Next In Fashion

Minju Kim Is The Next Big Thing In Fashion

The champion of Netflix’s Next In Fashion talks about the plans for her label, overcoming self doubt, and balancing creativity with business.

Minju Kim Is The Next Big Thing In Fashion
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

The name to know in fashion right now is Minju Kim, the winner of Netflix’s first reality fashion competition series Next In Fashion. The show’s premise is that it brings together working, experienced designers to compete for a cash prize and the opportunity for their winning collection to be stocked on Net-A-Porter. It’s a big deal for a fashion designer, especially in an industry crowded and dominated by big name brands. 

It was, however, clear from episode one that Kim was a star to be reckoned with. The South Korean designer had one of the clearest points of view: bright, cheerful fashion with masterful control of silhouette and shape. She’s a graduate of the Samsung Art & Design Institute and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp — and the technical know-how she has was made clear by the ambitious volumes she could so easily create. 

Models in Kim Minju’s winning collection at the Netflix and Net-A-Porter x Next In Fashion launch event in New York City.Monica Schipper/Getty Images, courtesy Net-A-Porter

Of course, on a reality show, talent is just one part of the equation. Kim’s personality is warm and humble, which, tempered with her immense talent, made her lovable. On the show, she talks about her personal struggles with insecurity and the stresses of balancing the business needs of her eponymous label with her desire for creative expression. It’s compelling, and it’s a reality many talented fashion designers in the world toiling away face, either with their own labels or behind the scenes at another brand. We spoke with Kim about her favourite memories from Next In Fashion, and her plans post-show.

What are you planning to do with the cash prize from Next In Fashion?

I want to move my studio. It’s a really tiny space packed with so many things. 

Are there any fashion designers — from outside the show — whose work particularly inspires you?

Walter Van Beirendonck. He taught me when I was in fashion school in Antwerp, and his works inspire me in so many ways. 

On the show, you talk about doubting yourself. How do you overcome that as a designer and learn to trust your creative instincts?

I don’t think I overcame that issue. After winning, I still question myself whenever I am designing. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think questioning myself helps me reach the best solution. 

  • Minjukim SS20 CampaignSociety A
  • Minjukim SS20 CampaignSociety A

On the show, and especially in the lingerie challenge, you made an effort to design sexier pieces. What does “sexy” mean to you?

I deeply failed in the lingerie challenge because I designed with the idea of what’s sexy in the media. Sexy to me is having a brave mind to freely express oneself and be confident with it. 

Which guest judge were you most excited to have critique your designs?

Phillip Lim. He told me that every story is worth telling, so I don’t need to be embarrassed or shy about it. He also told me that I’m a good designer.

On the show, you talk about your sister managing the business aspect of your brand and at times limiting your creativity. Are things going to be different for you now?

My collection will still be somewhat limited and selected by her. Fashion is teamwork and I can’t do it alone. We need this balance — without business, I cannot continue with my design life. But  I still get to do pieces that I can go crazy with for the fashion show during Seoul Fashion Week.

  • Minjukim SS20 CampaignSociety A
  • Minjukim SS20 CampaignSociety A
  • Minjukim SS20 CampaignSociety A

Are there standout memories from filming the show?

After we finished the day, all the contestants would head to the hotel bar, drink together and talk about the day and the episode. That was a really nice moment. During the competition, we really had no time to have conversations and just focused on the work. It was really important for us to have a drink after the shoot and cheer each other up. I miss that time already. Oh, and Angelo always gave people advice on how to calm and relax the mind. He was like a therapist to everyone, it was really sweet. 

The MINJUKIM aesthetic is very clearly defined. Are there any unexpected or different sides of it that you want to explore designing in the near future?

I try my best to come up with new ideas all the time. I cannot promise unexpected and different designs from my signature aesthetic, but I always try.  

You were part of the LVMH Prize and also won the H&M Design Award before. How do you feel Next In Fashion differs from those competitions?

When I won the H&M Design Award, I had just graduated from school and didn’t know anything about the fashion business and even about my future career in fashion. In comparison, winning Next In Fashion opens up big doors to many business opportunities now that we are more aware of the business. 

What part of fashion design do you enjoy most?

Drawing an illustration. I love to draw for any reason. 

As the Next In Fashion winner, what are your hopes for the evolution of fashion going forward, and what changes do you want to see happen?

I just want people to know that there are so many great young designers struggling to show their best work. I hope there will be more opportunities like this programme for other young and ambitious designers to participate and showcase who they are and what they’re capable of. 

MINJUKIM Spring/Summer 2020 is available exclusively at SocietyA. Kim’s winning collection from Next In Fashion is also available now on Net-A-Porter

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