Over the last couple of decades, Seoul has become one of the world’s most fashionable locations. Renowned brands like Dior, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton have presented their collections in the city and luxury powerhouses are tapping into the purchasing power of the South Korean capital. 

The city, however, is also recognized as a creative hub for young talent. There’s no shortage of inspiration in Seoul. From indie fashion brands to mainstream labels, plenty of local brands are making their name in the industry. 

YOUTHBATH, the creative brainchild of Minji and Haenan Kim, is one of the standout labels thriving in Seoul’s vibrant creative landscape. On a recent visit to South Korea, EnVi visited YOUTHBATH’s studio. Minji and Haenan Kim welcomed our team into their workspace to talk about the brand’s inception, the challenges young creatives face and staying true to their design philosophy.

Photo courtesy of Vanya Harapan

The Base Line

Creatively led by merchandiser Minji Kim, designer Haenan Kim and a fellow business director who prefers to remain unnamed, YOUTHBATH combines childlike wonder with a feisty rebellious spirit.  Before launching the streetwear label, the trio had worked together to develop their own fashion brand for quite some time. After multiple attempts and trials with different identities and aesthetics, the founders introduced YOUTHBATH — the trio’s success story.

Short for “Youth Be At The Head,” YOUTHBATH reflects the founders’ thoughts on timeless youth. The brand’s bright and whimsical pieces perfectly capture the Minji and Haenam’s optimistic and passionate outlook on life. “We loved clothes, and we loved creating something new. That’s why [designing] is a natural thing to do,” says Haenam. “I like to see the joy and spirituality of my daily life. Personally, I just like to observe people, so I think of things like the kind of style people have and how they [put it together]. Where does the inspiration come from?”

Photo courtesy of Vanya Harapan
Photo courtesy of Vanya Harapan

A Constant Principle

Every season, the brand produces collections inspired by a variety of sources. From campy wrestling uniforms to kidcore and grunge, YOUTHBATH finds musing in the alternative and subversive. Despite this wide range of inspirations, a common thread always connects and identifies a YOUTHBATH release.  

According to Minji and Haenan, creating a symphony in disharmony is what keeps YOUTHBATH consistent. “The principle is that [the pieces are] comfortable regardless of form or frame,” says Minji. She chuckles, “But doesn’t [the pieces] go well with the disharmony?” 

A great example of how YOUTHBATH embraces quirkiness and uniqueness is the popular checkerboard cardigan, which has unintentionally become the brand’s signature product. “It’s a retro-style product and the patterns are mixed in many colors. You may think that it’s too fancy when you wear it. [… but] It’s a product layered with various patterns that are not harmonized.”

Photo courtesy of Vanya Harapan
Photo courtesy of Vanya Harapan

Opportunity in Crisis

YOUTHBATH’s eclectic and bold style is a response to the designers’ struggle to find clothes that fit their fashion preferences. As they tell EnVi, when they were living in Suwon — a smaller and more traditional city located 30km south of Seoul — shops were filled with minimalist wardrobe staples or cute feminine items. Stores often stocked their shelves with trend-based garments, making it difficult to find timeless and idiosyncratic pieces. The designers wanted to solve this problem, so they created a brand that challenged the conventional and filled the gap for fashion enthusiasts favoring alternative and niche styles.

Their wearable yet eccentric take on subcultures is what sets YOUTHBATH apart. However, focusing on small niche audiences can be risky for small businesses. The dilemma, as Haenam reflects, is finding a balance between catering to the general public and retaining YOUTHBATH’s distinctive color. 

That’s why the brand has ensured that its aesthetics still resonate with a more general target market. “I took a shot because I wanted to do something fun. So let’s make something different. We say that we’re not affected by trends; we don’t care. But if we try to stick to what we want to do, we have to try harder,” Haenam says.

Photo courtesy of Vanya Harapan

Unapologetically Youthful

Despite the various challenges that YOUTHBATH has encountered throughout its journey, the founders’ resilient spirit never wavers. Haenam explains how the brand has persevered through the years. “The most important is thinking of how to do something fun all the time, do something different from existing brands and develop the brand with a philosophy that is unconventional.” 

This courage to defy standards and be the antithesis of convention is what keeps YOUTHBATH eternally youthful. After all, as Haenan and Minji point out, keeping a fiery rebellious spirit is something that should not fade with age. “No matter what age you are, it’s an attitude to live a life.”

Interested in more fashion content? Discover Hong Kong-based knitwear brand YanYan here.