September 7th, 2014
Born in Germany to Korean parents, the designer Siki Im has always had an innate ability to combine two halves into a greater whole. For Spring 2015, that dichotomy melded the robotic and the romantic in a collection aptly titled “Human/Machine.” The mood board backstage was a study of contrasts, with schematics of robot toys pinned above fluttering sheets of tie-dye, their prominent wrinkles a clear reminder of handmade craftsmanship. The result was a mixture of sturdy shapes and all-too-human imperfections, reflected in the irreproducible tie-dye prints, the frayed edges, the uneven stripes, the mismatched footwear.
Im has always brought a weighty intellectualism to his designs, and it’s not for nothing that his show notes include both a syllabus and a list of references—which in this case ranged from Wall-E and Walter Benjamin to George Orwell and Futurist founder F.T. Marinetti. But what sets Im apart from other designers who casually toss off the names of great thinkers and artists as inspirations is both his rigor and his sense of human frailty, which keep his designs from feeling overly academic. Im’s latest collection faces a fashion industry—and a world—that is changing, thanks to technology, at the speed of light, and asks not just what we should be wearing, but why we will continue to wear it. But this wasn’t a case of future shock—the clothes were not sci-fi pastiches, but rather a plea for human connection. There were softly swinging coats, rustling tunics, and flowing trousers. When they stripped down for the finale, the models were left bare chested, present and forceful in all their vulnerability.