Exclusive: Meet Gemma Kahng, Fashion’s Latest Comeback Kid

Liz Doupnik
Exclusive: Meet Gemma Kahng, Fashion’s Latest Comeback Kid
7 Start slideshow

When you walk into the studio of Gemma Kahng, there’s a serious, serene vibe about the space. Tranquil, airy and precariously modern-meets-mess, you can basically feel the energy oozing out from behind a simple screen. On a chilly December afternoon, I dodged the frantic holiday shoppers and found myself in a sort of utopia.

Basically any girl’s dream, a chandelier, ├╝ber-cool distressed mannequins and a pile of vintage fashion magazines and books cluttered a massive table centered in the room. My Christmas wish-lists escaped my mind and I welcomed the fantasy world where I landed. Then, I got to the rack of clothes. Perfection doesn’t do the new collection from Gemma Kahng justice.

Wonderfully constructed separates reminiscent of Edwardian undergarments balanced by structured blazers basically had me drooling by the time I got to the the third piece. I peeked around the corner, hesitant to disrupt any magic that might have been occurring at the moment, spotting Gemma in the throes of draping a dress, surrounded by fabric, more books and a couple of seamstresses.

Perhaps I should take a moment to explain if you’re not on the up and up of fashion. Meet Gemma Kahng: a Korean designer who made it big back in the 1990s (we’re obsessed with Christy Turlington looking major sporting one of Gemma’s looks). Kahng was killing it alongside the likes of Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs to put it a bit more in perspective. Then, as luck (or lack thereof) would have it, she hit a rough patch, went underground and is now resurfacing about ten years later.

Sure, a lot in the industry has changed, but talent doesn’t age, that’s for sure. I was able to settle into the studio and chat with the charming designer who won my heart in about .5 seconds. With her recent appearance on All On the Line withJoe Zee, Gemma is back with a vengeance.

Learning throughout her years, Gemma divulges on her designing: “The process is similar as before but I have a lot more knowledge on fashion history and garment making after many years of studying.” We know we’d love a lesson or two from this major master. And master she is. With her comeback, this collection is sure to stun more than just a few editors. “My work is getting more complicated and at the same time, more refined. What I am doing now requires a more difficult process but at the end it is more thought-out,” Gemma revealed as she flipped through her mini-sketchbook that she totes around with her at all times in case inspiration strikes.

It definitely seems like there isn’t a shortage of creativity when it comes to the designer, whose simple sketches are captivating and striking, even if on a miniature sized blank page. It shouldn’t be too much of a shocker though, the designer probably would have been a fine artist if fashion hadn’t snatched her up. “I graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and I enjoyed figure painting. I may have liked to become a painter,” Gemma says.

Not only can we not wait to see what is next for Miss Kahng, we also secretly want to enjoy one of her infamous home-cooked meals, which just so happens to be her favorite way to unwind after a crazy day in the studio. Anyways, we hope you’re holding on to your horses when you flip through the slideshow.

We tapped one of our favorite America’s Next Top Model veterans, Allison Harvard, to hang out and try on some of Gemma’s latest collection and strike a (casual) pose in the studio.

Photography: Zachary Chick

Model: Allison Harvard