Aram Kim



Sogong-dong, Jung-gu | Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

An illustrator, art director and member of artist group ARS & guest, all of these are what describes artist Aram Kim. Her studio resembles her full-ranged works, with vintage collections, lush plants that remind us a greenhouse amid the city, the books and art supplies mingled throughout the space. We had a nice chat with her about the source of powers of Aram Kim’s ‘incubator’, which serves as the major inspiration of her works that go from fashion illustrations to installation art and fashion design.

Seung Na

The view from this top level is fantastic.

Yes, it sure is great what you see through the window. There’s also this uniqueness from the disparate scene of the building bamboos outside the window against my grouped plants all over. The studio is quite a special place for me that I often joke to people about how I used up all of my luck to find this place for myself and thus it kept me from going further forward. I sometimes get asked questions about where my inspirations come from and I think the answer to that is right here, where I sat for 7 years straight. And no matter what happens when I’m out, my mind finds peace once I get back into my studio.


This building is known to be one of the oldest in Sogong-dong, where anything hardly changes, right?

I myself learned later that this place turned out to be the legendary (fashion designer) André Kim’s first studio which he used in the 60’s and that his showroom was located on the ground floor of the same building. When I first encountered this place it of course had no elevator but the sliding door, charmed with a golden door knob, something you’d see in movies, was just fascinating. To locate myself in a space that was once accommodated by the nation’s first male fashion designer, who had left a huge impact on our fashion industry, is beyond incredible.


So, how does it feel to spend all those (seven) years in the area where the old faces of Seoul still remain?

To neighbor the City Hall, Gyeongbokgung and Gwanghwamun—I imagine that it’s something like walking past the boulevard of Saint-Germain towards a studio located near the Eiffel every morning. I mean, this place right here is the center of Seoul and center of every national controversies. All the while I’ve been settled here I witnessed all sorts of protests and felt myself attached to what the people had to say, often feeling like I’m right in the middle of history. It’s not common to spend your youth close to this day’s most beautiful landscape and most controversial site all at the same time. Well, I’m a little ashamed of myself for not throwing myself into the social scenes, even though I do wish to. There are many eyes that feel uncomfortable when you reveal your political perspectives and I guess I’m quite bound to those viewpoints.


When did you first dream of having your own studio?

In my 20’s I often read a Japanese magazine called <Soen>. It was a typical Japanese fashion magazine with photos and contents laid out tightly throughout the issues and one day I saw this incredible photo of an artist’s studio and was so amazed by it I began to desire for a studio since then. I was 26. And after some years, while I was tidying all my books I found the magazine and realized that my studio was a lot nicer as I turned to the same page. At that moment I thought maybe it wasn’t that I dreamt of becoming an artist and instead was simply to own a studio in the first place. There’s a slight difference but you know, anyone can easily fantasize about having their own working space rather than making art.


So when you first found your studio was that around the time you switched your career to an illustrator from a cosmetics package designer?

Well, when you’re young you’re full of groundless confidence. I also felt sorry for caging myself inside a company where it was far worth the waste of my life so I quit after 4 years of employment.  And later I made works related to fashion magazines, with fantasies of myself being written about in one of them. I think women that deny their desire or fantasies as such need more courage. I started to make art in order to realize those dreams.


Then how did your fantasies actually come true?

By the time I was pretty addicted to consuming things I bought a piece by a fashion label Paul & Alice. And it turned out I was their very first customer and left them an impression of me. And later at their fashion show designer Hyosoon Ju approached me after she recognised me and we had a nice conversation. After a couple of months she called and we began a project together. And later on a famous fashion columnist Sukwoo Hong(currently editor-in-chief for magazine <Ürbanlike>) ran into my work for Paul & Alice and suggested it to the editor-in-chief of a graphic design magazine, which eventually sparked my career as a fashion illustrator.


So in your case you found your title with the help of others, so to speak.

It was the time when a job as an illustrator was unfamiliar to people but it became one of my titles as I steadily went along making my works. Be it illustrator, art director or artist, I don’t mind being called by any of them. What matters is what I make. Whether it’s a client’s commission or personal work, I’d be honored if people appreciate them, being the source of motivation to work on a variety of artwork.


