The Invisible Thread
October 22 2022
Though only first opened in 2019, SVRN has already undergone a massive change. With the help of Korean architecture firm WGNB, SVRN's new build is wholly comprehensive of an identity rooted in the Kim family heritage and philosophical principles to create an open-format luxury retail space. And while serving as an epicenter of fashion, art, sound, research, and design, SVRN's Korean lineage is still felt within its walls. Beyond having common roots, there are traces of a shared compass in ethos between SVRN and many of the brands carried.
For Korean-American brothers Terrence and Kevin Kim (of no relation), and founders of IISE, their designs are rooted in a second-generation diasporic study of how to bring traces of culturally historic practices and ideologies to modernize into quality wearables which pass on a story. More of a concept than a construct, their foundation is to blow the K-Pop and entertainment cover to which much of the world would, as of recent, reduce Korea's influence. Instead, exposing them to the intricacies of architecture, traditional garments, and aspects of government— all with heavy commentary behind each collection.
As a result, they've built a steady market over the last decade, penetrating the global market more quickly than the local one, but understanding the ramifications of introducing Korean elements to Koreans, will take time to explain it's not a 'for us by us' brand. For example, their SS19 collection' Resistance' was inspired by experiences and daily life. Since protests in the city of Gwanghwamun were occurring and in front of Seoul City Hall, at the time, it aligned with resisting dictatorships worldwide, which continues today. To IISE, resistance symbolizes democratization movements relevant to past, present and future developments. "Resistance is not a symbol of conflict but a symbol of community," said Terrence and Kevin when introducing this collection.
Studying history to aid innovation is a relevant practice in many labels that have emerged from Korea. And while not generalizing a people, it seems to be a consistent practice and commonality that should be recognized as a favorable contribution to this culture sector.
POST ARCHIVE FACTION (PAF) is a collective, not a clothing line, which focuses on the conscientious study of archives and their process of evolution to design new structures and patterns. By expanding their references to art forms beyond fashion, PAF includes architecture, multimedia, nature and more to see which elements can further progress their technical garments and creative integrity.
"We strive to portray the idea of "evolving uniform" in our collections. Frankly, I have not given deep thought to deconstructed designs. In the process of disassembling and assembling design elements, deconstruction and reconstruction coexist. The literal meaning of deconstruction partially exists during the designing process but does not represent the actual outcome." said Creative Director Dongjoon Lim to Hypebeast in a 2021 interview. "I believe good inspirations could come from other artists or architectural pieces, but great ones come from everyday life, as focusing on the little details makes a big difference."
The harmonious blend of utility and artistic sensibility has given PAF its rapid popularity since launching in 2018. But as time shows, consistent attention to detail is always the prevalent key. LVMH recognized these traits and potential for PAF when shortlisting the collective for the 2021 LVMH Prize.
As outside references guide these labels, and architectural influence seems to reign supreme, there is another brand incorporating color studies to convey its identity. XLIM, founded by Do Hee Kim, takes a unique cadence to its collections. While still architecturally inspired, their garments' play on light and color aids the brand in its practical, futuristic designs. Color perception and preference are often culturally and intrinsically linked and reflect in the ways of thinking, feeling and reacting. Korean color symbolism is built upon five elements and basic colors: blue, white, red, black and yellow.
Traditionally, blue symbolizes creativity, immortality and hope; white symbolizes virtue, truth, innocence and death; red symbolizes the sun, fire, production, creation, passion and love; black symbolizes existence; yellow symbolizes light and vitality. And while Do Hee Kim finds ways to blend these elements to create XLIM's own compass and meaning, the impact of its garments can broadly be felt through its hues. This may not be Do Hee's intention, but it is undoubtedly a thought worth contemplating when XLIM can be celebrated for its architectonic form and palette.
The latest to join the SVRN family, who continues to push the sustainability and innovative pedal, is JiyongKim. The young eponymous label is carving its way through natural process methods and deadstock textiles. For SS22, the collection focused on the sun's unfathomable powers. Its "Daylight Matters" theme evaluated the act of protecting against color fading by using heavy-weight fabrics inspired by sun-bleached workwear, curtains and tents. Each piece is distinctive from the next due to its pattern cutting of vintage materials and avoiding the reliance on traditional dyeing and production methods which incorporate excessive amounts of water and harmful chemicals. Instead, JiyongKim employs natural sun-faded effects developed through exposure to the sun, wind and rain for months per garment. One can link this approach to Korean architectural philosophies of including harmonious balance with nature by nullifying the profligate nature of today's fashion.
While acting as a crux of intersectionality, SVRN and the labels above share many core principles and values which SVRN has implicated in its new space. Reconciling a modern with the natural world using materials like volcanic rock and blackened wood with Venetian plaster and stainless steel weaves a more intricate story for the garments and objects within the space. And while serving as a source for current and sub-current trends, something SVRN will never do is compromise its fundamental principles of balance, harmony and intensive research, much like this contemporary class of Korean designers.
Text by Shahrnaz Javid