The Collector: Fashion Designer Siki Im's Pre-1987 Transformer Action Figures

The 36-year-old New Yorker got his first Transformer when he was 5. Three decades later, he's still looking to the Autobots for inspiration.

"I've always loved things that a have dual purpose," says Siki Im, who grew up fixing bikes and nurturing a fascination for Legos in Cologne, Germany. Now living in Brooklyn, Im makes his valuables—vinyl records, Air Jordans, rare vintage toys—pull double duty as design objects, arranging them in his minimalist apartment with the same meticulousness that characterizes his eponymous fashion line. Prime real estate goes to a collection of first-generation Transformers—more than two dozen strong—that all predate 1987. (Im says sloppy plastic versions hit the market after that.) The leader of his pack, Windcharger, was a surprise fifth-birthday gift from his mom. The ones that followed, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Starscream among them, were bought when he was a boy overseas and then, for the past 10 years, by way of strategic eBay bids "made in the last two minutes of the auction—kamikaze-style."


The design appeal of the enduring shape-shifters may not seem obvious, but it remains strong for a guy who studied architecture at Oxford before switching careers to become a senior designer under Karl Lagerfeld and launching his own brand in 2010. "If you take the concept of transforming and functionality, you see it in my clothes, in the structure and the detail," he says. Like the way a jacket converts into a backpack with a hidden internal strap system. (The next iteration of the philosophy—a denim-focused diffusion line called Den Im—hits stores in June.)

And as heated eBay auctions prove, Im's not alone in his appreciation of the Autobot aesthetic. "It's amazing how many people are geeking out over these—it makes me think, 'Why aren't they working?'" he says, adding with a laugh, "I guess I could ask myself the same question."

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Photograph by Robert Wright; Grooming by Alejandra using Dior Homme at Factory Downtown.
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