Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for the Netflix series ‘Next in Fashion’.
You cannot miss a Minju Kim design. A classic “Minju Kim look” stars ruffles, tulle, organza, patterned fabrics, and an oddly pleasant clash of colors. Sounds loud, right? Although her apparel may sound like an overwhelming patchwork of material, Minju has a way of keeping things ethereal. Her eye for color and unique fabric combinations contains a sweet tune — perhaps her designs carry the appeal of a paradox: loud but quiet, structured yet soft, and daring whilst still appropriate for any occasion. Likewise, her team name with Angel Chen in the Netflix Original series Next in Fashion, “Dragon princess,” captures her fearless and mellow spirit. Minju is a designer who knows herself — loud and clear — though not in an obnoxious way.
“Tight and sexy is not my thing,” confesses Minju Kim, the recent winner of Next in Fashion. Her trademark style has been described by the South China Morning Post as “[exuding] femininity, elegance and a lot of volume.” A graduate of the Samsung Art & Design Institute and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Antwerp), the South Korean designer previously garnered attention when she won the H&M Design Award in 2013 and the LVMH prize in 2014. That same year (in 2014), Minju started her own label and has since produced a steady stream of designs for Seoul Fashion Week. Her bold prints and signature billowing sleeves digested by elegant silhouettes are a striking presence; Eva Chen, director of fashion at Instagram, describes them to embody “a woman who’s dressing for herself and for other women versus for a man.”
Everything about Minju Kim stands for is “to make the person who wears the clothes be joyful.” However, beneath her bright persona, Minju carries a heavy burden. As the episodes progress, Minju unveils a rocky relationship with her sister who controls the business side of the brand: “She’s always trying to control my creativity because she wants my design really wearable [sic] to the customer. Like something functional. But I see fashion as art.” She describes her participation in Next in Fashion as critical to satiate her hunger for wild and unrestrained creativity, saying with confidence, “I came here for me.”
Despite her budding success, Minju is grounded and humble. When approached with the lingerie challenge, Minju admits her inexperience with “sexy.” She takes this struggle with humor and pursues the concept of sexy in later challenges. Behind her light jokes and bubbly persona, Minju has some serious determination to broaden her fashion perspective and to grow as a designer. Notable Minju looks include the iconic, all-white, puffed-sleeve suit (made in collaboration with partner, Angel Chen) and the burgundy, military coat fastened with crossed leather straps and dramatic sleeves.
In the finale, Minju shows viewers what Next in Fashion is all about, which is to relocate promising fashion designers from behind the curtains to the spotlight. But more than that, she shows viewers — and most heartwarmingly, her family — what Minju Kim is all about. Her Frida Kahlo inspired collection is what Alexa Chung calls a“confectionery cake, treasure box,” unraveling designs that combine beautiful colors and patterns, flare cuts that complement the female body, and a new interpretation of “sexy” with playful mini dresses, cropped tops tailored to perfection, and a stunning strapless wedding gown.
Minju’s final collection possibly makes up her strongest looks, including the two-piece pink suit which Alex Chung wore at the Net-a-Porter after-party, the black and white print dress streaming layers of see-through fabric down to the floor, and the momentous lace wedding ensemble which made the audience gasp. Whilst the judges deliberated over the two collections, Minju’s sister expressed her regret for holding Minju back now that she has seen what her sister can do if given full, artistic freedom. The whole family was in tears as they professed how proud they were of Minju.
Minju’s big win, which awarded her $250,000 and the opportunity to debut her finale collection on Net-a-Porter, was an emotional moment much like the success of Parasite and speaks to the expansion of mainstream culture. As Mahoro Seward professes in his fashion ode to Minju Kim via. i-D magazine: “Minju is a mascot for the underdog, for those that find it hard to believe that their work is good enough, even when it far surpasses the mark.” She has plowed through both personal and cultural obstacles to achieve her dreams of becoming a household name.
Following her win, Tan France remarked, “Minju, you skewed my idea of what cool and sexy is. I now see sexy as whatever Minju Kim wants sexy to be,” which not only proclaims Minju’s growth since the competition took place but also deeply recognizes Minju’s individuality and ability to translate fashion into her own terms—or as Alexa Chung says, “redefining what it means to do feminine dressing.”
Featured Image via Instagram