She walks across a field in a jeweled, cream crop top and matching trouser skirt. Her pink heels match the hot-pink manes and tails of the live ponies grazing behind her. This photoshoot for Vogue Korea is just another day in the life of UT student and model Ash Kim.
By Hannah Shih
Photos by Jan Ross Piedad
Kim has modeled for commercial clients like J.C. Penney and Neiman Marcus, as well as magazines like W and Harper’s Bazaar. She’s also modeled for local publications in her hometown of Dallas, in Milwaukee and in Seoul, Korea. As a model, Kim developed her own personal style influenced by the high fashion runway shows and shoots she participated in.
Day to day, the finance senior’s style is more approachable. Her wavy, long black hair cascades down her 5’9” frame. Her knee-length trench coat and loosely fitted dress create a casual yet put-together look. While Kim admires high fashion, she doesn’t attempt to bring runway-ready style to her everyday life. When asked about her style icons, she names Instagrammer Susie Lau of @susiebubble and vlogger Jenn Im of the Youtube channel Clothing Encounters. “I wouldn’t emulate their personal style, which tends to be on the outlandish side, but I respect their aesthetic,” Kim says.
Kim says her style is always shifting and changing. She abides by certain rules that go along with her grounded and rational personality. In her opinion, an outfit shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes to put together and must be comfortable and suited for the weather. In a time-crunch, a dress is Kim’s go-to choice. In her opinion, they are easy to toss on and have the highest payoff for the least effort. High fabric quality, a good fit and good stitching are other essentials for Kim. “One day, I dress punkish, wear black and studs and the next day I wear white lace,” Kim says. “My style has always varied.”
Zara, Asos and Neiman Marcus are a few mainstream brands that encapsulate Kim’s relaxed and simple aesthetic the best. Aside from mainstream brands, one of her favorite pastimes is hunting for unique pieces in thrift shops on Burnet Road in North Austin. Half of Kim’s wardrobe is thrifted, which shows her passion for one-of-a-kind pieces. The stores Next to New and Top Drawer are among her favorite places to shop. “You really have to dig and be open minded about what you find,” Kim says. “You don’t just walk in and see something cute. Sometimes, the searching is better than the end product.”
After signing a contract with a South Korean modeling agency, Kim posed in editorial shoots while spending a semester abroad in Korea. During her time there, her exposure to elite fashion, like the major Asian brand Mango, immersed her in Korean culture and style. “Koreans really aren’t afraid to be outlandish or wear something that makes them stand out,” Kim says. “In fact, they welcome it.”
Kim recalls promoting the Milan couture brand DSquared, a label known for being edgy and offbeat. She spent days touring around Korea wearing leather biker gloves and hats covered in heavy gold chain necklaces. Kim was inspired by how accurately the photoshoot and promotion strategy emulated the identity of the brand.
The exposure and access to a variety of global brands and fashion pieces has cultivated her love of style, even though she had no interest in fashion prior to modeling. With her business knowledge, she hopes to become a creative director or branding strategist for a major fashion company. Kim wants to shape fashion brands’ identities with big scale decisions and analytics that shape the fashion industry.