresses for their performances.
The golf and jewelry brands didn’t do so well in the first quarter of the year but both are slowly recovering. As CEO of the Andre Kim brand, I plan to extend our brand license to outdoor and causal clothing as well.
Do you have any plans to hire new designers for the brand?
Not at the moment. Although some people who were close to my father have advised me to hire more designers to survive as an upscale designer brand and have even given me recommendations of aspiring Korean designers, I feel that it is not the right time.
Currently, we have a team of six designers who worked with my father for more than 10 years. I believe that their experience and keen fashion insight will be enough to maintain my father’s fashion philosophy, and that it’s not necessary to hire new designers just because I’ve become the brand’s new CEO.
Are you planning any special events to commemorate the first anniversary of your father’s death?
Honestly, I haven’t been able to prepare anything until now. Thousands of evening gowns and wedding dresses designed by my father before his death are still left untouched in the atelier’s storage space. And as you can see, most of his personal effects, including his desk, books, CDs and magazines, still remain in the atelier.
Next month, however, I do plan to open a small museum in Yongin, Gyeonggi, that will display his personal effects, medals and evening wear that he made before his death.
source: Joongang Daily