NYFW Col. 003: “Floating World” [part 1]
In this first part, we're going to take an inside look at how our latest collection, Col. 003 "Floating World," came to be from inspiration, conceptualization, to development.
by Wow Khoman
Every collection begins with a starting point that stems from the foundations of who we are as a brand. Since the last collection brought us to my homeland, Thailand, this one, we wanted to bring things back to a place of familiarity, New York City, where we are based. My Co-Founder, Spencer, took a look at his memories of the city while growing up, picking out various cultures and atmospheres, which stood out most to him: hip hop music, crime and gang culture, and the world of art. Since Khoman Room is all about bringing people and ideas together, we wanted to show how the city, despite all the barriers and divisions that arise, as a melting pot (or salad bowl for you PC folks), it is a landscape that habours a multitude of differences and from the way they interact, new and complex things are born.
From the very first collection, we found that Visual Arts is an integral tool in communicating narratives so that garments can go beyond style or practicality.
This time, we teamed up with Painter and fellow RISD graduate, Ho Jae Kim ( @artjkim / @hojaekimstudio ).
First, we sat down to discuss the general ideas and garments we planned on developing and, after, letting him run, adding his own perspective and influence on the overall story of the collection. His initial inspiration drew from Japanese woodblock prints from the Edo Period, which also prominently and visually featured numerous narratives about the human condition.
The end result was a whimsical, eclectic amalgamation of various tropes of American culture, with twists influenced by youth culture, humour, and the chaos of life in NYC. Every motif, at first glance, is immediately recognizable, even commonplace, but a closer look reveals an entirely new, upside-down world:
what is venerated is exposed for its fallacies, what is denigrated is elevated for its truths, what is disregarded is shown, revealing how we tend to turn a blind eye towards that which unsettles us.
Regardless of the in-your-face nature of the imagery, Ho Jae maintains a certain sensitive delicacy in the composition and line work, giving the artwork a feeling of romanticism, echoing the initial inspiration and the intrinsic combination of boldness and fragility found in Japanese Art.
INTERLUDE: A Brief Discussion…
Ho Jae Kim: Why is it that you’re promoting oriental aesthetics above others?
Wow Khoman: Well, I’m Asian, you’re Asian, but we’re totally different kinds that don’t fit into the mainstream image of an Asian. It’s important to show different iconography and styles of Asian even if others don’t get it at first. Not only does it make both our work so richer, but also it expands the horizons of others. We need to, but are also responsible for…
The types of garments in this collection are definitely a departure from the last, which heavily featured streetwear staples such as hoodies and joggers. For me and Spencer, what we enjoyed most about streetwear was the freedom to move between genres of clothing much like how the Punk style of the 80’s combined dumpster DIY with evening wear finds from the thrift store, culminating in an aesthetic that reached the heights of couture with Vivienne Westwood. We wanted versatile contemporary pieces—blazers, trousers, button downs—that could be dressed up and down and, of course, the vest, which found new life in 2018. Our take on the trend, however, veered away from the cargo look, opting for the more traditional streamlined silhouette.
The colour story for the collection, perhaps unconsciously, drew from the urban landscape of NYC. Warning: the following description of colours will be extremely pretentious—I mean, if not this, then it’ll just be a list so we’re going with poetic and douchey…
Deep black serves as the background for various garments, at times, feeling heavy like the fire escapes suspended across the faces of buildings or creating vast seas of darkness for jewel tone accents to shine through, like the lights seeping from nth-floor windows, constant reminders of the compartmentalized lives being lived up above. The bright maroon also acts as a backdrop, the shade falling somewhere between weathered bricks and Aperol spilt on ass-worn leather seats. The cream colour derives from natural muslin fabric. This particular material has a special place amongst fashion designers; on the one hand, as the cheapest, grossest shit, never to be used again, on the other, a souvenir of our first memories of making ideas come to life, struggling with suddenly clumsy fingers and grasping at pins, which either pricked or slipped away, all the while trying not to think of the whole ordeal as a metaphor for what may lay ahead. The blue and brown stripes prints act as diptychs: one representing the clear sky glimpsed during the rare moments when we remember to look up, the other, the brown crap we stepped in while trying to savour the bit of life we get for free. The colours for the gradient print of Marilyn Monroe with a cockroach, came a little more naturally. With all the clown motifs created by Ho Jae Kim, I suddenly thought of Dumbo. Some times things are just simple.