Siki Im Talks to Angelo Flaccavento

Photography by Erik Madigan Heck

Born in Germany to Korean parents, educated at the Oxford School of Architecture and now an adoptive New Yorker, Siki Im is a master of cross-pollination. After a stint at the radical New York firm Archi-Tectonics, he moved into fashion, first as designer for Karl Lagerfeld and Helmut Lang, then striking out alone with his eponymous menswear label. Since his official debut in summer 2009, he has quietly forged his own sartorial and conceptual niche; it did not take long before he secured the coveted Ecco Domani award for emerging talent. A sharp mind with even sharper scissors, Im works by a process of subtraction, charging architecturally pure forms with an eerie intensity. His mixture of strict tailoring and challenging conceptualism brings to mind the anthropologist Michael Foucault, who once said that the work of an intellectual is “to re-examine evidence and assumptions, to shake up habitual ways of working and thinking, to dissipate conventional familiarities, to re-evaluate rules and institutions and to participate in the formation of a political will.

[br]

Flaccavento:

Your agenda could apply seamlessly to a jacket or a building. Why did you choose fashion over architecture?

Im:

I just really enjoy designing, and using the same process with film, graphics, music, architecture, furniture. Fashion is simply one medium I like. The beauty of it is when someone wears it.

Flaccavento:

What does fashion represent to you?

Im:

Fashion is so abstract. Like architecture, it is not just about the buildings but the spaces—emotional, psychological, political or spiritual. Fashion is not just about clothes, but is also an expression and emotion that describes one’s attitude and condition. It should evoke dreams and desire, but also confidence and honesty—hopefully, in pretty clothes.

Flaccavento:

Do you most enjoy the design work, or the chance to build characters through clothes?

Im:

For me, fashion is both. Form, function and fabric go hand in hand. Simultaneously, I start with a character, a mood, a vision, a statement.

Flaccavento:

Are you interested in the power of contrast and friction?

Im:

Very much so. I believe frictions are part of life, and it is simply honest to acknowledge them. These poles of the paradox create beautiful new dimensions.

Flaccavento:

How would you define your taste?

Im:

Minimal but warm; quiet but strong.

Flaccavento:

Do you consider yourself a modernist?

Im:

Anything modern is classic, and hence timeless. Look at Bauhaus, Dieter Rams, 501 or Helmut Lang. I think I design a modern collection.

Flaccavento:

Who is the Siki Im man?

Im:

I hope this person is quiet but strong: a nobleman and a humble being who’s not afraid to be challenged.

Flaccavento:

Is he defined by his sartorial choices?

Im:

Masculinity doesn’t come from muscles but from honesty and being comfortable with oneself, embracing imperfection and failure. Still, I hope men return to well-made clothes such as hand- tailored blazers, French-seamed shirts, Goodyear- welt shoes, good fabrics, horn or mother-of-pearl buttons. I am all for quality over quantity.

Flaccavento:

Your clothes show both a lack of interest in tradi- tional tropes of masculinity and a deep interest in the strict codes of Western tailoring. Is your aim to deconstruct preconceptions?

Im:

I actually love and respect traditional images and values. What I am questioning is our views on  what tradition means. I feel I am challenging the Western approach by introducing certain silhouettes that might be new in this hemisphere but are traditional in other cultures.

Flaccavento:

Which brings us to the almost Zen quality of your collections. How do you convey a spiritual state through mere clothing?

Im:

I consider myself a spiritual person, so I hope that my spirituality also affects my everyday life, including the things I create. If fashion doesn’t only consist in, or of, the physical, then the metaphys- ical aspect is easy to induce.

Flaccavento:

New visions require new channels, and your collections do not call for the catwalk. Is the fashion show still the way to convey the message?

Im:

Each designer needs to find his own voice and style. I enjoy presenting my collections through performances as the final step in my design process. I choose the perfect space in which to convey my thoughts and concepts each season, and I create a performance with the same idea, building a dynamic interaction with every element: models vs clothes vs audience vs space vs sounds vs smell.

Flaccavento:

Do you agree that critical times are the best times to be creative?

Im:

This is a double-edged sword. I do think people are more creative in tougher times, and more open to newness, but they are also poorer, and have no money to spend.

Flaccavento:

How do you marry the urge to create with the need to sell?

Im:

I try to keep my integrity, hold on to what I believe in, while being aware of a need to grow. I am still learning.

Flaccavento:

So is fashion still in fashion?

Im:

Commerce and speed dominate the market, and as a result there is less time to develop and contemplate. I feel that every year there is a new [additional] season. This creates a fear of risk, a fear of uncertainty, and ambivalence, which leads to either monotony or stale, inhuman perfection. Fashion, however, will never die: it is part of a deeply human desire to always try to be more unique and special than one another.

[br]

Interview originally published in Dapper Dan, Issue 04, October 2011. Styling by Lester Garcia. Modeled by  Marcel Castenmiller at DNA.

[br]

One thought on “Siki Im Talks to Angelo Flaccavento

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *