Published - May 10, 2019
Interview of UT Senior Designer Sulhee Kim for the University of Texas Matrix Fashion Show.
“The premiere annual fashion show of The University of Texas at Austin, organized by students in the University Fashion Group.
The fashion show attracts an audience of 5,000 fashion lovers at the Frank Erwin Center and is broadcast live on the Longhorn Network. Apparel design students present more than 120 original runway designs using a mix of textures and techniques.
The Textile and Apparel students study a broad range of subjects, including science, business and design. They gain the full spectrum of skills for a career in the fashion industry.”
Event Description per the University of Texas Division of Textiles and Apparel
“Your daughter changed our uniform again! This is not appropriate." Sulhee Kim’s mother was used to calls home from school administrators. Her then middle-school-aged daughter frequently found herself in her teachers’ offices back in Korea. On this day, Sulhee had come to school without the standard issue knee socks, and she had made some adjustments to the main garment.
“The skirt was really long, I hated it,” Sulhee says. With that in mind, the now 23-year-old designer took a pair of scissors and made the necessary cuts to the uniform.
Sulhee has always paid attention to what she likes to do. As a designer, she sees what needs to be done and then she does it. While other garment-makers might spend a lot of time strategically sketching out a new piece before ever picking up a needle, Sulhee tends to dive right in. “I don’t really think about how to make it. I just do what my hands do,” she says. “I just do it.”
This approach has been apparent in her entire life. And unfortunately for Sulhee’s old teachers, her mother always picked the winning side. When Sulhee’s teachers would say she couldn’t take creative liberties with her skirt, her mother would retort: “Why not? It’s so pretty! Just let it be.”
“The teachers hate our family,” Sulhee says, laughing. Her family supported her early fashion interests, which didn’t stop at altering her education attire.
Sulhee effectively ran her own clothing shop as a teen. She would purchase pieces and, as always, do what she wanted. Adding ribbons, combining garments, cutting dresses — Sulhee reformed clothing.
“I love changing stuff,” she says. Her altered and frankensteined fabrics not only composed her wardrobe but lined her wallet. Sulhee sold her clothes to fund all of her high school leisure activities. (Which she says was mainly restricted to the purchasing of pizza.)
Sulhee is also a huge traveler. She has been to Canada, Mexico, and all but two states in the US. When she returns home to Korea, she sees the opportunity to visit other Asian countries, including China, Singapore, Japan and Malaysia. Her globetrotting ventures tend to be her largest source of creative inspiration.
The sight of lavender or crashing waves — she translates elements seen abroad onto her designs. These visuals flow through her as she attacks the soon-to-be garment in her usual style. “I just put muslin on the mannequin and start to cut it,” she says. As she maneuvers her hands, she has small happy thoughts about how the hunk of fabric is beginning to resemble the ocean — or some other source of inspiration.
Post-grad, if she doesn’t find a job in the states, she plans to continue her education in Europe. Sulhee is open to marketing jobs in addition to designer positions. Her dream is to work for European luxury goods brand Christian Dior.
It was clear in my conversation with her that Sulhee is a natural creative. She comes across casual, fun-loving and humble.
At the end of the interview, I asked her what advice she had for other aspiring designers. Sulhee first made it clear she wasn’t sure she was qualified to give advice, since everyone is talented in their own right. But ultimately she said she and her fellow designers should follow their passions. And in true Sulhee-form she concluded: “We should do what we want.”