Dahae Kim’s Dark Alchemy


Dahae Kim, the visionary behind burgeoning label WHICHKIM, derives inspiration for her acclaimed conceptual menswear designs from her enduring dark obsessions. Industrial architecture, the recesses of the human psyche, and a self-proclaimed alchemic philosophy inform her abstract, sculptural aesthetic.

“I take dirty, dangerous, unhappy, and dark subjects as inspirations,” explains Kim, “and then interpret and design them into beautiful things.”

Born in South Korea, Kim has cultivated her creative ambition with a singular focus since her higher education commenced at the Academy of Art University with a portfolio scholarship from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). In 2009 she received her BFA in Menswear Fashion Design, and in 2011 she won the San Francisco Fashion award for Emerging Mensware Designer of the Year. Currently, Kim is one of five

“Designers in Residence” at the Fashion Incubator San Francisco (FISF) at Macy’s Union Square.

Kim’s designs are exquisite paradoxes: tailored yet deconstructed works of wearable sculpture. Strong fabrics—wool, cottons and leather—and clean lines provide a mostly monochromatic canvas for her more avant-garde leanings, including asymmetrical cuts that fall in deliberate, meticulous angles. Kim’s ingrained perfectionism permeates WHICHKIM, an ironic facet of the designer’s artistry considering her conviction that “the most beautiful moment of life is when you breakdown mentally. That’s when you let your guard on yourself and feel all the emotions flowing in, and also that is when the most amount of creativity kicks in.”

Photography by Warren Difranco / ModaCine

While in the San Francisco Fashion Incubator, Kim will design a 2015 spring and fall collection under professional mentorship provided by Macy’s, specifically Jeanne Allen and Marc Grant (award-winning designers of the Jeanne Marc label). The incubator offers selected designers fully equipped studio workshops on Macy’s seventh floor at highly reduced rents, in order to bolster their fledgling businesses. Still, Kim’s professional acumen is already highly evolved, an uncommon attribute for such a fresh, emerging and avant-garde talent.

Having been raised in a military family, Kim’s background contextualizes her design sensibilities. Obsessive craftsmanship is framed by impeccably polished tailoring, recalling the crisp uniforms of army generals and cadets. In order to counterbalance the hard-edged minimal geometry of her more structured pieces, Kim adds fluid drapery, patterned shapes and bold accents of color. Her resulting, balanced compositions are intended for the contemporary urban man, whose fashion sense and ambition is rivaled only by his self-confidence—much like the designer herself.

Text by Emillie Trice
Photography by Warren DiFranco