Designer Kathleen Kye's Streetwear Chic, Decoded

by The Daily Front Row

(SEOUL) Designer Kathleen Kye has a duo of degrees from Central Saint Martins, and her line, Kye, can be found stateside on the shelves of spots like Opening Ceremony and Oak. After the 26-year-old designer showed her Spring ’14 line during NYFW at The Standard last month, Detroit-born Kye trotted out the collection at Seoul Fashion Week yesterday to a positively fervent, kinda cultish fanbase. The gist: a Band-Aid motif traversing B&W and gilded separates, alluding to pained youth and mental wounds (heavy matter!), with body con shapes and plenty of gam and oblique-flaunting cutouts, and a dose of saucy garter belt-like detailing. The Daily sat down with Kye pre-show to find out what all the buzz is about. 

What’s the Kye backstory?
Kye is an international high end streetwear brand. It’s young, casual stuff. I got my B.A. and M.A. at Central Saint Martins. In New York, I sell at Opening Ceremony, Oak, and Atrium. Kye is also at a few places in L.A., like H. Lorenzo. American buyers are really into Korean designers nowadays, and they happend to find me and like my label.

Why is Korean fashion on the American retail radar?
It was Japan before, and now it’s Korea’s time. All these big retailers are interested in Korea—it’s not just New York and Hong Kong. Stores are making special sections for Korean designers.

For a Korean fashion newbie, what’s the gist of the style scene here?
It’s really diverse! With other country’s styles, you expect certain things, but Korea is so different from designer to designer. Any buyer can find at least one brand that they love.

How does showing at NYFW compare to Seoul Fashion Week?
I’ve shown in New York three times. Obviously, more people in Seoul want to see my show, though, because I’m more known here. Some people in Korea just want to see my show because of me; I’ve been in a couple of Korean fashion TV shows, so people are more interested in my name than the brand.

Do you get recognized on the street?
Sometimes! I don’t really like it, but it’s part of the business.

Does the brand have any celeb klout?
A few K-pop stars wear my stuff, and that’s how the word spread. Rita Ora wears my designs, too.  

Who should don Kye next?
I’d really love for ASAP Rocky to wear my clothes. He was going to come to Korea to perform, but he decided not to at the last minute. If he did come, I was going to give him some pieces to wear in his show.

Why do a coed line?
I was initially focused on womenswear, and I started doing men’s this season. VFILES has been added to my stockists list with my latest collection, so I’m expecting more hip hop artists to wear Kye.

Is this your very first foray into menswear?
It’s not—I actually majored in menswear!

Any burgeoning designers you studied with?
I went to school with Shaun Simpson. He got stocked by Opening Ceremony first, and I was really jealous…until I got stocked, too.

Who’s your favorite alum from your alma mater, Central Saint Martins?
Alexander McQueen. 

If someone’s hitting up Seoul for the first time, where should they shop?
Dongdaemun. It’s a market, and it’s not high end; they sell all these young designers’ work, and it’s ginormous! It’s open 24 hours a day. It’s really fun, and it’s something you can’t experience anywhere else.

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