Never one to plan too far in advance, Gahee Lim’s decision to pursue fashion was just as haphazard as most things in her life. Growing up in South Korea and Australia, she initially had her sights set on medical school with hopes of becoming a surgeon until a car accident as a teenager left her considerably less excited about a lifetime in hospitals. As her peers began thinking about their futures and applying for university in New York, Lim made the knee-jerk decision to apply to Parsons School of Design. Recalling this last-minute choice, Lim says, “Simply put, I’m never really prepared to do anything in my life. All my friends were heading towards New York, and I’ve always loved the culture. None of them ended up even getting into their prospective universities, funnily enough, and it ended up just being me in the big city.”
“I wanted to create a collection that compared suiting to armour, but using a fabric that was sensual, fragile and feminine” – Gahee Lim
After earning her BFA, the emerging designer continued her education with an MFA from her alma mater and even a few summer courses at Central Saint Martins in London. These experiences provided Lim with a diverse perspective on methodology, allowing her to understand the advantage of both technical and conceptual approaches. “When I first started out at Parsons, the courses were focused on technical and skill-based learning. Whereas when I went to CSM, it was a lot more about treating fashion as art. Now it’s much more different and at Parsons they’ve began to embrace the theatrical and conceptual components of fashion. It turned out to be great because now I can do both.”
For her final MFA graduate presentation, Lim designed a menswear collection of suits entitled “What lies in between”. Comprising varying layers of tulle in a variety of rainbow-coloured hues, the collection is a study of human emotion and hidden fragility. Since their conception, suits have been seen as a symbol of power, with men like James Bond or Don Draper serving as the ultimate examples of this viewpoint. Lim questions this, saying, “I started out by dissecting the conceptual meaning behind suits, with  always at the forefront of my thoughts. Throughout the film’s franchise, the character has evolved so much with regards to emotional depth. I wanted to create a collection that compared suiting to armour, but using a fabric that was sensual, fragile and feminine – like tulle.”
“[I want to challenge] the system of endless… if I were to come up with something new each time it could get difficult”- Gahee Lim
Each suit is designed in different thicknesses, with some made using up to 100 layers of the material. Others, alternatively, are so sheer their appearance is more akin to intimate wear than formal dress. Lim spent six months working on her collection, likening the design process to learning a new language. “I wanted each suit to be functional, which became more and more challenging as more layers were used. It was important that people could still walk or bend their elbows like with a normal suit.”
Earlier this year, the young creative joined Landlord’s Ryohei Kawanishi and Hood by Air’s Akeem Smith on their newest label, Section 8. On the partnership, Lim says, “I studied with Ryohei and he’s such an inspiration. He’s not just a fashion designer, but a real artist too. With Section 8, I designed most of the shirts, jackets and outerwear. I was so lucky because whenever I had a problem, I always knew I could go to him [Kawanishi] for help.”
Though she enjoys working alongside friends and former classmates, at the moment Lim is focused on building an empire that’s all her own. “I’m not actually going to use my own name, but I’m working on building my own brand. Something that challenges the system of endless seasons made up of Autumn/Winter, Spring/Summer and Resort collections, because if I were to come up with something new each time it could get difficult.” She’s currently spending the summer back in South Korea, playing up her strengths and scouting production options. For once, it seems like the young designer is finally beginning to think about her future – and the results couldn’t be better.