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.
The menswear designer Siki Im has always had a compelling artistic bent, one that he took to new heights with his Fall 2014 collection, which was inspired by the avant-garde cultural and artistic movements of the Seventies. The clothes—nearly all black or shades of gray—had a rigorous power to them, and there was a slight Germanic feel to many of the designs, like Paul Boche’s strong leather biker jacket or Anders Hayward’s double-breasted blazer that splayed open at the bottom. The main material was wool, whether in thick weaves like Chris Beek’s ribbed robe or the raw felt—inspired by the Fluxus artist Joseph Beuys—that gave heft to Abel van Oeveren’s peacoat. There was a strong, elegant outerwear component as well, one that proved that Im’s thoughts were not just focused on the provocative youths of the period. Félix Gesnouin’s fur-collared overcoat had a classic Old World flair, and Yu Fangqing’s coat had a speckled look that was appropriately called “noise.” Im also, as is his wont, stretched the limits of the fashion show into performance art of a sort, as the illustrator Richard Haines, well-known for his runway sketches, took to several of the pieces backstage with white pastel, chalking faces, hands, and other figures onto the sturdy designs. A hand stretched playfully across the pocket of Miles Langford’s bomber jacket, an arm reached down the sleeve of Kristoffer Hasslevall’s blazer, and a face loomed from the back of Laurie Harding’s oversized coat. Watching Haines at work backstage, as he sketched closing model Adam Butcher’s hunched-over figure onto the back of a jacket, served as a powerful reminder that, for the most creative designers, the clothes you see coming down the runway reveal but a small fraction of the thought and effort that went into them.
Siki Im has always been one to straddle the line between fashion and art, and his Fall 2013 collection was another winner. The look was sleek and sharp, whether in Baptiste Radufe’s overlong cardigan or Benjamin Jarvis’ camel overcoat. Pulling inspiration from Italo Calvino’s postmodern classic If on a winter’s night a traveler, Im crafted a show with a cool, intellectual air, with rounded sunglasses and hair packed with patches of color like a Jean Arp collage. There was a smooth purity to the clothes, down to the palette of mostly black. The silhouette was long and lean, starting with Yuri Pleskun’s opening coat. Im emphasized his outerwear this time around, with leather jackets, clean overcoats, and wraps and robes in a rich purple. The collection also served as a study of materials, with leather and cotton playing off soft knits and a shimmering high-tech silver. Im also established a dialogue between Calvino’s mind games and the iconic early-20th-century portraiture of August Sander, whose images of German workers inspired the sturdy aprons the models donned before returning for the finale. It was a characteristically deep and thought-through production from Im, but the clothes gave off an easy elegance, unafraid of their precocity and revealing in their beautiful simplicity.
Photos: Betty Sze backstage / Stephan Moskovic runway
Text: Jonathan Shia
Following up on the launch of its premier issue, Anja Rubik‘s 25 Magazine is out with its second issue and stays true to its commitment to celebrating female beauty & sexuality and exceptional women. Who else better to introduce it than Ms. Rubik herself in her editor’s letter included below.
“I want to start by saying that working on 25 every day has changed my life. Of course taking on the role of Editor and meeting the rotating cast of contributors to the journal were new for me, and I was ready for that challenge and will be forever. What I was not ready for was the reaction to the last issue’s use of erotica. The unexpected backlash made me realize that our generation is more conservative than that of our parents. Basically, celebrating a woman’s body as having a sexuality instead of merely being sexual is viewed as wrong. The media operates on a paradox—it’s no secret—where selling the notion of unobtainable beauty is allowed, while portraits of women just being women are simultaneously shunned. However, I still want to continue pushing the boundaries of what a female fashion magazine can be.
“A woman is present” is the title of our second issue and it’s dedicated to women who have made a remarkable impact on our world today, breaking the glass ceiling in the fields of design, fashion, and art. Some have created their own successful brands from the ground up, and others are the head designers of major fashion houses. One such example is Marina Abramović. Throughout her career, she has walked The Great Wall, sat in museums for seven hundred and fifty hours, and scored manifestos. MoMA’s 2010 retrospective of her career has solidified her as one of the most remarkable artists of our time. Inside this issue, through letting us into her archives, she shares with us how erotica and how sexual energy lives within her work. Also in this issue is the iconic Michèle Lamy, best known as the muse to Rick Owens. Lamy agreed to give us a rare glimpse into the brand, including the elusive “Owen’s family,” the people who work with her in the fashion house. The crew are so much more than cogs in a wheel—they eat together, travel together, and are so close that it seems as if they even live together. It was an experience we won’t forget.
