[E]mbracing awkwardness is difficult to do. Clashing patterns, unconventional shapes and progressive design can intimidate, leaving us bound by tradition and conformity. Not so, though, for Korean-born New Zealand designer Jae Kim, whose brand JAEHA is seeking to embrace awkwardness and celebrate it as an act of strength and rebellion.
With an AW17 collection that boasts layered checks, unfamiliar silhouettes and clashing colours, Jae is presenting a refined awakwardness that works. That matches its eccentricities with class and craftsmanship.
See the full collection below and read our interview with Jae, in which we discover how awkward can be beautiful. Follow JAEHA here.
What were the key influences on your AW17 collection?
The Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana women of the ‘80s and the beauty that comes from strong women’s refined awkwardness. They were renowned for strong, angular designs: think big padded shoulders and flame-like cutouts. I wanted to make these modern in a contemporary manner and make them relevant to the JAEHA girl who wants visually striking clothes that are special and catch the eye in subtle or sophisticated ways.
You mention a certain awkwardness about your silhouettes, can you tell us more about why you describe your designs that way and what it means for the collection?
Can something be both awkward and beautiful? Beautiful but awkward? I myself am awkward. Can I be refined? Don’t answer that…! These questions came up when my stylist Alex Carl and I brainstormed what the JAEHA girl could be, using the expression within the brand’s DNA.
I like working with clashing fabrications; putting a gold cupro dress over red checked shirting with a bold white cuff could be a very weird thing to do; yet it worked. It’s about making unexpected adjustments to familiar forms – changes which shouldn’t work, but they actually do. So to stand out, our woman makes adjustments in her wardrobe that might look accidental and appear awkward but are actually anything but.
In the AW17 collection I am searching for a new proportion that is neither too exaggerated nor too tight. The collection is deceptively complicated – treading a fine line to create beautiful shapes that are awkward but every cut, every layer, and each clashing fabric has been thought through – hence why it is refined.
Do you think fashion as a form of self-expression can make an impact on society?
It can have a huge impact. I dress my woman to be noticed. She is constantly curious. Cheeky. Lovable and wants to be remembered as special. She is empowered but not in a threatening way. Breaking the rules and incorporating awkwardness achieves this. She dares her audience to call out the inconsistencies but their inability to do so because the designs work so beautifully, empowers her.
Do you take inspiration from art / photography / film / music as well? If so, whose work is inspiring you at the moment?
With music I’m in love with the Lil Kleine & Ronnie Flex track “Stoff & Schnaps”.
I have long taken an interest in the work of Katrin Bremermann and anything DaDa. I am in love with Jacques Villeglé’s work. My favourite film has to be Daisies by Věra Chytilová.
What changes would you like to see in the fashion industry in 2017?
I’d like to see a more level playing field between young designers and established brands – buyers taking more risks with their budget to pick up and support young brands like mine.