Text Kamara Hakeem-Oyawoye
For Kim Shui, 2019 ended on a supremely high note. Debuting on Forbes 30 under 30 for Art & Style, the mogul in the making has managed to multiply her brand’s revenue five-fold since its launch four years ago.
Perfectly utilizing her economics degree, Kim has mastered the art of direct-to-consumer marketing without needing to rely on any influencer gifting whatsoever. Despite taking a route untraditional to most designers, she went on to complete an MFA in Central Saint Martins following her graduation in 2011.
Shortly after, while working at Christian Siriano as a pattern cutter and assistant designer, Shui began working overtime and on the weekends to birth her namesake label on the sidelines. Taking her dreams to the next stage, she applied for the VFiles Runway Showcase in 2016 and won.
This almost automatically graced her with the stamp of approval from fashion’s upper echelon. Only jolted further by Kylie Jenner’s front row presence while her then beau, Tyga, performed live.
“I definitely think I got contacted a lot because of that opportunity,” Kim says. “The show itself was the most helpful in terms of letting the fashion industry know I was a brand.” Allowing her to enhance her skills, even more, she was gifted mentorship from industry elites including the likes of Off-White’s Virgil Abloh. Looking back, the designer has frequently stated that she wouldn’t have been where she was today if not for such opportunities.
Raving about the uniqueness of Kim’s artistry, Julie Anne Quay, founder and CEO of VFiles expressed that her work was a perfect fusion of innovative and commercial, “that’s a fine line to walk, and she was walking it well from the start.”
Crafting work the 29-year-old describes as “eccentric, colourful and uniting”, Ms Shui has stayed authentic to her VFiles roots – combining contrasting elements to reimagine everyday subjects such as femininity, glamour and design.
In a similar style, her multicultural background shapes her distinct aesthetic. She canvases cuts and silhouettes traditional to her Chinese ethnicity with fabrics typical to her European and American upbringing. Additionally, curating her catwalks to mirror her appreciation of diversity.
“I’m Chinese, but I was born in the states and then I grew up in Italy. I was always around diverse cultures and different things. It was kind of a mishmash of cultures, and I think my design developed that way too. It’s bringing together all of these different aesthetics and places subconsciously,” she explains.
Breathing life into tiresome fabrics and prints, Kim unites a diverse network of womxn such as Maye Musk, Sita Abellan, Solange and Olivia Palermo. Something she takes great pride in, mainly as it reflects the social element that she’s inbuilt into the brand. “A lot of stylists reach out to me because of something we post online. A lot of artists do too,” Kim says.
“I’ll post a photo and see how people react to it. It helps me see what girls want to wear. I want to offer girls what they want to wear” she expresses. “I don’t just want to have a lot of clothes out in the world, I want to actually dress girls. That’s my most important part,” she continues.
As she’s perfected her trademarked combination of eye-catching colours and patterns, “almost 100% of the people on our website got there from Instagram. So, they’re buying the signature pieces with the prints and colours.”
Creating her own tagline that can be considered Conceptual Cool, Kim Shui shows no signs of slowing down. After paving a very unique path, she’s very quickly reaching her aspirations of being the IT brand for accessories and clothing alike.