kim shui's new campaign is a celebration of family
The designer's fall/winter 18 campaign stars Jane Shuai of Top Jewelry, and mother-daughter duo Fiffany Luu and Lily Chu.
Photography Max Hirschberger
When i-D last met Kim Shui, she was showing her extreme sports-inspired fall/winter 18 collection in New York. The American-born, Italian-raised, and Central Saint Martins-educated designer has now shared the accompanying campaign with us, shot by Max Hirschberger. It features a cast of Shui's friends, some of whom walked her show, including Jane Shuai from Chinatown's iconic New Top Jewelry, and mother-daughter duo Lily Chu and Fiffany Luu. The campaign is a tribute to togetherness. "It’s about creating an inclusive girl gang and culture where people aren’t afraid of diverging from the societal norm," Shui says, "pushing boundaries of mainstream perceptions of beauty."
I'd love to hear more about where your interest in extreme sport and survival wear comes from. Do you have experience as a traveler or an athlete? Do you see this being part of your brand for a long time to come?
I think that being born in the US, raised in Italy, and coming from a Chinese background — there is a collage and nomadic traveler aspect that is always incorporated into my clothing. Moving from place to place, fashion was important in how I constructed my identity.
We've discussed this before but I'd like to revisit: I love that you also re-cast your models across seasons. Do you have a personal connection with your models? What does bringing in some of their family members say about your brand as a whole and this collection in particular?
I definitely like to cast a lot of the same models, as they are either close friends or people I love to have be a part of [my brand]. I like having this “family” element to the brand.
This season also highlighted that with Fiff and Lily — a daughter and mother — both beautiful, iconic women!
I loved having them in the show also because personally I have a very close relationship with my mother — she is one of my best friends.
How did you meet the stylist and photographer, and what was your decision-making process in creating the team for this shoot? Does a collection you've made look different to you when you see other creatives shaping it according to their vision?
Kuschan, stylist from the shoot, and Ace, the casting director of both this shoot and the show, are two of my best friends. I met Kuschan when I was selected for the VFILES Runway show so he has known me from when I just started and we have worked super closely. Roff also cast the previous spring/summer 18 show at Century 21 — him and Greg have a great talent and eye for finding really unique people. The team for this shoot was the same from our fall/winter 18 show, apart from makeup and hair.
I am lucky to have such amazing and talented friends who are there to support and have their input on things, it also helps me look at a collection and all the pieces I’ve designed differently from how I conceptualized it.
How has the Kim Shui brand and aesthetic developed from past seasons? Are there new materials, techniques, or ideas/interests that you are introducing with this season for the first time?
Kim Shui started, I would say, with a really strong focus on outerwear. Obviously, I still love making outerwear, but I think that over the seasons, I have put a lot more into developing separates that are also just as special and have been looking at exploring different fabrics and sustainability — using vegan leather and fur for example.
This season I’m excited about looking at some new materials and palettes that I haven’t used before and have been expanding on previous seasons — I looked a lot more into how clothing can look different each time you wear it. Many of the pieces can unravel and be pieced back together in a different way.
Do you see Kim Shui as a womenswear brand for women — as you cast women of all ages and sizes — or for other genders too? There's no wrong answer.
I see Kim Shui as a womenswear brand but also an inclusive one — when there are other genders who wear Kim Shui, I love seeing that! I’ve always wanted Kim Shui to give an active voice to underrepresented women through clothing. So for me it’s about creating an inclusive girl gang and culture where people aren’t afraid of diverging from the societal norm, pushing boundaries of mainstream perceptions of beauty.
How do you position yourself within the genre of streetwear? I see your work as both conceptual and wearable, and I think that's a difficult line to walk. Who is your idea of a Kim Shui girl for this season?
In streetwear I see Kim Shui with a more luxurious and feminine side to it. The pieces for me have also been about walking this fine line between what is tasteful and what is not. I design for someone who is very comfortable in their own skin and not afraid to take chances or be bold.
On the flip side, who wears Kim Shui? Are there any celebrities, or other people, who have taken your designs and worn them in ways you love, or found interesting?
It’s funny because people have commented on how wide a range of different girls have worn Kim Shui and I like that because to me, even if everybody is very different they are united by the clothes. I have had women like Maye Musk, Olivia Palermo, Kylie Jenner, and Cardi B wear the clothes and they are all so different from each other. I really love how Kali Uchis wears my designs. She is beautiful, but she also makes everything look special and I love the way she carries herself!
Growing up, did you know you wanted to be a designer? How did you make the transition from Economics/French at Duke to fashion? I know many other Asian-Americans who have a strong academic background but are hesitant about their creative pursuits because of it.
I had always wanted to be a designer from what I remember. I loved how I could incorporate and explore my interests in film or art through clothing. But I felt like I wanted to have a wider understanding, not just limit myself to knowing about fashion, which is why I graduated first in Econ/French. It was definitely a big risk for me to pursue something creative, but I felt that if there was any right time, it would be now. I am also a very persistent person — I don’t give up easily despite failure or rejection so I think that has helped me along the way.
Models Fiffany Luu and mom Lily Chu, Jane Shuai from New Top Jewelry, Coca Huang, Shannon C.
Photography Max Hirschberger
Casting Roff Studios
Styling Kuschan Jafarian
Makeup Kento Otsubo
Hair Yuhi Kim