May 22, 2014
Meet Ottopi. He has moon shaped eyes and is a playful little thing. He’s from planet MJ and has landed on planet earth to go run away with a circus, wrecking imaginative havoc wherever he goes. Ottopi has been conjured up by Korean designer Minju Kim, who successfully collaborated with H&M when she won their Design Award last year and produced what I thought was one of their most interesting designer collabs to date, with her signature manga-inspired illustrations and surreal storytelling through clothes. You may recall there was a pair of intricate wedge shoes with studded and fringed leather tongues. They were developed with the help of young Korean shoe company Acrobat, who specialise in pursuing comfort and practicality in footwear with interesting design details.
Before Minju Kim, who splits her time between Seoul and Antwerp, presents another formal collection next year, she wanted to engage in some fun projects with her friends. “I want to work with young designers who has a strong belief and philosophy in their work and the goals that they are trying to achieve,” says Kim. As I discovered last year when I went to Seoul, there’s a frisson of fashion energy there that is quite exciting – lots of local labels, boutiques, cafes and fervour bubbling up together to form an enthusiasm about fashion, that goes beyond the shiny surface of K-pop and celebrities.
So we have Minju Kim x Acrobat and their newborn creature Ottopi, who is a symbol thinked up and illustrated by Kim to represent their fusion of ideas and free thinking imagination. Ottopi has invaded Acrobat’s shoes in a collection of mary-janes with pleasingly chunky heels, flatforms and loafers so that they all essentially make funny faces at you as toy look down on your feet. Cut out leather pieces, studs, crosses, fringed tongues and allusions to faces of creatures. They launched on Friday in Seoul across some in-store events and are currently available in Korea only, but the plan is the sell them on the Acrobat website from July and possibly internationally when they go into a showroom in Paris in September, so this is an early early heads up.
It’s hard to resist the charm of an imaginative collaboration that is as well conceived as this. I especially like the video that Minju Kim and Acrobat have made in collaboration with Seoul-based VJ Parpunk and design agency Viewzic, with music created by Yukari. Kim’s original illustrations are animated mapped out and emerge thumping with energy. It’s a coming together of Seoul creativity with clever and tangible product at the horizon.
As a side note, Minju Kim also took part in a small installation at Antwerp’s MOMU where she and four other young Belgian designersdesigned an ensemble inspired by Minnie Mouse and I have to say this is one of the best “fashion” Minnie’s I’ve seen yet.