We had the good fortune of connecting with MICHELLE KIM and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi MICHELLE, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
The idea of risk used to give me overwhelming anxiety because I believed it meant all or nothing, and being left with nothing terrified me, especially if I made an emotional/financial investment. I would take risks in my life but only when I was pushed to the brink, and I had to in order to leave painful situations. I lived a lot of my life being very measured and controlling because I saw mistakes as shameful. A risk I took that affected my whole career and life was changing from full-time to freelance work in fashion design in 2008. I didn’t know anyone else doing it but I saw that my boyfriend at the time was freelancing/consulting in tech and thought, why can’t I have that same lifestyle working with freedom/flexibility as him? If it doesn’t work out, I could always go back to being full-time somewhere. I’m still consulting and have had so many dynamic experiences with the people and places I worked with. One of them brought me out here to LA, which is now my home. I was also met with a lot of challenges and tests of toxic work environments, being in my worth and my own boss, asking for what made me happy which was difficult to do when I was younger because of where I was with my self esteem and societal messages of “don’t be too difficult”. Currently, I’m working with clients and my own work and I love doing both. In hindsight, the risks I took were opportunities and paths that I had to take to live my life. Risks still give me anxiety but they’re also exhilarating. My recent risk is letting go of control of things outside of myself and having faith in the Universe that it will help me have my hearts’ desires. This has a lot to do with finally feeling the most whole and confident about myself, so a risk now reframed as an opportunity to see how much bigger and brighter I can be. I love finding out what more am I made out of. It’s not a risk anymore to choose love, peace, joy, and respect for myself.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I was born into this world as a creative and maker, so knowing and living the trajectory of my life was easy. Everything that I and my parents did for me was for my life path of fashion and art. I feel so fortunate that my entire lifetime has been about my practice and what I do is second nature to me. This combined with my life view on “do it right, not easily” has forged my process of designing and making beautiful clothes and housewares with labor intensive details. I see the world as small, perfect details that make the big beautiful picture. I also get a lot of joy out of mixing prints/patterns or mashing up unexpected themes like my embellished track jackets. I also love the process-it’s where I get lost in that sweet spot of cruise control and spontaneity. I love cutting miniscule pieces of Liberty prints and layering hundreds of them to make my decoupage plates. I wouldn’t have it any other way than to piece together hundreds of pieces of mixed prints to make quilted jackets and then add some unexpected details to make them more subversive. The pay off for me is making the emotional connection with the final product of what I made and how it expresses the labor intensive process and beautiful execution. A lesson I’ve learned along the way is to stay authentic to why I am inspired to make something and to keep that pure. Once I begin to put the cart before the horse (what will other people think, how much will this cost, etc.), I am paralyzed and frustrated. When I hit this block, I remind myself of when I was younger and spent hours drawing, looking for things to cut up, sewing, flipping through fashion magazines and how it brought me so much joy and reward.
My influences are Gloria Vanderbilt and the Weiner Wekrstatte movement-both are magnificent visions that are created out of the philosophy of functional made with beauty and artistry. I believe that everything, especially in the home, is an opportunity to delight in beauty and an expression of ourselves. If I am not able to find something that resonates with me, I will make it-clothes, rugs, wall art, textiles for the kitchen and bedrooms, dog clothes, etc
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’d start the first night either drinking cocktails while grilling in my backyard or going somewhere nearby like Gjelina to give my friend that local Venice experience. I love their pizza and french fries. The next day, I’d probably take them to Gjelina’s sister restaurant, Gjusta, for breakfast for their porridge waffles. We would definitely have to do dinner at Night Markt-it’s so fun inside, the flavors are bouncing off of the walls, they have very spicy condiments that I’m addicted to, and one of the best natural wines list anywhere. My friends and I like to go around town and see what’s happening in retail and real estate so we would probably drive around LA checking that out, while stopping at my favorites like Maxfield and Dover Street. Would be great to end this day with a drink at my favorite Sunset Tower Bar for their Negroni and dinner somewhere nearby. One of the days would be a day at Wi Spa and then eat Korean bbq in K-town in our relaxed state. A day trip to Ojai or Santa Barbara would be fun for another type of California experience. If we had time, certainly Palm Springs or Big Sur! If this was a two week long trip, I’d say we would cross the border and go to Valle De Guadalupe in Mexico for some wine tasting and Michelin star food.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’ve been blessed with numerous mentors every step of the way who I worked for that role-modeled for me the kind of woman and business owner I wanted to. They were (and still are) so supportive of my talents and skills and gave me fantastic opportunities to grow and realize myself. The one person I do want to dedicate my shoutout to is Joanne Yellin. She has been unconditionally, unquestioningly supportive of me from the moment we met at work and still is twenty years later. She’s watched me grow up, has listened to me and nurtured me with life and career advice/support, I can call her anytime about anything, and I consider her like a mother now.