Among the most buzzed about fashion designers in NYC, Siki Im designs for an intelligent and articulate audience. In his own words, “He or she is well traveled and educated; has values but also loves to be challenged and takes risks; someone who gets bored easily and has humor, too; someone who is not so loud; someone strong.” Unlike many of his design contemporaries, Im refuses to dumb down his concepts or speak down to his audience. The approach has immediately resonated with editors, bloggers and buyers around the world.
The German-born, former senior designer for Karl Lagerfeld and Helmut Lang actually started out as an architect in the UK, before relocating to NYC in 2001 to work at Archi-Tectonics. Since debuting his own menswear collection for Spring/Summer 2010, Im has been recognized by the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation and landed at key retailers like Project No.8, Blackbird, American Rag and Lane Crawford. When asked to identify his strength and weakness, Im responds, “I think I get inspired and excited easily but also get bored fast. I enjoy thinking outside the box.”
In November 2010, Im reconnected with his architecture background via Boffo’s Building Fashion program. The non-profit connects designers with architects for temporary design installations, previously featuring Richard Chai + Snarkitecture, Heather Huey + Urban A&O and House of Waris + Christian Wassmann. Im summarizes his temporary pop up: “It was great to sit on the other end of the table and choose an architect. Leong Leong, who I chose, do not only design great spaces, they are super chill. In fact, we hang a lot.”
Collaborating with Im, brothers Dominic and Chris Leong transformed an existing sales trailer by retrofitting the interior with an end-to-end ramp, then using soy-based spray foam to cover the entire structure. The result is a sleek, black box whose insides resemble a caveman’s half pipe. Leong and Leong are quickly becoming retail’s go-to designers, having worked on flagships for 3.1 Phillip Lim (Seoul, 2009 and Los Angeles, 2008), and the Opening Ceremony boutique in the Ace Hotel (2010).
For Fall 2011, Siki Im drew inspiration from Native American potter Maria Martinez. The result is more accessible than, for example, Henrik Vibskov’s Native American print driven collections. But within the cannon in NY Fashion Week, Im remains firmly outside the commercial norm. His show team includes master casting director John Tam, and styling by David Vandewal (Art + Commerce).
Im insists avant-garde is not the intended result, claiming, “You need to understand and see the rules, then you can break them. Rules are important to communicate. We humans are quite primitive, we like to put things into boxes, label them and make rules. It makes life easier. And if they are happy then that’s the most important thing. Some, even, have never learned to think for themselves, and some try so hard to live without them, always complain, and are always dissatisfied.”
In only two years/four collections, Siki Im has risen to the brink of stardom with collections that rely on conceptual narrative. Over the next several years, he aims to further expand into women’s wear and, “all the accessories and perfume and tea cups.” For now, there’s plenty of satisfaction in proving men’s wear can work outside the box.
Text by Michael Cohen
Photography by Billy Kidd
Styling by Rich Aybar
Hats: Siki Im + Heather Huey
Kilts and rugs: Siki Im + TahNibaa Naat’aanii
Jewelry: Siki Im + Eugene