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Building on Andre Kim’s design legacy

Late designer’s son and longtime business partner carry on business

 
The clothing brand that was run by Andre Kim declined somewhat after the designer’s death last year but its loyal customers still look for it, the brand’s vice president said.

“I cannot say exactly how much the sales have dropped, but there is definitely a difference from when Andre Kim was around. The number of customers decreased, but loyal customers are still loyal. We are still keeping the balance in the black and are making donations,” said Andre Kim Design Atelier vice president Lim Se-woo. The royal customers include classical musicians and singers like soprano Jo Su-mi. 

The late Andre Kim with his son Kim Joong-do on the son’s college graduationday in 2005 (Andre Kim Design Atelier)
The late Andre Kim with his son Kim Joong-do on the son’s college graduationday in 2005 (Andre Kim Design Atelier)

The late designer’s business estate went public last year as a corporation under a new name ― Andre Kim Design Atelier ― a month before Andre Kim’s death on Aug. 12. Kim Joong-do, Kim’s then-30-year-old adopted son, took the position as president on Aug. 23, 2010.

Experts expected that the first year would be the toughest for the new company as it had to form new partnerships with investors outside of the late fashion icon’s personal network of business partners. 

After Andre Kim was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2006, his son spent a lot of time with him, trying to learn the basics of the business. After he was discharged from his military service in 2009, he visited the boutique more often and participated in business-related events in preparation to take the helm.

The direction and operation of the fashion house is overseen jointly by Kim and his father’s longtime partner Lim, who worked closely alongside the designer for more than 30 years. Andre Kim left half of the boutique’s site in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, as well as an 80 percent share of Andre Kim Design Atelier to Lim. 

The Andre Kim brand was valued at nearly 100 billion won ($84.5 million) as a privately-owned business before it was turned into a corporation. It has a wide range of licensed merchandise including chinaware (with Hankook Chinaware), eyewear (for Bando Optical), lingerie (Ein’s M&M), a credit card (with KB Kookmin Card), home appliances (for Samsung Electronics), socks and stockings (for Bincenchio), bicycles (for Samchuly) and umbrellas (for Sungchang FNG). 
A view of Andre Kim Design Atelier on Thursday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
A view of Andre Kim Design Atelier on Thursday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Most of the licensing agreements expired after Kim’s death, but all contracts were renewed, said Lim. The company is also in talks to ink deals with outdoor sportswear brands and casual wear brands as well.

A chief designer who can succeed Andre Kim’s creative role in the company has not been decided yet. Six designers who have been there for long are currently doing the designs.

“We have continued on making new designs and are planning to hold a fashion show perhaps by the end of this year or early next year. We are thinking about scouting a designer sometime next year,” said Lim.

Although the company is not holding any special event to commemorate the first anniversary of Andre Kim’s death, it will start the construction for a 330-square-meter Andre Kim museum in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province.

“It will showcase articles Andre Kim left behind, his designs, photographs and video footage of the fashion shows he held,” said Lim.

By Park Min-young (claire@heraldcorp.com)
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