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South Korean streetwear star Irene Kim talks Instagram and Asians in fashion

South Korean model and street-style star Irene Kim, otherwise known as Irene is Good, has more 805,000 followers (and counting) on Instagram. She was recently featured in and photographed for MaxMara’s “De-Coated’’ exhibition in Hong Kong.

Did you always want to pursue a career in fashion?

Fashion was always part of my life. Even when I was four years old, my mum would dress me up and I would change into different outfits. Sometimes I would change two or three times a day, which would drive my mum crazy. Now I do it for a living.

You studied fashion at FIT and then became a model. How did you make the transition into a social media star?

Funnily enough I was one of first 10 per cent of people who opened an account when Instagram first started four or five years ago. My friend’s cousin was one of the original coders and told me to download the app. It was a lot easier than Blogspot and I liked the fact it was more visual.

Hong Kong millennials, fans of K-pop and soap operas, are big on Korean street fashion

Social media, at the end of the day, has made my career. In the beginning I was apprehensive to say that because there was a lot of negativity around social media stars at first. Initially it was just a platform, but now it’s a business. At the same time, I try not to take it too seriously because it takes the fun out of it.

What are the pros and cons of building a career on social media?

It’s a platform you can define and shape in any way you want. You can really be yourself on it. The negative part is the fact that it gets too much. Sometimes I feel I have to post everything, so lately I’ve started to hold back. Less is definitely more.

You were one of the first Korean faces to represent Estée Lauder globally. What are your thoughts on diversity in the fashion industry?

Nowadays being Asian is an advantage. In fact, it makes me more unique. While the topic of diversity in fashion is political, I try not to overthink it. What’s important is being myself and changing people’s perception of beauty globally. You can see that the industry is changing already, with more Asian faces in advertising campaigns. When I joined Estée Lauder, it was one of the highlights of my career. For them it was important that I was myself and that I stayed unique and true to who I am.

How did your collaboration with MaxMara come about?

I was surprised when they approached me. My first memories of the brand are from my mum, who has loved it since I was little. She has had this one coat for 15 years – it’s grey tweed and floor length. It’s gorgeous and I borrow it all the time. To me it’s a brand that’s classic, chic and powerful. The collaboration in particular was especially meaningful as it features only women. I also loved the fact that I could be a more toned down, natural Irene – a persona the public rarely sees.

Why do you think South Korea is so hot right now in the fashion world?

Korea and Asia itself is usually influenced and dictated to by the West but now we are taking that and interpreting it in a quirky way that’s unique. Look what we’ve done with K-Pop – it’s not just about the talent, it’s the image, it’s the choreography, the videos, make-up. We have created something outrageous and visually exciting. You can’t not get addicted to it. Koreans have a way of adapting things quickly and putting their unique spin on it.