Having risen to fame with a mix of traditional aesthetics and fashion-forward silhouettes, Kim Shui is one of the most influential Asian designers in the industry now. Shui founded her eponymous brand in 2016 and soon after was selected as a winner of the VFILES Runway which granted her the debut of a Fall Winter 2016 collection at New York Fashion Week. Fast forward seven years later and the designer is back in New York to present a bold and empowering Fall 2023 collection.

A Designer Worth Watching

The Chinese-American designer Kim Shui grew up in Italy before pursuing her studies in fashion design at the prestigious Parsons The New School of Design and Central Saint Martins. After learning about the various environments and cultures she experienced in her upbringing, it only makes sense that her signature aesthetic is a meld of everything — likely, a subconscious reflection of her background. 

Incorporating traditional Chinese textiles and embroideries into her pieces, Shui has always shown pride in her heritage. Additionally, her collections tend to be steeped in social commentary. A case in point is her Spring Summer 2022 collection, where she reversed the roles of Asian bigotry and created clothing drawing upon the Eastern’s romanticized stereotypes of the west.

As a rising star in fashion, Shui has also dressed all the it girls across industries, including Halsey, Megan Fox, Dua Lipa, Madison Beer, and Kiko Mizuhara, who gave Shui a shoutout in her 7 days 7 outfits video with Vogue Japan. The designer has also created stage-worthy looks for Lorde and BLACKPINK’s Lisa on their world tours. With a focus on creating garments that are suitable for all types of women, Shui has also dressed beauties like Lizzo and Barbie Ferreira

Turning Questions into Inspiration

In her latest fashion exploit, Shui questions the borders between public and private. What differences are there in a woman’s behavior in these two settings and what is expected of them? As a result, the collection touches upon issues of censorship and concealment, along with the subjectivity of liberation and comfort. “I wanted to start this conversation about, ‘Okay, what really are those standards? What is expected of women in those environments?’ And I wanted to examine that, especially when it comes to what we are expected to wear,” the designer explained.

In sync with the inspiration and Kim Shui’s design ethos, the collection channeled bravery and confidence with a dash of sensuality. The runway was filled with bold statement pieces that would make anyone feel like the main character in a girl-power movie. Although skin-bearing clothing has always been present in Shui’s portfolio, this season the designer took it up a notch as she tapped into PVC and inner-less outerwear. Shui also brought back her lace jumpsuits, in a revamped version of the pieces Kylie and Solange sported to catapult her brand into virality. The designer also used an array of eccentric elements like tiger-print fur, scaly leather, and glimmering fabrics to add an unapologetic edge to the pieces.

A Multitude of Stories in One Show

The show started off with a model dressed in a clear PVC coat and a python-print miniskirt with a bedazzled ‘K’ in its center. For the first few looks Shui kept it consistent, inserting some slithery snake print onto the looks. The designer chose to draw upon this particular as she sees this shedding process as a metaphor for shedding away traditional norms of dressing and welcoming an era of unapologetic wardrobe choices. 

The catwalk then progressed onto a darker palette of looks as models walked down in garments mainly consisting of navy and dark neutrals. A highlight of this segment was a shiny black coat with navy fur lining on the center and sleeves. Take a closer look and you’ll see that the black textile used has reptilian scale details on its surface, creating a great reflective effect when in motion. Another scene-stealer was a cropped vegan fur hoodie paired with a scaled tank, styled with sapphire blue velvet bottoms that went down the legs with strappy details reminiscent of the 2000s. 

Photos courtesy of Kim Shui’s Website

After a dip into darkness Shui took us to a celebration of gentle and intimate femininity, referring to the private side of the private-public discourse. The mood shifted as models, dressed in full lace jumpsuits, walked onto the runway preceded by an array of satin looks in baby pink. These soft rosy looks came in the form of babydoll-style dresses, and a halter top bustier piece that came with matching trousers — an essentially glammed-up reinterpretation of classic-style pajamas.

In the last chapter, the designer took a 180-degree turn and presented a range of party-ready looks, a definite hit for Shui’s A-list clients. The looks found a middle ground between the past and the present, as Shui referred to old-school halter necklines and strappy details whilst also sprinkling in a touch of newness with subversive silhouettes and corsetry

All in all, the collection was another showcase of Kim Shui’s impeccable sense of advocating for what she believes in, done in the most fashionable way. Fun, fearless, and unapologetically female, the brand’s Fall 2023 showcase was a perfect example of how women can make an impact and spread serious messages whilst embracing their fun, fiercer side. 

Want to read more about Asian designers on the rise? Read about Korean couturier Miss Sohee here!