Premiered in January 2020, ‘Next in Fashion’ was one of the most anticipated reality shows that have arrived on Netflix this year. Featuring emerging talents from all over the world including Woolmark Prize finalist Angel Chen and Fiorucci Menswear Artistic Director Daniel Fletcher, the competition series crowned designer Minju Kim as the winner, spotlighting her as the name to watch in the industry.
With her recognizable fun patterns and pastel shades, South Korean designer Minju Kim (34) is definitely a name to add to your fashion radar. Minju beat all 17 fashion designers from around the world to emerge as the winner in the show, having proved her creativity with her 10-piece, Frida Kahlo-inspired collection, with a wedding dress as her show-stopper which made guest judge Eva Chen of Instagram “want to get married again”.
Kim’s runway show wowed the crowd, bringing smiles to everyone’s faces, and making her family cry tears of joy. She received the grand prize of US$250,000 investment and a debut collection with luxury fashion retailer NET-A-PORTER.
Kim’s journey to victory goes way beyond the 10 episodes of the ‘Next in Fashion’ competition. She is running her own brand since 2015, and says it has been “hard and tough”. Kim graduated from two schools: the Samsung Art Design Institute in 2008 and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp in 2013. While at school, she won the H&M Design Award in 2013, and designed a nine-piece, 1960s mod-inspired collection for the brand. Kim was also a semi-finalist in the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers in 2014. She has designed for top girl group Red Velvet, and two years ago, she dabbled in menswear for the first time, creating stage looks for global K-pop boy band BTS.
Tanja Beljanski: How did you find out about the competition ‘Next in Fashion’?
Minju Kim: I got the first email from Netflix last year, I think it was around January. They said they are looking for designers for the fashion competition program. I was very happy they gave me a chance to apply for the show, but at the same time I was very nervous, too. I can’t forget the day I got their email!
TB: You are the winner of H&M Design Award in 2013 and shortlisted LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers in 2014. What made you decide to apply for Netflix competition?
MK: First of all, I think I love challenges. It’s tough, but it always makes me grow as a designer. Besides, an award or competition help people know about our label. It’s such a huge opportunity to show the world who we are.
It’s been years ago since H&M and LVMH awards. I’ve been so busy running the fashion business with my sister. Sometimes I forget about what I love. So, I expected from ‘Next in Fashion’ to take me on the special journey in fashion and refresh me.
TB: You have finished one of the most prestigious and probably the toughest schools - The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. This has prepared you for the fashion world. Which challenge in the competition was the most difficult one in your opinion and why?
MK: Yes, I studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. It’s really tough school, but I think deciding to enter Antwerp fashion school was the best decision I made in my fashion life. It really made me who I am right now.
The most difficult challenge was active wear challenge, because I really didn't know how to sew the stretch fabric. That day I had to learn how to sew cover stitch. I had to use the cover stitch machine I’ve never worked in my life on. I got a lot of help from Marco.
Moreover, my collection is mostly oversized and strong structured so it was really big challenge for me; it has to be still minjukim, with tight silhouette and functional.
But I learnt so many things from it and these days actually I am very into sports wear.
TB: What is the best thing you experienced during this competition?
MK: Meeting amazing designers. Most of the designers and me had the same worries and concerns. It was very nice to share these worries and talk about it. We spent a lot of time talking about what we’ve been through and our experiences, and also how much we love doing this. I really love that moment! When we look at the fashion world from the outside, it seems so gorgeous, but behind the curtain there are so many things we have to work on; it’s not only about creativity. It’s hard but we are still in love with fashion!
TB: Where do you find the motivation in your career?
MK: I can’t tell exactly where, but every time when we finish the season (or collection), I always want to do better. I think about the next season directly. I think my motivation comes naturally.
TB: Who is your biggest support?
MK: It’s my sister, as I said in the ‘Next in Fashion’. My sister gave me her life to help and make Minjukim successful. When I’m too much concerned about the design, she always cheers me up and tells me I am the best designer in the world! Sounds so ‘family conversation’, but sometimes it really helps. She believes in my talent. It’s amazing working with someone who really trusts you.
TB: What is the hardest thing about having your brand?
MK: Fashion is about working with the team, so it’s very important how to convey your idea. When I was a student, I worked alone and handled all the projects and home-works myself. But in the real world if we don't know how to work with the team, we can’t be a good fashion designers. I think ‘Next in Fashion’ showed that designers helped each other to make good work and didn't hesitate to give a good advice. It shows how important cooperation is.
TB: What is the nicest thing about having your brand?
MK: When I look at all my collection, I am overwhelmed. I feel like I am creating my own world. This is the best thing!
TB: What are you most passionate about, besides fashion?
MK: Education. I want to share what I learned with young people. Actually my first dream was being an art teacher.
I was very lucky student because I met amazing teachers in my life. Walter Van Beirendonck, my teacher from the Academy in Antwerp, is like my fashion father. I defiantly believe my teachers made me who I am and directed me the right way. I want to give back this love to the people who want to learn.
TB: Your advise for the future competitors in the ‘Next in Fashion’?
MK: Keep your voice and be brave. Don't be afraid showing what you have. The world wants to see your speciality.