Born c. 1974 in Pennsylvania. Education: Earned psychology degree from Dartmouth College, 1996; attended Parsons School of Design, late 1990s.
Addresses: Home —New York, NY. Office —Eugenia Kim, 203 E. Fourth St., New York, NY 10009.
Worked in publishing in New York City after 1996, and at Allure magazine; started her eponymous millinery firm, 1997; launched footwear line, 2004.
Awards: Council of Fashion Designers of America, Perry Ellis award for Accessories Design for foot-wear, 2004.
New York City hatmaker Eugenia Kim has a devoted clientele of discriminating fashionistas and celebrity trendsetters for her fanciful headgear. Constructed out of unusual materials and trimmed with materials that include beading, vintage satin, and lizard, Kim's works are made entirely by hand, as traditional millinery was once done. "My hats are graceful and elegant in shape, " she told Nicole Phelps in WWD , "but quirky and over-the-top when it comes to color."
Kim grew up in Pennsylvania in a Korean-American family. Her parents were émigrés from Korea, and she was their first child. She excelled in science and
Kim learned more about the fashion world during a year-long stint at Allure magazine. The victim of a self-inflicted bad haircut, Kim decided to wear a cloche hat she had made for her Parsons class when she went out shopping in Soho—New York's trendy boutique area—to cover the mistake. She earned several compliments for the feather-embellished hat, including one from actress Parker Posey (a New York denizen known for her funky downtown style) and others from store owners. One of them asked to see the rest of her line, and so Kim went home and made a few other cloche hats in different colors, and wound up with a deal to sell them at Bond 07, a trendy store in Soho.
Kim also landed an order from leading fashion retailer Barneys New York, and with that decided to start her own business. "The timing was just right, " she told Pilar Guzman in an interview with Marie Claire , "because nobody my age was really doing hats." Within a year, she had found a multi-floor space in the East Village that did triple-duty as her apartment, workshop, and retail store. Her parents, however, were not happy about her plans at first, as she told Guzman. "For the first six months, my parents absolutely didn't support me, " she recalled in the Marie Claire interview.
But Kim's hats began to catch on with fashionindustry insiders, and were soon featured in the pages of Elle, Lucky , and W magazines. A growing list of wearers included Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lauryn Hill, Britney Spears, Kirsten Dunst, and Christina Aguilera. Jennifer Lopez wore one of Kim's hats when she appeared onstage at the 2001 American Music Awards, and rapper Eve sported another style on the cover of her 2001 album Scorpion. Kim, however, was oblivious to all but the most well-known faces. "I never even recognize celebrities, " she told People , "until I see their name on their credit card."
In 2004, Kim's company launched a footwear line that included rabbit-fur trimmed boots and other whimsical creations. The collection won her the Council of Fashion Designers of America Perry Ellis award for accessories design that year, a prestigious honor for an upstart company. Past winners include Kate Spade and Miranda Morrison and Kari Sigerson of Sigerson Morrison. Kim's line of hats and shoes are sold at such top retailers as Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, among the 120 stores around the world that carry them.
As a first-generation Korean American, Kim says that her heritage still plays a role in her work life. "I have mostly Japanese and Chinese staff members, " she told Guzman in the Marie Claire interview, "because we all have the same work ethic and design aesthetic." She also said that certain personality traits have helped her in her career, once she found a way to channel her obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) effectively. "OCD feeds the micromanaging part of it, which you need when your business is small, " she admitted in the Marie Claire article. "And my ADD lets me jump from one thing to the next when I can't focus on it anymore. I've learned to give in to it by playing to my strengths in the moment and switching when I get the urge."
Entertainment Weekly , April 13, 2001, p. 18.
Marie Claire , September 2002, p. 167.
New York Times , September 30, 2001, p. ST8.
People , June 21, 2004, p. 132.
WWD , April 27, 1998, p. 10S.
"Bio, " Welcome to Eugenia Kim, http://www. eugeniakim.com/lis/bio/html/index.html (August 24, 2005).
— Carol Brennan