For me, starting this magazine has helped me channel the kind of sexual energy I find every woman to possess, and I’m thankful, because it’s opened my eyes to more experiences and the difference we can all make. The women celebrated in these pages have started an important conversation about variations of erotica, and have proven that sexual energy is the source of creation. Without it, where would we be? It’s not an easy question to answer, because the answer continues to be written. I hope we can be a part of it. Enjoy this issue.”
For Spring 2013, the starkly minimalist designer Siki Im took inspiration from the life of painter Georgia O’Keeffe, a visionary spirit of the American West who spent much of her time in her later life working in the parched expanses of New Mexico’s desert. Deer skulls—a favored O’Keeffe idée fixe—appeared as an oversized abstract print, while clay and bone necklaces also played on the organic theme. But the collection was, as a whole, less about her art and imagery than about herself and the clean lines she often donned for her husband Alfred Stieglitz’s photographs. Im has always been known for his cleanliness, which here took on an air almost of asceticism, in the flowing drapery of the floor-length A-line skirts, the softness of the knit sweaters, the sturdiness of Jeremy Young’s leather vest. The boys wore nubby wool socks with their Teva sandals, and had their hair packed down above the neck with a crumbling clay that was also evocative of a sere landscape. There was a clever variety of shapes and forms, some soft and rounded with sloping shoulders, others built up to a sharp angle. The models all returned shirtless for the finale, an effect that in other hands would be cause for wolf whistles, but here felt more like a purification down to the most basic simplicity.
Antonio Azzuolo‘s Fall 2012 collection was one of the young designer’s strongest yet, displaying a talent for tailoring and construction in a number of elegant pieces that were strong and striking in their proportions and color combinations. Azzuolo, formerly part of the Hermès design team, is a rising star, recently nominated for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fun award, and his strengths were obvious in this cohesive and tightly-edited collection. A number of kimonos were inspired by a recent trip to Japan, and looked almost as practical as the smooth belted overcoat in Azzuolo’s hands.
Siki Im made a trip back to his youth for Fall 2012, returning to his youthful interest in American culture and American brands during the mid-90s when he played basketball in Germany and aspired to the heights of Michael Jordan’s success. The result was a collection that played with this season’s penchant for athletics-inspired pieces while still maintaining the sharp forms and minimalist aesthetic that Im is known for. Cable-knit tank tops had the shape of basketball jerseys, and cotton fleece made its appearance in a series of sweatshirts and pants that looked comfortable and easy without losing their structure. A number of shirts drifted down to mid-thigh, echoing the exaggeratedly loose fit of most NBA uniforms two decades ago, and burgundy cemented its status as one of the season’s most popular hues. James Pecis’ hair was inspired David Beckham and Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago, while Benjamin Puckey gave the models a gloss for a slightly sweaty, post-workout look. Showing in a high school gymnasium was just the icing on the cake.
Runway photos: Stephan Moskovic
Backstage photos: Betty Sze
Text: Jonathan Shia
After sending out lessons in immigration and Native American culture in previous seasons, Siki Im—one of the most consistently intellectual designers working in New York today—titled his Spring 2012 collection “The Topography of Globalization.” In a study of the impact of Americanization and its attendant cultural hegemony, Im also introduced his DEN IM line, a capsule collection of three different silhouettes of the most all-American of clothing staples, jeans. Referencing the spread of democracy through the Middle East earlier this year during the Arab Spring, Im worked to produce looks that mixed the proportions and construction of traditional clothing from that region with the blazers and t-shirts that are iconic of the United States. Subtle military details like cargo pockets served as the final touches that drew the cohesive collection together.
It’s no surprise that the menswear designer Siki Im used to be an
architect. His presentations are nothing less than spectacles, as
proved by his memorable Fall 2010 showing, with its postapocalyptic
cubicle mise-en-scène and noise rock performance. For Spring 2011,
Siki showed in a working parking garage in West Chelsea, the models in
their rebellious, tailored looks lined up before a row of silent
hulking cars. “These cars were already here,” he joked, “but we edited
them for color.” Color found its way into the collection for the first
time as well, with full looks in cream and gray mixed in with the
black. “I felt like everyone was expecting me to do only black,” he
said, “so I wanted to do a twist.” The clothes were loose in cut and
felt almost airy, a change from the tight bindings that made
appearances in his previous collections. Siki explained that he chose
to show in the garage because of its “homogenous, genderless” quality,
reflecting the alienating design of urban public housing he saw as a
child in Cologne. “I grew up as an immigrant in Europe,” he said, “so
I’ve always been interested in the ideas of integration and how
immigrants get isolated.”