What struck me most about Siki Im and his brand was his diversity of design thinking and his ‘human’ approach. He mentioned his interest in psychology and sociology and how they influenced his work greatly and I immediately felt I might identify with his work as I too share an interest in those areas along with ways in which science and art entwine. However, I felt more and more confused as the talk progressed, mostly by this idea of humanism in his work.
He says ‘Fashion is no sci-fi gimmik, it is imperfect and free’ and is about ‘creating a space that accomodates for the unpredictability of life.’ But then he manipulates the styling of his shows so the models don’t look styled, so they look human. Once you realise this small point, the layers of manipulation that go into building a brand become more and more apparent and authenticity is lost, humanism is a far cry.
I was looking for structures that might explain this false manipulation and came across a point of view on framing within cinema:
‘This ‘new’ cinema may be deemed posthumanist if we are to understand traditional, analogue cinema as a predominantly human (and therefore humanist) medium. Whilst analogue cinema features human characters faithfully captured by an analogue camera, digital cinema often involves the modification of the appearance of these human characters. This is most notable in the digital morph, but also, quite simply, in terms of airbrushing or changing facial expressions. What this means is that the characters that we see on film are a hybrid of ‘real’ flesh and blood actors and digital imagery, meaning that they have become ‘posthuman’ cyborgs, even if the characters that the actors play are supposed to be humans as we traditionally perceive and understand them.[…] Traditionally, the analogue camera has been thought to represent a human point of view, or, more precisely, has been equated to ‘seeing’ or having an ‘eye’ in the sense that (most) humans do. This simple equation of the camera’s perspective with a human perspective is undermined, however, once digital technology allows filmmakers to dispense with the camera entirely.’
(Film theory and contemporary hollywood movies, Warren Buckland)
I find certain aspects of this to be true in terms of fashion and branding in general. Perhaps Siki Im is in fact post humanist. If an analogue camera captures our reality through a human perspective, acting as a frame of truth then maybe styling and being transparent about the fact models are styled is in fact humanist. What we see is what we believe. Those are the imperfections of our nature, trying to be perfect. For me, that stretches into branding in its entirety and more broadly even in terms of life.
I admire Siki Im’s interdisciplinary perspective on design and I really enjoyed the readings and quotes that influenced him and his designs. I tried to weave the readings into my response but unfortunately as interesting as I found both them and his talk I struggled to find a thread to connect them. At first I thought that was a problem but then I realised something I always say about my own work, that it is not important that you see my research and my influences in a finished garment but that when you wear the finished garment there is something that connects with you personally, whatever that may be.
Siki Im has built his brand from the foundations of a statement by Michel Foucault. He says ‘there are certain statements and sentences of poems that we come across during our youth while studying that leave a deep impression on us, and that influence our actions at a later moment in our lives, be it in a conscious or unconscious manner.’
I picked up this Oscar Wilde quote somewhere along the line:
“If you want to be a grocer, or a general, or a politician, or a judge, you will invariably become it; that is your punishment. If you never know what you want to be, if you live what some might call the dynamic life but what I will call the artistic life, if each day you are unsure of who you are and what you know you will never become anything, and that is your reward.” For me it is about not building your own bars. Siki Im is ‘not a Fashion designer’ and hopefully neither am I.