When I approached him and got his answers, I was delighted by how he sees the world with humbleness, the way he is tender but firm, and sincerely wants to be happy by doing the things he loves and helping others.
Therefore, we invite you to read this intimate conversation in which Kanmin Kim shared his precious memories.
A deeper affection for fashion
VT: What would you like to tell us about you, your origins, and how you got into arts, fashion, and photography?
KK: I’m a fashion designer who wants to show emotion through fashion.
Since I was young, my family has been running a public bath. I always took showers with strangers and helped them scrub their bodies with a shower towel; this is a kind of Korean bathhouse culture. Also, I watched various types of naked bodies in that place. As a result, I could make my own aesthetic standard of men through what I have seen.
I was a model student until high school. But, at the same time, I was into fashion after watching Project Runway.
But, I was sure that I was not talented enough to create something, so I couldn’t dream of becoming a fashion designer. Also, my parents didn’t want me to study fashion either.
After I got into business management major for university, I came to know that I was not in the right place to become what I wanted.
I just left the university without any discussion with my parents. And I took a test for the chance of getting to study fashion in Japan with a full scholarship.
Luckily, I didn’t flunk.
Life in Japan was so fun. Most of all, they taught me how to make garments and how fashion can impact people in a good way.
VT: How do you consider formal education has helped you to become a better artist?
KK: I think formal education has many advantages. Above all, at fashion school, they wanted to know who I was as an artist. I was uncomfortable talking about who I was. However, by facing my background and myself through the classes, I was able to put myself together.
That helped me to create works without lies. Honestly, before entering school, I had a narrow taste. However, through various experiences and education in the school, I was able to know things that I did not know, and through this, I think I got a broader perspective. In addition, by interacting with various friends and professors I met at school, I was able to have a deeper affection for fashion.
VT: When working, which is the advice you always keep in mind?
KK: I have three rules when I’m working.
First: Don’t stay up all night.
Second: All of my plans can change without intention. Just take it!
Third: Communicate with people.
I used to work all night often. When it was severe, I couldn’t sleep for five days. But I found out that these actions eventually can ruin my condition. Since then, I have been paying attention to never staying up all night working.
I love to make plans. However, there are always many unexpected variables in the fashion industry, so things cannot go as planned.
At first, I was very stressed about those things, but these variables often produce better results than I thought. So now, I can calmly accept them even if the plan does not go the way I intended.
When making something, sometimes the work is blocked. Whenever that happens, I talk to the people around me about my feelings and try to solve them. Honestly, there are more times when I learn solutions on my own by talking to others rather than getting those directly from them.
My precious memories
VT: One of your most cherished works is Private affair in public bath. How would you describe it?
KK: Through this work, I wanted to show my precious memories. That bathhouse is an open place, but it is also a very private space for me. in this space, I have made many memories about excitement, love, intimacy, voyeurism, distance, etc.
So, I wanted to capture the complex emotions I had felt in one work. Of course, I made this based on a previous relationship.
VT: When I see your work, two adjectives come to mind: elegant and emotional. But do you consider those words fit what you want to represent with your creations?
KK: I am so grateful for expressing my work in that way. I wanted to respect my feelings. The experiences, time, and emotions in the bathhouse are so precious and affectionate to me. I think this naturally made it possible to create elegant work.
To me, the most important thing when making something is whether this work can cause emotions to the viewers or not. To do this, I always have to be honest with myself.
I know it’s difficult, but I’m trying to keep it.
A soldier at the duty of people
VT: Which plans do you have for the future?
KK: Currently, I am serving as a soldier at the duty of the people. It will be over after another half a year of service. After that, I plan to go to graduate school in Paris to study fashion design. I took the entrance exam just last week. If I can’t pass, I’m thinking of finding a job again in Korea or Japan.
And, I’ll launch my brand after a few more years of experience. Of course, I want to continue working on photography.
VT: What are your thoughts about the current Asian representation in media?
KK: I think Asian culture is spreading a lot through K-pop and Korean dramas these days. As a Korean, I am very proud of this. I met various foreign friends through my long overseas life, but there were many cases that they were not very interested in Korea.
I’m glad that people around the globe seem to have become familiar with Korea, perhaps because Squid Game and BTS are well known these days.
VT: How do you take care of your mental health?
KK: Mental health has always been an issue for me too.
I had a hard time due to depression in high school. I always suffered from burnout when in Japan because of hard-working.
What I’m about to say might sound funny, but when I came to the military, was when I learned how to take care of my mental health.
I keep a positive state by living a regular life and sleeping deeply. These days, I sleep eight hours a day and spend the day exercising for about two hours. I eat at a fixed time, and I only use my smartphone for three hours a day.
Honestly, I thought everything in the military would be controlled and uncomfortable, but I could feel more stable than I thought.
I try to maintain this life even after I finish my military service.
VT: Which words would you like to share with those who might be thinking about starting a career in fashion or arts?
KK: This phrase is like something I want to say to myself, so I hope you always trust yourself and continue to create.
When I said I wanted to be a fashion designer, people around me used to imply that I didn’t seem to be that creative.
Before we go
I honestly hope you find the work of Kanmin Kim as fascinating as I do. His ethics are remarkable, and his desire to pursue his dreams despite what others may think is admirable.
If you want to keep posted on his creations, you can follow him on social media @kanminkim.
Let us be kind and bold!