Korea’s First Man on the Haute Couture Stage

    February 01, 2008 09:32


    A Korean is blazing a trail for Asians in a world normally closed to them: haute couture modeling. Kim Young-kwang made his debut around two years ago. Already he has modeled for Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, and Etro at the Milan Collection, one of the world’s four major fashion shows. He is the first male Korean model to appear at one of the four major fashion shows, although there are some Korean women.

    Kim’s eye-catching well-proportioned physique, with its long arms and legs, makes it understandable that Andrea Monti, editor of fashion magazine GQ, praised him saying he has a perfect figure like a North European, and a face and eyes that appeal to Europeans. Standing 187 cm tall and weighing 70 kg, he says, “I grew some 30 cm during high school days. That’s when I thought about being a model.” He adds he needed to earn money to support his poor family from middle school. His father, a veteran of the Vietnam War, was recognized for his meritorious service for the nation, but suffered from an Agent Orange-related disease before dying when Young-kwang was in elementary school.

    “In the winter of 2005, I posed for an advertisement where only the back of my head was shown because a friend of mine told me that I could earn quite a bit of money, and there I encountered the president of my current agency,” he said. “But at first not even Korean designers wanted me.”

    There are very few male Asian models on the global fashion stage. Why Kim? He says he went after the global fashion world out of love for modeling. “Thinking back now, I was just innocently brave. I sent my profile and photographs by e-mail to a model agency each in Milan and Paris, and got answers from both.” And he flew to Milan. He thought everything would work itself out spontaneously once he got there, but the reality was harsh. He went from designer to casting director to designer, eating sandwiches all day long, but with no luck. “Then I got a call from Vivienne Westwood. Her husband is in charge of designing men’s clothes, and at first I was afraid of him because he looks so savage, but I could feel his warm heart when he hugged me after the show.”

    Kim wants to be an international top model. “Many people consider modeling as a stepping stone to becoming an actor. I wish they realized it’s wrong to think that so soon. I’m going to do my best to be just a top model.”

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