Leanne Wei

An Interview with Fashion Designer Catherine Kim | Founder of Forsythia Studio

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Last month, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit my very talented friend and designer Catherine Kim at her showroom space at Flying Solo in Soho. After spending the past few years working as an evening wear designer at Christian Siriano, Catherine launched Forsythia Studio - a New York City based, environmentally and socially conscious luxury womenswear brand in Spring earlier this year. 

As a brand, Forsythia aims to shift the way we think, consume and contribute to fashion, making use of a "made to order" production model aimed to reduce waste and reject mass production. I got to try on some of the gorgeous pieces from this year's collection and chatted to Catherine about what inspired her to create Forsythia Studio. 

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H&V: What is the significance behind the name behind Forsythia?
Forsythia represents a sense of belonging. I grew up in a house on top of a hill in Seoul, South Korea. Bushes of bright, yellow forsythia flowers lined the sides of the road up that hill. My brother and I spent our carefree days, running up and down that path. It’s where my childhood imagination ran wild. When I was ten years old, my family immigrated to the US and lived in Virginia. The culture shock was difficult and I never quite felt that I belonged. After my second year of university, I decided to transfer schools and move up to New York City in order to pursue fashion design. I remember walking along the streets of Central Park for the first time and seeing the streets lined with Forsythia bushes. I felt home for the first time in so long. It brought back my child-like sense of freedom. It was in that moment that I realized my I had all that I needed to become who I wanted to be. Forsythia is a sense of home and freedom.

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H&V: Describe your brand in three words.
CK: Feminine, playful, non-conforming

H&V: Where do you find your inspiration?
CK: I find inspiration mostly in the varied expressions of humanity and our society - “what does it mean to be human?” The first collection, called “Cusp of Change”, was inspired by the time and space between an end and a new beginning. It is the bittersweet, melancholy moment before the sun rises to reveal a new beginning. I find that I am mostly inspired by intangible ideas - rather than literal, physical things. The current collection is inspired by non-conformity. I am inspired by all those who do not conform to the rigidity of society, and are not afraid to show the world who they really are - that is the only way to show others how we can co-exist.

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H&V: What does “slow fashion” mean and why is sustainable fashion important to you?
CK: Slow fashion means understanding where the clothes come from. It means that when you see a garment you love, you are reminded of the love that was put into creating this garment. Maybe it’s like a gourmet meal, or even a home-cooked meal. You imagine the farmer, the grocer, the chef, and the waiter. Imagine the lives of the people who have touched your beautiful garment - are they happy? Are they safe? The importance of sustainable fashion stands in the similar sense of slow fashion. We have taken so much from nature and our planet, and it is crucial now to understand the effects we have had on our precious planet. In educating oneself and becoming more aware of our consumer habits, we can begin to heal - both the planet and the people. By the way, I highly recommend everyone to watch the documentary “True Cost” on Netflix.

H&V: How do you want women to feel when wearing your clothes?
CK: I want you to feel like a wildflower - beautiful, wild, and free.

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H&V: What was your biggest fear starting your own line?
CK: My biggest fear was having to learn to deal with the front end of things. As a designer, you are almost always in the back room - sketching, making, and creating behind the scenes. As an introvert and a creative, I am quite comfortable doing just that; however, I had to learn to be the face of the company and communicate to others what my vision is so that they can see it.

H&V: What has been the greatest joy?
CK: The greatest joy in starting this line has been setting my creative potential free.

H&V: What is your favorite part about being a designer?
CK: Weaving my dreams into the garments and seeing them come alive. It’s like an intricate puzzle coming together, and when it comes together it feels magical. I love seeing my garment move when a client puts it on. The absolute best feeling is seeing the client smile, seeing themselves in the mirror.

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H&V: If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
CK: There are so many things that I had wanted to be. I had studied dietetics and psychology in the past before dropping everything and transferring to fashion school in NYC. I had a desire to become a veterinarian at some point. I imagined becoming a painter, a graphic designer, a photographer, and even a writer. I think my love for fashion and design overpowered the copious number of professions that I had wanted to go into.

H&V: What are your hopes and dreams for the future as you grow Forsythia as a brand?
I hope that the conscious fashion movement continues to grow and reach as many people as possible. In terms of Forsythia as a brand, I would like to bring a wider range of designs and clothing for all different types of women, and even men, in the future.


To learn more, visit Forsythia: