Since taking the reins at Gucci in early 2015, creative director Alessandro Michele has performed extraordinary feats of reinvention and romanticism at the storied Italian house.
Michele has ushered in a new era of idiosyncratic androgyny and ornate, otherworldly glamour across both lines – lines that recently merged with news that Michele will combine his menswear and women’s shows – while bringing Gucci into a new phase artistically in stores, on the red carpet, in the art world and across social media.
It’s on the latter that the label’s #GucciGram comes to life, a project wherein online illustrators from the world over are invited to reimagine Gucci’s signature motifs in the context of their own artistic practice to spectacular effect. Curated by Michele, the second instalment, #GucciGram Tian, enlisted nine Asian artists to remix the brand’s Tian – or ‘sky’ and ‘heaven’ – print, which was derived from 10th century Chinese painting. One such artist selected to be involved in the project is Australian and Korean artist Jaesuk Kim, who spoke to GRAZIA about his involvement in the project, his career as a fashion illustrator and how Instagram has changed the game for the folks in his field.
How did your collaboration with Gucci on the #GucciGram Tian project come about? “I was invited by Gucci to participate in the #GucciGram Tian project curated by Alessandro Michele. I have been illustrating Susu Girls in Gucci since Alessandro Michele took over. It was a very exciting moment as I am personally a big fan of Alessandro’s work and the transformation he has brought about for Gucci.”
What was your creative process when you began work on the project? How do you set about creating your illustrations? “As with all my creative processes, I approached this project with research. I wanted to learn more about the story behind the Tian print itself, and also to delve into Gucci’s bold movement in selecting only Asian artists to re-interpret a print that has very much been inspired by 10th century Chinese landscape painting. The poetry of the pattern was what appealed to me the most.”
Where did you take your inspiration for your finished work from? “As I considered the idea of heaven, an old Korean folk-tale that most children who grew up in Korea would have once read – The Fairy and the Woodcutter – came to mind. The plot itself wasn’t the source of inspiration, but the main protagonist of the folktale, the fairy (or in a western context, the nymph) was. Her qualities were what I felt best characterised the heavenly Tian print.”
Who is the girl in your #GucciGram illustration? How does she differ from your usual characters? “The Susu Girl in my GucciGram project embodies the qualities of a nymph. In most of my illustrations, Susu Girls have always been the central focus. Balancing her this time with the Tian print and products was the challenge. I wanted a harmonious image that would bring together all three elements to create a new representation of Gucci heaven.”
How does being based in different countries – Korea and Australia – inform your work and your process? “I am now based primarily in Korea, but I prefer to communicate in English. I feel culturally both countries have very a different approach to my work. Seoul is very dynamic, fast paced and the fashion scene is a lot more event-driven than Australia. Most of my work in Seoul involves me being on the scene – from [creating] live illustrations at a bag launch to attending presentations, product launches and store openings where I will report on what’s happening in the Seoul fashion scene. I also work with many clients outside of Korea and Australia, so I rely heavily on digital communication – email, Skype and even direct messaging on Instagram – to work with my international clients.”
Did a love of illustration or fashion come first? “I’ve been illustrating since I was a kid. It was a love of illustration at first but later progressed into a love of fashion. I initially started illustrating Susu Girls when I first designed a series of quirky bags under the name of Susu. Along with the bag, I began illustrating imagery that could represent the brand of the bags, and also the type of girl that would carry them around. Bloomingdales then expressed interest in my work and I’ve been illustrating Susu Girls since then.”
Who are your three favourite artists and illustrators to follow on Instagram? “That’s such a hard question. There’s no single artist or illustrator, but I do enjoy the work posted from @DrawADot. They always find new and upcoming talent and it is always a great source of inspiration. I also enjoy @birdyandme (Kelly Smith). I love her delicate approach details. Also @mahyarkalantari and @shamekhbluwi – I think they are also masters of digital illustration. I love their ideas and concepts.
COVER IMAGE: Photos supplied via Gucci and @JaesukKim