Farewell Mr. Kim

August 13, 2010

Lee Byung Hun: Deep Condolences and Remembrance on Andre Kim’s passing

Andre Kim: Lee Byung-Hun and Choi Ji-woo are the Best

World-famous designer Andre Kim praised actor Lee Byeong-Heon and actress Choi Ji-woo in the SBS show The Star Show last June 16.

According to the news (June 14, 2008), the avant garde fashion designer revealed stories about his challenges, passion, and family as well as who he admire in the current crop of celebrities in Hallyuwood.

For the women, he picked starlet Choi Ji-woo as the person with the most perfect body. “Choi Ji-woo is lean but has the perfect balance and ideal figure.”

For the men, he picked Lee Byung-Hun as the actor with the best charisma. “During the fashion show in Cairo where he participated in was incredible. His eyes are alive!”

Coming from someone as famous as Andre Kim, I do agree with what he said especially on Hallyuwood ambasssador Choi Ji-woo. Korean source: cbs.co.kr via zimbio.com

Remembering Andre Kim, ‘the magician from fairyland’

Veteran fashion designer Andre Kim, who died of pneumonia Thursday, aged 74, left some unforgettable, significant traces in fashion history.

Born Kim Bong-nam in Gupabal-ri in Goyang city, which is now included in Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul, on Aug. 24, 1935, Kim started to show his extraordinary talents as a teen, when he enjoyed sketching women in graceful dresses. “There was no such word as ‘fashion’ or ‘designer’ at the time. I opened my eyes to clothes and art through movies,” Kim said in a TV interview in May 2006.

After graduating Hanyoung High School, Kim studied fashion at Kukje Fashion Design Academy and made his debute as a fashion designer in 1962, at the age of 27. He opened his boutique “Salon Andre” in Sogong-dong, the same year.

Kim was in the limelight from the very beginning of his career, being the first and only male designer for a long time. Kim carved his own path as a designer, proving how beautiful Western dresses created by a man could look on Korean women by dressing top actresses in the 1960s such as Eom Aeng-ran.

His glamorous gowns and wedding dresses were soon acknowledged around the world — particularly after a successful fashion show in Paris in 1966. His creations were accorded rave reviews from French fashion editors, including one at Le Figaro who called him a “Magician from Fairyland.”

Korea at the time was still a “hermit kingdom” to many countries around the world. Andre Kim was one of the first Koreans to put the country on the world map. After that pioneering step, Kim held fashion shows at least a couple times every year in major cities around the globe, including Washington, D.C., New York, Honolulu, Singapore, Jakarta and Los Angeles.

Kim became more adventurous as the years passed and chose exotic locations for his fashion shows that were known for their elements of fantasy. He was the first fashion designer ever to stage a gala fashion parade in front of the Pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt, in 1996. The show was given the honor of the rare presence of Madam Susan Mubarak, the First Lady of the country.

He also held a show in front of another world-famous landmark, Ankor Wat in Cambodia, ten years later. The only cultural event held in Ankor Wat until then had been a performance by Jose Carreras in 2002.

Wherever the venue was, Kim mesmerized the audience with his stunning shows. They were known for featuring the top celebrities of the moment, including actresses Lee Young-ae, Kim Hee-seon, Han Chae-young, Kim Tae-hee, actors Jang Dong-gun, Song Seung-heon, Lee Byung-heon and even sports stars Lee Seung-yub and Lee Dong-guk. Showbiz insiders used to say that one finally gets approved as a star only after being featured as the main model at Andre Kim’s shows.

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Andre Kim’s beloved stars

“Professional models are chic but they have limits in expressing feelings. Actors and actresses, on the other hand, can touch the audience by offering a dramatic show,” Kim said.

Up until his last show held in Beijing in March, Kim scrupulously took care of every single detail. “A fashion show is a total art. It should move the audience’s hearts as if they were watching the highlight scenes of an opera or a musical. That is why I personally write the scenarios, mix the background music and direct all of my shows. At the final rehearsal, I teach the models how they should act and make their facial expressions,” Kim said in May 2005.

For his splendid works and efforts to promote fashion, Kim was honored by numerous organizations during his lifetime.

Kim was selected as the main designer for the Miss Universe Competition in 1980, designed the Korean national team’s uniforms for the 1988 Seoul Olympics and was invited by the International Olympic Committee to stage shows for the Olympics in Barcelona and Atlanta. He was awarded the Order of Cultural Merits by the government in 1977, received the Culture medal from the President of Italy in 1982, and the Art and Literature medal from the French government in 2000. The mayor of San Francisco even declared Nov. 16 and Oct. 18 as “Andre Kim Day,” in 1999 and 2003, respectively.

His name became more of a brand in his later days. Kim had cultivated the Andre Kim brand, associated with luxury and romanticism, by lending his name to a wide range of goods including golf wear, eye wear, jewelry, underwear, children’s clothing, bedding, home lighting, porcelain dishware, household appliances, wallpaper, and even credit cards. “The name is being used in various realms but I have a principle of collaborating with only the companies that fit into the image of my designs. Some private lenders and tobacco companies recently made some offers but I declined them,” he said in an interview with a local newspaper in May, 2009.

The designer Andre Kim was very thorough at work, reading 19 newspapers and watching news from five different channels every morning. But Andre Kim as a private person was rather artless and pure.

The lobby scandal in 1999 — in which Lee Hyung-ja, wife of Sindonga Group president Choi Sun-young was alleged to have lobbied wives of high-profile figures with expensive garments — unexpectedly reversed the public’s prejudices about the nation’s most famous designer that he must have made a fortune selling overpriced clothes to the wealthy.

At the hearings, which Kim had to go through because garments he designed were involved in the scandal, it was revealed that Kim only used fabrics made in Korea, was an honest tax payer and that he still worked in a rented boutique. “I learned a big lesson from the scandal, that there is always a good end if the person is honest. No matter how unfairly you are treated, or how much you suffer from misunderstanding, it will be turned into a blessing and truth will be revealed in the end if you hang in there, being honest,” Kim said, ten years after the scandal blew over.

Kim became more of a celebrity after the scandal, in a good way. The public felt closer to Kim — partly because his rather rustic real name was revealed during the hearing — and everything about him was the talk of town, from his makeup, hairstyle to the way he decks out in all-white, something he maintained since 1974. His unique way of speaking, especially, inspired many comedians.

“I found it a bit unpleasant at first, because I thought they were ridiculing me. But seeing people racing toward me to ask for my autograph whenever I went out, I feel like I am becoming a star. Now I consider it as a sort of popularity. Although I cannot find one who perfectly mimics me, yet,” he would say with a laugh.

He never married but adopted an 18-month-old boy in 1982. Kim Jung-do, his adopted son, was the designer’s treasure. Kim received attention for how hard he cried the day his son married in February 2004. Kim is survived by his son, two grand daughters, who are identical twins, and one grandson.

The fashion maestro still had more dreams to pursue and believed he would live longer, just as his fans had also hoped for. “Georgio Armani, who is one year older than me, still actively works without having named a successor. I think I can focus on creating my works for at least the next 10 years. And then I will think of naming a successor,” he said in an interview last year.

“Later on, I would like to make a documentary movie about ‘Andre Kim.’ It would be great to leave a record of my fashion world.”

By Park Min-young (claire@heraldm.com) koreaherald
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