Hundreds of innovative young people from around the globe applied to Future VOICES, a competition hosted by Business of Fashion and Topshop, held to select 10 emerging talents to attend BoF’s annual conference. Winners were given a platform to speak about their ideas and the opportunity to be part of a program which lasts throughout the year, including mentorship and chances to attend industry events and work alongside BoF and Topshop.
As one of the winners, they picked Vienna Kim, a single honours Art History student currently writing a dissertation titled Orientalism and Post-Colonialism in the Collections of Alexander McQueen. Being a Korean-English girl with pink hair named Vienna, she stands out from the crowd, and her forward-thinking and creative personality are reflected in her unique aesthetic. Vienna had a drink with The Stand to tell us about VOICES and where she’s going from here.
How did you find out about VOICES and what made you want to apply?
I get daily newsletters and updates from Business of Fashion and it was advertised there. I knew from earlier on in the year that the VOICES conference would be happening, and I remember thinking how amazing it would be to go… but of course I couldn’t afford a ticket! When I read about the Future VOICES competition, I had that feeling of affirmation and thought, “This is perfect for me.” So of course I went ahead and applied!
What did you consider the biggest opportunity facing the fashion industry right now?
In my application, I talked about gathering young intellectuals and having them discuss, debate, write about and fight for more diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry. We’re at a social and political time where people our age desperately want to see more inclusivity in what we expect from society in general, let alone the fashion industry. I focussed on talking about representation of different types of bodies, ethnicities and genders in fashion media.
BoF states that your passion point is race – could you tell us more about how these issues arise in fashion?
In 2016, there was uproar about Marc Jacobs’ use of dreads on white models for his S/S17 show. It caused a massive controversy and a lot of people called the designer out for culturally appropriating a hairstyle that is unique to black people. Because of social media, our generation is very sharp-minded and quick to call out injustice, or problematic behaviour. It seems that fashion designers and businesses have to be a lot more careful and conscious of the creative decisions they make.
At the same time, however, sometimes our society can be too quick to cause an outburst, so I think we need to find the balance of respecting different backgrounds, whilst also leaving room for creativity and inspiration from one another. Even if that means a white man incorporates his inspirations from another culture, we need to think to ourselves: “Is this disrespectful and appropriating, or is this an homage to another wonderful culture, or a celebration of globalisation / cross-cultural exchange?”
What were the highlights of the conference, and how would you describe your experience?
The whole occasion was the most eventful, significant moment of my life. To be in a room surrounded by fashion’s most powerful inner circle… and to be able to meet and talk to some of them! It was such a dream. The highlights of the conference included hearing from Hari Nef and Joan Smalls about the representation of different races and genders in the modelling industry. They are both such gorgeous, powerful women that I aspire to, and hearing them voice out the need for more inclusivity was really inspiring.
James Sculley also presented an incredibly moving monologue about the lack of diversity in the modelling industry, and I felt even more strongly that there was a cause here that I wanted to fight for. I also had some really deep and engaging conversations with Australian model Zac Stenmark. He’s just so damn cute!
How did you decide what to wear to the conference?
There was a gala dinner with Mario Testino and I thought: who even am I to be here?! The dress code was black tie, but the theme for women was “festive.” I ended up wearing a long red backless dress (which is a little too long for me) – whenever I wear this dress in St. Andrews everyone tells me “oh you look so great!” But since it’s too long I had to keep holding it up, so when my mentor asked me why I kept holding my dress, and I told her why she laughed. I suddenly felt so self-conscious since obviously everyone in the fashion world gets all their stuff perfectly tailored, and here I am in sloppy ASOS.
At the end of the day, we’re there for the content and I just wanted to be confident in my own style. What I wore on stage was much more important to me. I wore a pink dress from COS which was a great choice since it really made me stand out in the press. In pictures you can see me front and centre in my pink dress, which led me to get attention and interviews. So I’d say some thought definitely went into my outfits but I didn’t stress too much.
Do you have any big plans for the future?
Right now I’m looking for jobs, some in fashion. I’m not a creative person in the sense that I don’t draw, paint or design, but I’ve always wanted to be around creativity and have been exposed to so much of it through my degree and my work with fashion. I’ve been working on my portfolio to show that I can creatively direct a concept. My work on my website is intended to be a scrolling exhibition, essentially, an experience you can have digitally.
I’m very open about the future and what can happen, especially since VOICES is a year long program. When I got it, it was so surreal and out of my control so I believe it’s going to take me somewhere. Maybe eventually someone’s going to like what I’m doing with this creative stuff and hire me. Right now I’m just bolstering my portfolio and saying yes to good opportunities.