What triggered you to launch your fashion brand ARS Seoul?

The main idea of ARS Seoul( is to financially support myself, using the other talents that I have—it’s not something big as in making a statement in fashion or anything. People that are involved in careers that doesn’t give a monthly payment are hard to stand alone without the financial help of their parents. Which means that the current generations in the creative fields face a large wall in front of them. You need at least a little space to work and with the lack of any funds it’s impossible to practice your creativeness so in terms of that, I’m pretty much settled with myself with the fundamental stuff supported by ARS Seoul.


I’m curious to hear about the final goal of illustrator+art director+painter+fashion entrepreneur Aram Kim.

It might sound a little funny, but I always have this urge to convey this resistant, activist part of me inside into my work, but strangely all of them end up neat and pretty-looking. At some point I got very annoyed by that fact. I dream that someday I’m able to make works that don’t force me to ignore the real me. My final goal is to make works that convince all ages and genders and lead a life that’s still okay for me to make works freely as I please instead of compromising in order to make a living out of it.


You have a big bunch of stuff here. Do you have any collections or things that you attach yourself to?

I used to be crazy about vintage but now I’m sort of fed up with collecting anything. All of a sudden, they looked like garbage. Still, if I were to pick one from recent, it would be the key chain by design studio ‘circus boy band’, but unfortunately I lost it. I agonized for 5 months whether to buy it or not and it’s even a sold out item so I can’t replace it either, which makes me even more sad. I think the more you’re crazy about something, the higher the possibility of losing it.


Which area or spot in Seoul do you like?

Yeonhui-dong is a bit special. I was born and raised in Yeonnam-dong and a close childhood friend lived in Yeonhui-dong and she was one of the richest of the richest in town. I guess it’s because of the memory of that wealthy friend I still think of Yeonhui-dong as the best place in Seoul—a place of my friend’s palace-like mansion, which to me surpasses the expensive Gangnam area.


Is your current house close to your studio?

I live on the Gyeongnidan-gil road in Itaewon-dong. I spend most of my time at the studio so I found a place that’s close to commute and reasonable in rent. Come to think of it, I’ve been living here for quite a while now.


Compared to when you first moved to Gyeongnidan-gil road, the area must’ve changed quite a bit, hasn’t it?

During the past couple of years a lot of nice places opened up and apparently that drew a big crowd in the area. But as for me, I live on a regular routine spent either inside the house or the studio so the changes of neighborhoods don’t mean that much to me.


Sogong-dong, where your studio sits, also seems to be tied to the remodelling current. The building right next to yours confirmed its tear-down. Doesn’t it feel sorry to see Seoul changing?

It does feel bad to see the old part of Seoul change, where the aged authentic faces of the city still remain, but on the other hand, things are pretty much meant to face these changes sooner or later. I’d be grateful if I could use this place for as long as I can.


Is there a place you have in mind in case this building gets torn down too?

Probably the richest-ever-town-from-memory, Yeonhui-dong? Haha.


Aram Kim has left her 7 year-old studio and opened new studios in Itaewon and Hyehwa-dong where she continues to make her works actively while running her fashion brand ARS Seoul.



Buwon Myeon Ok

41-6, Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea
4 Hoehyeon
11:00-21:00(Mon-Sun) Closed on 1st &amp;amp; 3rd Sundays of the month

“A proper place of nice menus to pleasantly finish a light meal after a slow walk towards the place from the studio.”


Along with the sustained history of the nearby Namdaemun Market, the area has a number of aged but great eatouts. Buwon Myeon Ok is one of them and its main dish is the pyeongyang naeng myeon. Whereas the common pyeongyang naeng myeons are served with stew made of pork, chicken and beef, the ones of Buwon Myeon Ok are served with stew made of pork only, resulting a deep, enticing scent of meat. It’s the kind that’s more folksy rather than a modernised flavour, which blends perfectly with the landscape of the Namdaemun Market. Aram Kim also points that aside from the great taste, the other best part of this place is that the naeng myeons are cheaper than its peers and that there’s never a rise, thanks to the fact that the owners also own the entire building.