Go inside the studio of cult NYC brand Kim Shui

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Kim Shui is a cult-favorite NYC-based women’s fashion brand that honors founder Kim Shui’s Chinese heritage while also celebrating the female body. In this episode of In The Know Style: Changemakers, Kim Shui discusses her design process as well as the creative evolution of her brand. 

Shui, a child of Chinese immigrants, was born in the USA, but grew up in Rome, after her father received a scholarship to move overseas. “My interest in art and in fashion also kind of grew from growing up in Rome,” says Shui.

Shui’s interest in fashion led her to New York City, where her friend got her a job as a pattern cutter. “It was a great experience, but I knew I really wanted to do something of my own,” says the designer. “I saved up some money and I kind of made this small capsule collection, and I just uploaded it onto the Internet.” 

Shui’s big break came when VFILES selected her to showcase her work at New York Fashion Week. “That was [a] life-changing moment for me because it helped me jumpstart my career,” she says. 

At the early stages of her brand, Shui took a broader approach to her designs, before she honed in what became her brand’s signature style. 

“My first season when I started, I had very overtly collaged looks where I was heavily focused on outerwear, and there were lots of different textures, different fabrics, different styles kind of mixed into one,” says Shui. “And then I kinda started playing with it a little bit differently, where it’s a little more nuanced.”

Shui began to draw inspiration from her heritage, incorporating historical Chinese designs like the “standard dragon print, or qipao collars, or floral prints that were very traditional in Chinese culture.” Shui then blends Chinese-inspired art with Western fashion, creating the signature Kim Shui style that has gained cult status across the fashion world, including from some high profile names. 

“When celebrities or people in the media wear something of mine, I’m always very excited and I think it’s amazing, but to be honest I’m a lot more excited when I see someone that I just don’t know walking down the street wearing one of my dresses or one of my pants. I think that’s what brings me so much joy because I want my clothing to be for everyone,” says Shui.   

Shui is optimistic about her brand’s future, maintaining a strong connection with her fans through e-commerce and social media. “What I like is that it’s almost like a community of people that are creating something too,” she says. 

Shui’s advice for any up and coming creators? “Never underestimate how much work needs to go into something. Set your goals way higher than what you would think. Make sure your goals are bigger than what you actually want them to be. Anything worth doing is never easy.”

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