Before Dosa’s Christina Kim picks up the National Design Award for Fashion from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum this fall, she will be exhibiting why she earned it.
Partial to protecting handcrafts and recycling goods to reduce waste, the designer and artist will be involved with a series of projects. Just back from Mexico, Kim has been working with artisans in Oaxaca, finessing an installation. Under her direction, their work will be installed in a 15,000-square-foot former cotton mill that is now an art center. The eight-person team is cutting paper into what will look like lace in time for the July 8 opening. There will be 1,000 hand-cut designs. “It’s a lot of work, but that is part of working with artisans,” said Kim, who has already made three trips there and plans to make three more before the opening.
Having worked on Oaxaca for 27 years, she has teamed with a workshop that specializes in handmade papers for 15 years. “It’s interesting how you can make paper look like textiles.” Kim said. “I haven’t been doing as many collections any more because I have been working with so many different cultures and I see shifts happening really quickly. What I’m interested in is to really document the work that I’ve been doing to make case studies out of it and to give back to the communities that I’ve been working in. I still make clothing but I’m more focused on documentation and making much larger scale art projects.”
In June during the Agave Festival Marfa in Marfa, Texas, Kim will be presenting the work of the indigenous Arhuaco people in Colombia. She will draw attention to their agave and cotton-based textiles. Agave also has other usefulness, Kim said as “the plant you make mescal and tequila out of.”
“Scraps,” an exhibition which was originally shown at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, will bow at the Palm Springs Art Museum in late September, Kim said.
In October, she will also participate in a new exhibition at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum called “Repair and Design Futures.” Some of the work she has done with scraps from her collection will be part of the show that will run through June 30, 2019. In addition in January, Kim will be doing an artist-in-residence mending program where she will work with students and create an installation. “Repairing is one of the biggest themes in my work. That’s how I grew up so it’s just natural,” said the Dosa founder, who started her company with her mother.
After her mother retired in 1994, Kim, who was born in South Korea, relocated to Los Angeles from New York. But her SoHo store remains open. Handmade organic garments are her specialty, and she is trying to create an upcycling system with leftover fabrics from production, which the designer likes to use as much as possible. “It’s like second-generation design,” Kim said.
Traveling seven months of the year, the designer is based in Los Angeles when she is not on the road. With an account base of 45 stores, “the really loyal customers understand what we’re trying to do,” Kim said. “It’s very difficult to try to open new accounts if they don’t understand the concept of the line. The fact that we don’t do anything new doesn’t fit into most people’s ideology of their stores. We are so focused on our projects that are related to fabrics and recycling that we can’t sell to too many stores.”
As for any celebration, the artist said, “Well, last night I had a bottle of Corona beer. But maybe today. I am just heading to work so maybe I’ll do that with everyone at work.”