A designer's creations begin with a reference, a concern, or an obsession. The latter is Kimintē Kimhēkim, designer of the brand Kimhēkim's source of inspiration. With each collection, he writes a new chapter of his story and explores a new obsession until he manages to understand it and express it. Navigating between the Parisian aesthetic influences and the traditions inherent to his Korean roots, we spoke to the mind behind this aesthetic universe.
After working for Balenciaga, he learned to understand the value of craftsmanship and of haute couture as a discipline of infinite processes, each subject to meticulous care. With his grandmother, he learned the importance of tradition, the weight of cultural heritage, and the aesthetics of traditional Korean clothing. The union of these two sources of knowledge converges in what is known today as Kimhēkim, the Korean heritage brand translated to modern forms through artisanal processes.
Founded in 2014 and part of the Federation de la Haute Couture since 2019, Kimhēkim has managed to create an aesthetic that is as unique as it is distinctive. With a conceptual minimalism that does not necessarily translate into an aesthetic one, in his different collections he has taken elements such as bows, denim, and hair (which he calls obsessions) and created unique pieces that have not only made the audience and the industry know his name thanks to the virality and innovation factor in his designs, but that they remember and respect him thanks to his couture-level craftsmanship. 
While the general public's interest in South Korea and its artistic and aesthetic proposals is undoubtedly on the rise, he not only benefits from it but that’s where he also finds motivation and even inspiration. It is not difficult to find the biggest stars in the Korean industry wearing his creations. We talk about this, about his creative processes, and about how Paris and Seoul have seen him create his story. 
It’s a pleasure talking to you; please tell us who Kimintē is, introduce yourself the way you would like to be known by everyone!  
First of all, my name is Kimintē, I’m from Kimhēkim, the ancient Korean royal family, and I’m presenting my collections during Paris Fashion Week as a member of Federation de la Haute Couture. I want to be known as the designer who is driven by experimenting with aesthetics and who will ultimately create a space in the decorative art sector where all kinds of artists can share their ideas.  
Where are you right now? We know you are always going back and forth between Paris and Seoul.  
I’m in Seoul right now, preparing for the opening of my new flagship store in Cheongdam, the main district of luxury fashion in Seoul. And after that, I’m coming to Paris for my next show, Fall/Winter 2023. 
How does each city impact you? How does their distinctive vibe reflect on you, not only as a creator but also on a more personal level?  
Personally, I love Paris because of its diversity. During my 10-year stay, I met a wide range of people. It became my source not only for the collection but also for my life. When I returned to Seoul, I realised I had evolved into someone who valued himself and his roots. Seoul is a really young and modern city compared to Paris. Its dynamic, which I love, makes me so energetic that I dare to expand my ideas. 
You've been working non-stop since your debut in 2014; where does all of this energy come from? Being a designer is a profession that requires a very strong mindset, so I'm curious about how you cope with all the pressure and stress that comes with it.  
Time goes so fast. I only focused on my brand, and I was having fun. Of course, it was not always easy, but I also enjoyed the rollercoaster moments. When I was stuck, I tried to take a step back and take time for myself. For example, a trip to Jeju Island or Yeosu, in the south of Korea, refreshed me a lot and gave me new ideas and energy. 
A collection's design and creative process are as long as they are interesting. What would you choose as your favourite step, the one where you feel most comfortable or at ease?  
Imagination is my first step. I use it to think, "What if the model walks like this in this big dress?" Then, I start to visualise my ideas on paper and on fabrics. I love the moment when I do the fitting on the model with that first visualization. It’s like magic when you see your vision come alive. 
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You put a lot of focus on the value of the handmade and the craftsmanship in your designs, setting you apart from the trend-focused, fast fashion world. In your working years, have you ever felt the pressure of adjusting a bit more to the industry standards, or is this something out of the question for you?  
It’s always challenging to please everyone in this industry, so I’d rather concentrate on what I really like to do. Because the brand is still in its early stages, we should strengthen our DNA. As you know, I love handwork and craftsmanship. That is the most fun part of the collection, so I can even get inspiration from the process itself. I’m just grateful to see my followers wearing my collections in daily life. 
Artisanship is an element with a lot of weight and importance, both in France and South Korea. On one hand, we have Paris, the birthplace of haute couture, and on the other, South Korea, your home, where ancient techniques are still applied in the crafting of traditional attires being made to this day. How different are the perceptions and treatment of these practises in both countries? Is the cultural difference significant in the way handmade processes are valued?  
I still remember the moment that I experienced the attitude of artisanship at the atelier of Balenciaga. I have a lot of respect for the process of haute couture, since it is so precious by itself. When I work with Korean artisanal ateliers, I've discovered that their approach and attitude toward handcraft are very similar.  
Each collection delves into one of your obsessions, taking an aesthetic element that inspires you and exploring it through various looks in various ways. Where did this way of working come from, and why are you so keen on working like that? 
Making collections for years, I just wanted to push my boundaries and try new things, so I chose nice materials or ideas to develop the collection with an obsession towards it. Once I get used to certain materials and methods, I consider them my friend. So, I’m happy to invite my friends to live in the continuation of all my collections.  
Your most recent obsession is denim, a collection that represents a more urban take and turn on previous obsessions such as the Hair Chronicles or the Bow Universe. Why did you choose denim, and what does the material represent for you? How does it align with Kimhēkim’s essence?  
I love the natural shade of washed denim. Every denim piece has its own special character, and none of them are the same. It reminds me of the beautiful ocean. Creating something new from familiar elements and experimenting with it is one of the cores of Kimhēkim in our latest collections. 
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You are very active on Instagram, where we can frequently find videos of the process and creation. For this last collection, you even did a very TikTok-style video where the process of deconstructing the old jeans and constructing a new garment is shown, captioning it How to make the denim couture pieces. You don't seem to be worried about people copying or replicating your garments, are you?  
I don’t worry about people copying or replicating my collection. Unless it's a large corporation stealing the idea to make money, I take it as a compliment.   
Talking about Instagram, we saw on your personal account that you posted a sneak peek of Kimhēkim’s first book, which is apparently coming soon. What can you tell us about it?  
Please stay tuned! I invested a lot of energy into making this book, which explains what Kimhēkim is.  
Going back to your brand and collections, you have been very vocal about the importance of sustainability in your brand. You repurposed vintage denim pieces, incorporated recycled materials in your packaging, etc. Do you think it's possible to convert fashion from being one of the most damaging industries for the environment to one that helps and tries for a positive change?  
We need to be careful about selecting the materials we’re using and checking their impact on the environment. That would be the first step towards positive change. Plastics are still used everywhere, including in the packaging of sustainable products. We just wanted to stop this ironic situation by using recycled material and biodegradable packages. 
Have you noticed a rise in interest in your brand as we are witnessing a booming interest in other disciplines of South Korean culture? Is the international public as interested in South Korean fashion as they are in South Korean music or TV shows?  
Sure. Even I am becoming more and more interested in South Korean culture. Thanks to this kind of boom, more people are expecting a collaboration between us and K-pop stars. Recently, we got the attention of New Jeans’ fans via an Instagram account that uploads the outfit information of the members! 
And finally, please, tell us what are you currently working on. What is next for Kiminte Kimhēkim?  
We’re working on the Fall/Winter 2023 collection. Guess our new obsession and check the answer in Paris!
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