Kim Shui

With inspiration from gothic cathedrals, emerging design talent Kim Shui has created a strikingly sculptural collection, entitled Transcend. We caught up with the young designer to learn more.

With a Chinese background, Kim Shui was born in the US and grew up in Rome, Italy. With an interest in everything from music and visual arts to politics and economics, she found that they all could be explored and expressed through garments.

– When I was a child, I noticed how fashion could change one’s mood and spirit. I felt that dressing well could make a person happier. It can change how you see yourself, how others see you, and it can show people who you are and what you want to say.

– I was always interested in many things; music, film, visual arts, politics, economics, and fashion stands at the intersection of all that. I could apply, explore, and play with everything that I liked and wanted to express through garments.

– What also fascinates me is how fashion reflects the society and time we live in.

What fascinates me is how
fashion reflects the society
and time we live in

For university, Kim got a Chase scholarship for the Parsons BFA program, but decided that she wanted a broader and deeper knowledge base, beyond the mere technical skills. Instead, she applied to the liberal arts program at Duke University, from where she graduated with a major in Economics and French.

– My studies at Duke always brought me back to fashion – for example, for my French literature dissertation I explored the links and interactions of fashion, film, and representation of the female in society. In academic projects I always tried to swerve towards a study of fashion, but eventually I realised that I also needed those technical skills to be a real designer. So after graduating from Duke, I went back to Parsons to study and graduated last December. I’m currently continuing my studies at Central St. Martins in London.

Where do you find inspirations and influences for your design?
– My mixed upbringing influences me a lot in my work. I have moved around a lot, from a small town in North Carolina, via a village in Sichuan, China, to Rome, New York, Paris, Beijing, and now London.

– I use the things I see and the people I meet as a springboard. I like to look at what’s going on around me – the beautiful, but also the ugly and the decadent. I observe the streets, buildings, and people, and take note of traditions, changes, and developments, which often give me new ideas… I also draw inspiration from the films, books, and art that I love.

– I’m interested in how clothes are three dimensional in relation to the human body, and how it influences the space around it. 


Entitled Transcend, Kim’s latest collection is an exploration of the shapes and structures of the gothic cathedral.

Transcend is inspired by the strength, light, space and story of the architecture of gothic cathedrals, where the structures of the pieces are linked to the human body. They are an exploration of the changing proportions of the body. Through recreating the shapes and construction techniques that allows cathedrals to reach amazing new heights, the garments work to empower the wearer.

– The fabric combinations and textures all serve to highlight the role of light, and to bring to life the various elements and materials used for cathedrals, such as speckled stone, wood, and glass. By focusing on the mélange of shades of a color and differing textures, the transparent silk organza, lacquered tweed, speckled wool, and fine lamb leather all come together to represent light at different degrees. Transparent silk organza is placed like stained glass windows with some of the panels recreated as if light were entering the body.

What are your thoughts on the future?
– My plan is to keep challenging myself, evolve, and develop. I have dreams and goals, but I want to focus on the present, to do the best that I can and work step by step towards achieving more.

See all photos from Kim Shui’s collection Transcend here.

Photos by Anton Obrist.