With his deliberately intellectual approach and willingness to discuss his process, SIki Im is the rare menswear designer who can straddle highbrow concepts and accessible collections. Inspirations for past seasons include a Russian prison documentary and the work by experimental Italian writer Italo Calvino, and his influences for Fall 2014 are no less cerebral, with references to seminal German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, French philosopher Michel Foucault, and Fluxus artist Joseph Beuys. But there is one surprising item in his cultural diet this season: the '70s.
"It's not my favorite era at all, but I think that's why I'm so intrigued," Im told us. Don't expect anything out of the American Hustle wardrobe closet, though. Im went against the glamour and opulence clichés of the days of disco. "There was another side of things, an avant garde, experimental side," he said. Experimental was definitely the word of the day at his presentation during New York Fashion Week. This was a season of firsts for Im: He added trims like functional metal zips, played with color (if you squint you can make out the shades of dark green), chose the '70s as his starting point and even asked fashion illustrator Richard Haines to draw on the clothes with white oil pastel moments before they walked the runway. He also included a female model for the first time. "We have women customers for our smaller men's sizes," he explains. "I'm really trying to be brave".
Still, you'll see plenty of familiar seventies silhouettes in the collection, even if Im isn't keen to wear them himself. "Would I wear it? No. Do I love it? Yes. I've never owned a bootcut, for example. Personally, I don't know if I'm ready, but I'm really fascinated by it." (For the record, Im was wearing black slim-cut pants.) Other odes to the era include big flares, lots of leathers fox furs, and A-line shapes in addition to the line's standbys like drop-crotch pants, bomber jackets, and layered styling.
What you remember from last season: Loose, institutional dressing in synthetic fabrics inspired by hospital garb and jail uniforms.
Key pieces for Fall 2014: This season marks a return to using natural fabrics, like the wools and felts that were designed in-house and made in mills in Austria (for a more "coarse and raw" feel) and Italy (for an "elegant, refined" look). We also saw a great ribbed leather perfecto jacket made in durable Italian horse leather as well as American-made steel-toed clogs to add a little rock 'n roll to the "kind of weird and awkward super '70s" shoe.
The pièce de resistance, however, is the exquisite blazer that represents, perhaps, the purest expression of Im's postmodern mantra. Hold open the jacket and you'll see organza-lined cutouts that reveal the many layers of careful tailoring underneath. "It sounds a little pretentious," Im concedes, "but it's a postmodern move to show the process. If it's a beautiful process, why not show it?" And in a collection that pays homage to one of the designer's least favorite decades, it's also the piece that feels most like an extension of himself. "I tend to keep things clean and minimal on the outside, but on the inside I like when things are a little messed up."
What's next: Im wants to develop this collection further, but if his reading list is any indication of what we've seen this season and in seasons past, the fact that his current obsessions include the Black Panthers and "a love for monks and monasteries" means that Spring 2015 ('70s-Black-Panther monk?) is really anyone's guess. At the very least it'll make for some very high-minded conversation.
Details associate web editor, Perrin Drumm. Follow her on Instagram @perrindrumm
Photographs by Manu and Pascal
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