My Town: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Janet Kim's Legally Smart Dresses
While in college, summer internships at Marc Jacobs and Christian Dior paid off with a job at Proenza Schouler. And in 2007, she launched Graey with backing from her brother’s $2.5 million poker winnings.
This overachiever’s line has scored top marks with celebs like Jada Pinkett Smith and critics alike. But she’s completely down-to-earth despite all those achievements. Here, she discusses her college town of Cambridge, where her favorite place to go wasn’t some swanky literary pub, but rather, a Chinese joint called “The Kong.” Here, in her own words, she describes Harvard-land, Graey, and herself, in more detail:
Describe the fall 2009 collection…
It’s feminine without being too girly. I was playing with transparency versus opaque, which is why I did a lot of sheer insets. Dresses can be for day with jeans and then for night with tights and heels.
What was your major at Harvard?
It was a concentration called Visual and Environmental Studies. I did fine arts with a focus on painting. My thesis was on the intersection of art and fashion.
How was your SAT score?
I got a 1560, so I got a 800 in math and 760 in Verbal. I was actually pissed off about that, because I got a perfect score on the PSATs so I was like "what the hell? I didn’t get a 1600!"
Parents’ wish for your career?
My parents wanted me to be a doctor. They viewed art as a hobby and something I could do only if I had free time.
Were they understanding of the change?
When I was little I told them I wanted to be an artist. And they were like “Artists are poor and starving!” We had tons of fights about it during college and eventually I decided to study art and ask their forgiveness later. Now, they’re pretty supportive. Although, sometimes they’re still like, “You can still go to law or business school.”
Was your brother’s $2.5 million poker prize the catalyst to launch the line?
When my 22-year-old brother won all that money, I was like "That was a sign from God!" I’m obsessed with Vincent Van Gogh-- throughout his whole life, his younger brother Theo supported him. So, I always used to joke to my little brother that he's like my Theo. And all of a sudden he got this windfall of money, so I was like, this is definitely a sign.
What’s the best advice you’ve received so far?
I wrote a letter randomly to the designers Vena Cava, when I was frustrated trying to get buyers to invest in my line, and one of them wrote back. She said you really have to persevere, and have faith, that eventually people will really take notice. Now that’s the thing I’ve been trying to remember.
Best late night study-break spot in Cambridge?
There are a couple places I liked to go. My roommate and I were obsessed with "the Kong"-- it’s actually called the Hong Kong Restaurant, but everyone calls it the Kong.
There was this store called The Garment District, and you can buy old clothes for $1 a pound. I had a good time rummaging through the piles of clothing and found quirky random things I would fix up.
Describe the Harvard style sense?
I feel like on average people didn’t really pay that much attention to what they wore. People were so busy studying that they would be wearing study clothes like sweatpants.
What are your best and worst scenarios for 2009?
Best-case scenario: be picked up by Henri Bendel and American Rag this year. Once key stores like that pick it up, other retailers will follow. But the economy sucks, so worst-case scenario is just continuing the path I’ve been on. Keep promoting the line, do a trunk show, and start coming up with ideas for the Spring 2010 line.
~Meredith Craig de Pietro