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Isani

ISANI

Korean design team; currently restaurant owners

Founded: by Jun Kim and Soyon Kim. Jun Kim was born in Korea, 1966; went on to study marketing at Pace University in New York (B.A., 1988), and fashion design at Parsons School of Design. Soyon Kim was born in Korea, 1968; studied fashion design at Parsons School of Design (B.F.A., 1989). Both trained in their family's Sao Paulo, Brazil, clothing firm, Anderson, Ltd. Company History: First designer sportswear line shown, 1988-93; introduced Isani Studio bridge line; introduced Christina line, 1990; introduced Isani Shirts blouse collection, 1992; Isani designer collection closed, 1993; Temple restaurant launched, 2000.

Publications

On ISANI:

Articles

"Great Expectations," in WWD, 12 June 1991.

White, Constance C. R., "Isani's Busy Signals: A Hot Line," in WWD, 4 September 1991.

, "Isani: Facing Reality," in WWD, 2 June 1993.

Pettera, Angela, "Rearranging the Furniture, and Making Some Alterations," Los Angeles Times, 7 December, 2000.

Harper, Rebecca, "Fashion Plates," available online at One: Design Matters, onemedia.com, 17 June 2001.

***

Cosmopolitan, discreet, stylish clothing created by Jun and Soyon Kim for Isani emanated a worldly grace and a reserved, sensible approach to clothing rarely associated with young designers. But the Kim pair (brother Jun and sister Soyon) purposefully spared themselves the excesses more commonly seen in young designers to create clothes in the scrupulous heritage of Mainbocher and Halston as an American tailoring for a sophisticated client.

The design propensity of the Kims was modernist, but there was often a picturesque charm to the garments, whether in their Jackie O dresses in suave 1960s revival in 1991 or the fall-winter 1992 accommodations of menswear to the most delicate details and accentuated femininity of fit. Jun Kim avered, "Our clothes are directed at American women, but they're not typical American sportswear. They reflect an approach to fashion that looks right anywhere in the world." Isani represented the possibility of clothing in the 1990s to surpass a parochial sense of nationality and even global regionalismto seek a style that would be right and reasonable in any major city of the world. The designers, who were born in Korea but grew up chiefly in Brazil, followed by higher education and the launch of their professional careers in New York, chose Isani as the firm's name from the Italian for "healthy."

There was a secure sense of anachronism about Isani. It eschewed the aggressiveness of much young design, and its bashful and absolute discretion was a predilection for exquisite refinement that were the hallmarks of fashion design before World War II. No such historicism actually existed in the work, but there was an ethos, a point of view distinctly and positively old-fashioned in its elegance and subtlety. Although Isani clothing was directed toward a middle-class consumer, the design recalls couture in its suppressed, cultivated aplomb.

Isani achieved a distinction in the marketplace even in its first collections, so refined was the sensibility and so subtle were the plays in the fabrication and proportions. But in early 1993, Isani decided to discontinue its designer collection and focus on lower-cost individual pieces. Later in the 1990s, the team chose to change careers, ending all Isani operations and opening a restaurant in Beverly Hills, California. The Kims have embarked on their new venture with much of the same fresh attitude they brought to the clothing industry. Called Temple, the restaurant showcases a modern Korean fare with hints of the Brazilian influence on the Kims' upbringing.

The Kims proposed that the most important aspect of fashion design was for clothes to be real, with the prospective client able to associate with the designer's vision. Their challenge then became to take this same vision and apply it to the culinary world, finding the subtle blend of tastes that will keep customers coming back for more.

Richard Martin;

updated by Carrie Snyder

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