Fans of Netflix’s Next in Fashion will already recognize Minju Kim as the worthy winner of the sartorial talent show. Those who missed the series will be no less appreciative of Seoul-based Kim’s dreamy designs. In fact, her pretty prints, joyful color palette and directional silhouettes also secured her a spot on the 2014 LVMH Prize shortlist. Kim starts each collection with a hand-illustrated print – inspired by everything from the work of Frida Kahlo to 1970s Japanese anime – and creates her own fabrics. “It’s really interesting to see my drawing jumping into people’s lives,” she says of spotting her designs on the street. This season, creating her wholly unique collection in extraordinary materials that are kinder to the planet was a key priority for Kim. “We created a new fabric in a sustainable and eco-friendly way. I wanted to use a traditional Korean fabric that is only produced in the Hansan region; this natural hemp fiber is 100 percent biodegradable. I also used an eco-certified natural ink for the print this season.” Her divine corseted dresses and pillowy quilted gown coats have a striking, couture-like quality that elevates them beyond the everyday. Consider Kim’s designs to be collector’s items that aren’t intended to be stowed away for special occasions, but made to be worn, loved and really lived in.
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We created a new fabric in a sustainable and eco-friendly way. I wanted to use a traditional Korean fabric that is 100 percent biodegradable. I also used an eco-certified natural ink for the print this season”Minju Kim
When NET-A-PORTER president Alison Loehnis fell in love with Artclub’s one-shouldered Aster dress (which a fellow guest at an event in the Hamptons was sporting), the budding label’s fate as part of The Vanguard was sealed. Heidi Middleton, the Sydney-based designer behind the brand, comes with 15 years of experience in the fashion industry, having previously co-founded Aussie label Sass & Bide. Her exacting design eye was perfected during this time and is also informed by her years spent at art school. While manifesting a new venture, Middleton found herself largely preoccupied with finding a means to create all the beautiful things her mind conjured in an eco-conscious way. “Artclub aims for sustainability in all aspects of the business. From local manufacturing – all pieces are made in Australia and adhere to ethical, fair-wage regulations – to its waste-reduction practices, slow fashion approach and packaging solutions,” she explains. “It feels conducive to a higher level of creative output, as well as being gentle on people and this beautiful planet.” Made from luxurious recycled materials in limited runs, Artclub’s ultra-feminine pieces should be snapped up fast and cherished forever.
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Artclub aims for sustainability in all aspects of the business – from local manufacturing to waste-reduction practices, slow fashion approach and packaging solutions”Heidi Middleton
Conversely, it was a career break that led Jia-Jia Zhu to her dream job of designing a crystal-based jewelry brand. Having held buying roles for demi-fine and costume jewelry at many prestigious retailers, Zhu has spent years tapping into what women want – and a trip to Bali, where she went to immerse herself in yoga and meditation, taught her that she wanted to launch a label that combines beauty with a powerful spiritual verve. “Everything became very synchronistic and kismet and I felt very clear,” she says of her journey. “I had this vision that led me back stateside to learn more about crystals.” She credits the mentors she met along the way in the fashion industry with teaching her key business skills in merchandising, trends and strategic planning; but Zhu is eager to learn more. “I’m grateful to be a part of The Vanguard program, to hone in on my skills, to learn more about marketing, PR and social media, and to continue to maintain sustainable and responsible production as the business grows.” Talismanic jewelry has taken on a significance that supersedes fashion statements in these difficult times, and Zhu’s ethically mined, uncut and untreated stones are carefully selected for their powerful, cleansing attributes, well as their aesthetic appeal. She recommends crystal quartz to “eliminate energy blockages”, smoky quartz to “neutralize our technological surroundings” and aquamarine to “evoke the purity of crystalline waters and the exhilaration and relaxation of the sea. We are in a moment where the tides are turning, where the world will no longer be what it used to be. Aquamarine is very inspirational for me right now; it helps me reflect on how I want to change and what I want to let go of.”
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Shop The Vanguard FW20
I’m grateful to be a part of The Vanguard program… and to continue to maintain sustainable and responsible production as the business grows”Jia-Jia Zhu
Go behind the scenes with our three Vanguard designers, in Sydney, Seoul and New York, as they talk about their creative influences and how they got started on their career paths