Meet the Designer Making Lace Jumpsuits for Kylie and Solange
You’ll want to add Kim Shui to your closet before everyone else does.
I promised myself I’d only buy one thing at the Kim Shui sample sale. Instead I bought four: a mini camo-print skirt with lace and black tulle, a jacket with pink sequins and silver leather straps, a reptile-print coat with a red collar and blue faux fur sleeves, and a long gingham-and-white floral lace dress that made five people stop me on the street within a couple hours, one woman telling me, “That is the sexiest dress I’ve ever seen!” I told her I appreciated the compliment and that yes, I agree.
Shui’s aesthetic is all over the place. It makes you stop and stare, it makes you walk up to someone you don’t know on the street and ask about what they’re wearing. Her signature look is all of the looks at once—all the time. There’s red fur on a purple plaid skirt, a pair of red leather pants with a silver piercing that skims the belly button, and a black lace blazer with a yellow lightning bolt collar. Shui uses the fabrics and materials we see often (and maybe even gotten a little tired of), but she makes them feel original again by bringing them together in one garment.
When I ask about her look, she says she thinks it has to do with her upbringing—which took her from the United States to Italy and back. “I think it comes from how I grew up and me as a person. I’m Chinese, but I was born in the States, and then I grew up in Italy. I was always around diverse cultures and different things. It was kind of a mishmash of cultures, and I think my design developed that way too; it’s bringing together all of these different aesthetics and places subconsciously.” She also sites Kandinsky as an influence, and his abstract paintings with their energetic lines, shapes, and colors instantly bring to mind her signature mélange of patterns.
When there isn’t very much layering of fabrics and patterns, there is very little, with uncomplicated lace pieces that leave nothing to the imagination. Shui’s signature sheer lace bodysuit has been worn by Kylie Jenner front row at NYFW and Solange (while posing with Joanne the scammer) at Coachella. Her clothing doesn’t just bring together different fabrics, but different kinds of girls whom you wouldn’t expect to see in the same sentence, let alone the same outfit.
She’s created a girl gang comprised of every kind of girl, from Olivia Palermo in her faux fur blue coat to Angel and Dren, who both wore Kim Shui outfits when we shot their closets. As for her most unexpected fan? “I even have Elon Musk’s mother, Maye Musk, wearing [my clothes]! She wore a snakeskin piece, and it was like, ‘Wow!’ I can even reach an older woman. She’s really beautiful, but she’s not 20 or 30 years old. I like that. I don’t want it to be limited.”
And limited is not a word people would use to describe Shui. “I went through this phase when I was at Saint Martins and I wore black all [the] time...but then I thought, ‘No, this is not exactly me.’ Me in my true essence, I’m very colorful, I’m just happy.”
The words Shui uses to describe her personality are also how her clothing makes you feel—colorful and happy; a little bit of New York, Italy and Kandinsky all at once. The day after visiting her studio, I decided to wear one of her skirts. I was about two blocks out of the house when someone stopped me—“Hey! Where did you get that?”
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