Before launching RVN, Ted Kim spend nearly two decades honing his fashion designing skills at Donna Karan, Michael Kors and Anne Klein. Now the designer who "eats, lives and breathes fashion," can finally fully express himself via his own collection of high-end knitwear pieces, all of which are produced in the USA. His designs have already been spotted on the likes of Beyonce, Eva Longoria, Jamie Chung, Jessica Szohr and Ashley Tisdale and Kim plans on expanding his collection to include shoes, handbags and other accessories.
We spoke to the designer about how his background helped shape his line and what's to come.
The Fashion Spot: Can you tell us a little bit about your background before starting RVN New York?
Ted Kim: After graduating from Parsons as Designer of the Year, I began my design career under the direction of the amazing Donna Karan. I briefly relocated to Italy designing for Sportmax at MaxMara, and then went back to Donna for three years. I joined Michael Kors and was there for eight years during his rapid expansion. It went from a small company to a multi-billion dollar global lifestyle brand. It was a truly amazing experience to be a part of history in the making. I learned everything it takes to create a powerful global lifestyle brand. Wanting to expand my knowledge even further Anne Klein allowed me to do that as the VP of Design. There I gained an important insight about myself, that the restriction of working for someone else’s vision started to feel limiting. I wanted freedom. And with that realization RVN was born.
tFS: Can you tell us a little bit more about what pushed you to finally start your line?
TK: Freedom of expression without limitations has always been my driving force. We are all unique. Being comfortable with yourself is the greatest gift, and I hope to share that in my designs. It is cool to be YOU. The RVN woman is confident, daring, less polished and really knows herself.
tFS: Do you think formal fashion design training is imperative?
TK: Formal training is absolutely imperative in my opinion. Without the experience and guidance given in my training, I would not have had the confidence or skill to pursue my dream on the level that I enjoy today. I get excited working with our interns and watching them grow as people who are following their passions and experience. We all learn from someone and I want to pay forward what others have done for me. To me the greatest compliment would be to become part of my intern’s lives as they expand and grow their skills as well as their dreams.
tFS: Do you ever think of quitting and if so what keeps you motivated to stick with it?
TK: I was born to do this. It is not what I do, it's who I am — I sleep, eat and breathe fashion. Everyday I think of how blessed I am that I always knew what I wanted to do. I am motivated by the women who are enjoying themselves, being cool and making a statement by knowing who she is and daring to wear RVN.
tFS: Is there something you know now that you wish you had known when you started your line?
TK: I wish I had had more start-up business experience, just to save time so I could create more. There are things you just can't know until you experience them for the first time. Our team is amazing. We work so well together and are improving in all areas of business, which is reflected in our growth. I am learning and honestly have to say, that the key to our success has been first my dream and my sister’s dedication and intelligence, and then our team, and for this I am so grateful.
tFS: How has your past experience working for designers like Michael Kors helped you in establishing your own line?
TK: Michael Kors’ globalization of his company inspired me to dream bigger than just designing. Witnessing his transformation from brand to lifestyle movement educated me on possibilities that now excite me.
tFS: Your pieces have been worn by a number of celebrities. How have those placements come about?
TK: Undoubtedly the ultimate RVN moment was when Beyonce donned the signature Geo Leggings during rehearsals for last year's Super Bowl Halftime show. Her stylist had unexpectedly visited our sales showroom in NYC to see another label and ended up pulling a few pieces from our collection. I didn't think much of it at the time because stylist pulls rarely result in anything. You can imagine my surprise when I scrolled through my Instagram feed only to see one of the biggest stars in the world wearing my leggings. I was both excited and humbled.
tFS: Anyone else you'd love to see in your designs?
TK: Sky Ferreira, Miley Cyrus.
tFS: What is a typical day like for you?
TK: Eat, sleep and breathe fashion; snack, exercise and dream fashion; get inspired by and excited by what I can do in fashion. The truth is, I feel so lucky to get to do what I love, that my typical day is just doing what I love: Expressing myself through fashion.
tFS: What is it about New York that you find so inspiring?
TK: This is an interesting question to me because it seems so obvious. New York is a melting pot of coolness, edginess, innovation, danger, where the brave dare to dream and turn their dreams into realities. It is where America started to me; where people from all over the world come to live their dreams and make it — like the song “If I can make it there I can make it anywhere / it's up to you New York.“ The truth in these lyrics fuel my passion, as I have witnessed through biographies of generations past and present it is happening over and over again: cool people having cool dreams, being born everyday. I am forever grateful for the inspiration and chance this great city has given me. I am excited to continue to draw from this city and inspire the women who wear my clothes. Show them that dreams really do come true. Like the song says, “It's up to you." The RVN woman gets this.
tFS: Can you tell us about some of the things you're working on now?
TK: I'm on a major inspiration kick for Fall 2014 right now, going to things from museums, galleries and libraries to concerts… I'm soaking up and taking in everything around me that inspires me. I am constantly inspired by those taking chances to be who they are. Inspired by the brave, the cool, the RVN woman current and future. Lately I am OBSESSED with Miley's new album, Bangerz, which I keep listening to over and over while I am researching.