San Francisco, October 2011
By Brad Carrick
It's a gorgeous indian summer afternoon in the Marina and I got a table outside on Union St. at La Boulange. At 1:28pm Dahae's text said, "I'm so sorry Brad! Im running late and am a TOTAL MESS. Crazy day. Ill be there soon." I was more than happy to relax and enjoy the day. No more than 2.5 minutes later, she arrives, literally running down the street. She apologizes again, profusely, both for her awful tardiness and how she hadn't had a chance to change or "freshen up." Keep in mind that she is arriving no later than 1:31 for a 1:30 meeting, and she looks, well, stunning. I can tell I am dealing with a bit of a perfectionist here. It should come as no surprise, as having hosted several fashion shows and events over the last year, I have witnessed her repeatedly steal shows and had the honor of awarding her Best Emerging Designer of the Year at the 2011 SF Fashion Awards. I have even experienced her perfection first hand, wearing one of her jackets at an event recently and being repeatedly complimented on it and asked where it came from. I wish I could say I usually attract that kind of attention, but the credit here clearly goes to the designer. Dahae has taken her seat now in the sunshine and is ready to chat. I find myself wondering if the world is ready for Dahae Kim.
SOLZ: Do you feel your formal education helped prepare you for working in the industry? What education and training has helped prepare you the most?
Dahae: Education from school (academy of art university) has been definitely major help to me for working in the fashion industry. Academy of Art has variety of courses yet very specialized. They train you hardcore not just to become a creative artist but also expert in what you do. From foundation classes to very detailed technical classes, every single class school offered gave me important knowledge I have to have. and it's been amazingly helpful. I was ready enough to jump right into the industry after graduation.
SOLZ: Did you always know you wanted to do MEN'S fashion design?
Dahae: The harder the tasks are, the better job I do. Menswear is more difficult in many ways than womenswear. There are way more of challenges in designing mens clothes including menswear construction, market, and difference of consumers psychology. Mainly for this reason I always knew I wanted to be doing menswear from the beginning when I chose to do fashion design. I love challenges.
And also because I love it. There is no other reason than the one that "I love it". there was any difficulties as a womenswear designer. I didn't even care to try womenswear because I was never attracted to womenswear.
SOLZ: You call your style, "Conceptual Menswear Design." What does this mean to you?
Dahae: The philosophy of alchemy is my way of getting inspiration. I take dirty, dangerous, unhappy, and dark subjects as inspirations and interpret and design them into beautiful things. I draw inspiration from contemporary sounds, music, the dark side of life, and psychotic concepts, nothing really visual. For example, one of my main inspirations is music. I listen to sounds and turn them in to designs. It absolutely depends on how I think, feel and listen at that moment. This is why my design style is conceptual and abstract.
SOLZ: What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to get involved in the fashion industry?
Dahae: 1) "throw out your fantasy"
Fashion designer's life is not as glamorous as you see in media or you imagine. This is pure hard work. There is enormous amount of detail you have to take care of. You have to deal with perfection, pressure, stress, harsh critiques and communication all the time. Also, opening a business takes a long time, and establishing and settling down as a independent company takes longer time. Finance is not the best friend to fashion designers as well. So, throw away your fantasy, and get ready to be in real tough world and fight through.
2) "don't lose your faith"
It is tough, not as easy as you think. But as long as you have faith in yourself, you can do anything. It may sound corny but it is true and always the first thing I say to myself and others. You have no idea how hard it was to come this far. Fashion industry itself is very tough. As an international graduate, It was way harder for me to work in a start-up fashion business. Issuing visa, finances, living life... I had to deal with a lot of difficulties. However, even with all the hard times I went through, I have never wanted to quit what I do because of my faith. I knew I could do it. I knew I have strength in my to push it through. That is why I am who i am now. Don't lose your faith, and be passionate then it won't betray you.
SOLZ: People say, “Its all about the shoes.” As a fashion professional, why do you think shoes are so important?
Dahae: Every single accessory is important. Styling is what makes outfits complete. But I think shoes take the biggest portion of styling. Style of shoes determines the whole theme of the outfit. also you have to think about not only the style but also functionality. Either wear the right shoes or be bare foot. and personally.. shoes brings me confidence.
SOLZ: You have now worked with SOLZ as we have sponsored several of your recent shows. Why do you think SOLZ roll-up flats are a good fit for fashion shows and the fashion community in general?
Dahae: Having a fashion show takes a lot of work at the backstage. Hours of standing and running around to prepare the show… and because of frequent interviews and photoshoots during, I tend to just keep being in heels. But as a female designer, it is very hard to do all the work in heels. SOLZ saved my life. Now I work every show in SOLZ and change into formal shoes only when I have interviews, photo shoots and right before I walk out to the runway. Walksoftz, too, are so small and light, easy to carry in my purse so doesn’t take much of space on top of all the garments and equipment for the show. Chic design is plus - Walksoftz are my secret weapon. Thanks to SOLZ, I can work better and most importantly I don’t have to cry over the pain in my heels anymore.
SOLZ: I recently hosted the 2011 SF Fashion Awards TM and was so excited and proud to present you with the award for the Best Emerging Designer of the year. What did this award mean to you and how do you think it will affect your career?
Dahae: Many many thanks to the San Francisco fashion community. I wouldn’t have done it without all the support and hard work of directors, models, photographers, stylists and all. I can’t thank them enough. It was definitely encouraging. It felt like parents or teachers give you encouragement when you accomplish a year of school or do good job at your homework.
I know there is a lot of potential in San Francisco fashion. There are uncountable talented local designers out there. Along with them, I will do my best and work harder to help it grow. I won’t let the SF fashion community down.
SOLZ: What is next for Dahae Kim?
Dahae: Just keeping doing what I do. I don't have some fancy next plan. Designing and communicating with San Francisco passionately which I love. New collection is coming up on December. It will be very Dahae Kim and polished.
SOLZ: Well I, for one, will be looking forward to it! Thanks so much...