Designer Rose Kim and her couture brand Rosepany bring to life all the princess dreams from our childhoods in her latest collection “Lucid Wonderland: the World of Surreal Fantasy.” Freshly graduated from Parsons School of Design, romanticism emanates from Kim’s pieces. In fact, it’s something that is an integral part of her creative process, something Kim describes as “romantic surrealism.”
From the books of Lucy Maud Montgomery to nostalgic fairytales, Kim found the inspiration for this collection in her own childhood. Creating surreal energy through her clothes and creations, the young artist associates her appreciation of her pink-heavy aesthetic to her fairytale-like childhood. Born in Seoul, Kim spent a fair share of her time on Jeju, a picturesque small island on the Korean Strait, before moving to a beautiful Canadian village when she was 16 and later on New York, where she currently resides, to study fashion.
To present the “Lucid Wonderland: the World of Surreal Fantasy” collection, Kim teamed up with photographer Jiawei Zhang for a colourful photo series. Enter the dreamy bedroom both artists created while Schön! chats with Kim about her work, her infatuation with Alexander Calder’s art, and why fashion to be the best medium to express her ideas.
First of all, what made you want to become a designer?
Fashion is a medium that can make people feel surreal in real life. When components are controlled perfectly — both conceptually and technically — it becomes an art. Fashion requires very detailed technical skills compared to other forms of art also because it needs to serve a certain function. Even the super conceptual runway piece has its function. Because of this, fashion became a very useful medium for me.
I want to create a surreal visual effect that still has all the details and complexities as a physical space for a human body to live in. I want to create a feeling that is completely distant from the nature we live in. Something that would make the wearer and viewer feel like they are a princess coming from a different universe, like a fantasy wonderland described in romantic fantasy literature by Michael Ende. The colour I call “surreal pink,” which is one of the main symbolic colours of Rosepany, also comes from this idea of creating a surreal-feeling environment.
Your collection has been influenced by your childhood fantasies and the places you’ve been living in, such as Jeju Island. Why did you choose fashion as a medium to express these ideas?
When I was young I was obsessed with the feeling created by falling snow, especially the heavy downpour of large snowflakes. I love how they make me feel. When you look close enough at each snow particle, they look like a flower made out of ice. They are so delicate but visually powerful at the same time. Imagine yourself standing in the midst of a very tall forest. Think blanket of snow absorbs all the sounds and all you can see is falling snow. You feel the heavy silence and the weight of the space surrounding your body. Those feelings were translated into romanticism and surrealism, which were visually translated into glittering tulle fabrics, lovely pink taffeta, pink satin prints designed with elements from the books Momo and Neverending Story by Michael Ende. It then turns into a dress, a skirt, a corset top, a ruffled blouse, a deconstructed jacket… To go into the details, there were a lot of camellia trees in my school garden back in Jeju. Camellia trees bloom in the snow, and the color contrast of glittering pure snow and vivid yet subtle pink and red flowers also influenced how I create visuals out of fabric.
This collection was also inspired by Alexander Calder, especially his work Blizzard. Do artworks usually inspire your work?
My recent collection was inspired by the combination of three elements, which the triangle in the Rosepany logo also symbolises. The first element is the Romantic fantasy literature written by German writer Michael Ende. My favourite books are MOMO and Neverending Story. Ende’s books are so visual they always make me feel as if I am watching a film full of lights and colours. Romanticism has always been the core value of my imaginary universe, which constitutes of creating surreal settings and looking at the real world through a rose-patterned pink glass window and finding answers to the questions I meet on the journey of my imagination.
The second element is Alexander Calder’s kinetic artworks. I went to the Calder’s exhibition in the Whitney Museum during Summer 2017 and saw Blizzard for the first time. What I felt in that moment was as if time has suddenly stopped where Blizzard was hanging. I could almost feel the silent forest and the falling snow on my skin because I had goosebumps all over my shoulder. I could feel the invisible mass of the artwork was overwhelming me. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. I also like the other works of Calder such as Circus and Snow Flurry. I love how kinetic art moves and functions in such a delicate and surreal way. Blizzard was later developed into a pattern design in Rosepany fabric.
The last element is the time and space theory from quantum mechanics. According to the time and space theory, gravity can manipulate time. Time flows a year faster in the core of the earth than the surface of the earth because gravity is so much stronger in the centre of the earth that it actually makes time go faster. But in quantum mechanics, time is an alignment of numerous shifting spaces. So if time is not something that “flows” but is actually an alignment of space, it means that space is also something that can be manipulated. So if space can be manipulated, surreal fantasy world such as wonderland can possibly exist somewhere in the universe.
I like to combine at least three different inspirations that share a similar philosophical and visual value when I make collections.
What do you want people to feel and understand while looking at your work?
My designs are planned towards making people feel absorbed or transferred into a completely different world of romantic fantasy. Garments become a very important aspect that manipulates time and space for audiences to feel surreal as if they are a princess in a wonderland completely different from our world. I want my collections to eventually feel like a small and pink hazy garden for princesses who wants to be a part of the dreamy world of Rosepany.
Your link-up with Jiawei Zhang allowed for a genuine romantic microcosm. Do you believe the photographs to transpire something about your collection that a runway show would not have done?
Joyce and I met in Parsons through a friend and we collaborated for major projects. Before we met, Joyce was used to a lot of commercial photography experiences so when she was collaborating with me, she wanted to create a work that was more on the artistic side. I always loved super artsy photographs and we were lucky that we wanted similar things. We often travelled together with our model friend Jil Averbeck to find the most Rosepany-ish places in or outside New York. Joyce is very open-minded and she always knows how to capture the right moment which comes out beautifully. I like the feeling of hiding somewhere off the frame while Joyce is holding the camera and there are moments when we both feel that we got a really good shot. I definitely like photoshoots better than runways. A photoshoot is a visual completion of a story that a garment is trying to say.
Do you believe this photo series reflects both yours and Jiawei’s creative spirits?
In the recent shoot, we did in the Red Room, we actually shot in the house of a friend who is a fine artist also graduated from Parsons. Her name is Molly Rae and I was absorbed with her colours and shapes when I first saw her abstract art in Parsons fine arts studio a few years ago. We became friends ever since. I liked the elements that are making the room feel completely full and the details of the background created a different personality from the other shoots we usually did with a lot of flowers and trees. I always try to shoot my collection with the full background of flower trees in gardens or parks. I always like to keep the background full of certain elements.
Is there any other artistic medium or elements you’d like people to associate with your work?
Water, glass, pink smoke balm. Little fireworks and more and more of pink satin, lace, tulle, chiffon…
What were the biggest difficulties with such a project?
The biggest difficulty is that it takes a while for inspirations to completely build up inside my head. As the colours, sounds and patterns build up, the vague image of a garment gets clearer and clearer. Once all the fragments of the images come together, everything gets clearer as I start draping muslin and digitally sketch the colours over the drape. I like to create a sketch that feels as if a pink cotton candy and glittering stars are exploded on a body. And then I have to construct the exact visual effect that is on screen into real-life materials which is the hardest part because it is very hard to find the exact materials and fabrics I want to use in the city. Many times I have to make my own fabrications and trims which takes up a lot of energy and time. But when it all comes together into a one complete piece I feel very happy and each and every process was worth it.
What are you now looking forward to?
Rosepany’s first NYFW runway launched on September 6 in New York City. Now, my third collection will soon be released. It would be a mixture of many months of fragmented thoughts that eventually weaves together to the identity and personality of Rosepany. I’m looking forward to shooting the new collection.