Highsnobiety is always looking for an opportunity to champion emerging talent, whether it’s the next breakout musician, groundbreaking filmmaker, or fashion extraordinaire. So together with Italian fashion and sportswear brand ellesse, we’re offering a challenge to up-and-coming young talent.

We’ve already taken a deep dive into ellesse’s rich back story, looking at how small-town tailor Leonardo Servadio turned a tennis and ski-wear brand into a global sportswear and fashion label. But how can such a story inspire a new generation of designers, stylists, and those next in line to change the fashion industry as we know it?

In a series of lookbooks, three students located in New York, Berlin, and London look to ellesse’s history, back catalog, and current collections to inspire a vision for the future of fashion. The lookbooks offer a glimpse into the work and minds of would-be pioneers and hints at what the future of fashion looks like through their eyes.

First up, New York-based designer, founder, and creative director of sustainable fashion brand OFFCENTER: Jong Kim. Kim and his label specialize in reworking and reinterpreting second-hand clothing — reusing unwanted garments to reduce waste and give them a new, contemporary lease on life.

Check out Jong Kim’s ellesse-inspired lookbook

Get to Know Jong Kim

In the past, how people dressed was heavily dictated by rules. Blue and green should never be seen; don’t wear socks with sandals; a suit is to be worn at work and sportswear on the track and field. All of that changed in recent decades.

Generation after generation tore pages from the rulebook turning fashion faux pauxs into fashion statements and trends; casual Friday’s were introduced to workplaces; and, in March this year, investment banking company Morgan Stanley announced its bankers no longer had to wear suits and ties in the office.

ellesse too was founded with a rule-breaking mentality, bringing together the seemingly antithetical worlds of sportswear and tailoring. It was this aspect of the brand that Jong Kim looked towards to inspire his lookbook, shot after dark in New York’s Chinatown. Much like ellesse, he believes fashion should be an expression of individuality and character, reflecting one’s personality whether that means breaking the rules or following them.

After the shoot, we sat with Jong Kim to learn more about his artistry, brand, and concept behind the ellesse lookbook — including how he customized some of ellesse’s current collection for the shoot. Read the conversation below and peep the images to see how he turned early-stage sketches into reworked garments.

For this project you were inspired by the idea of breaking rules and stereotypes, why is that and where did the inspiration come from?

The idea came from the word “trend.” Through magazines and social media, people consume and follow trends. I am not trying to be negative about it, but it has adverse effects on the field of fashion. For me, the beauty of fashion is individuality. People have different characteristics and come from different cultures. Through those different backgrounds, people dress differently. Nowadays, people are so caught up with trends and trying to be somebody. I always wanted people to be individual and themselves.

How did this concept play out in the lookbook styling and aesthetics?

I went for all gender looks. I did not want to suggest what women and men should wear and let them style themselves. It shows that women can be masculine and men can be feminine. I tried my best to break stereotypes around gender roles.

Why did you choose to feature these ellesse pieces and how did you think about customizing some of them?

I like the classic look of the Jose Track Pants and love the color combination. Since it has a traditional style,
the Jose Tracks Pants were like a blank canvas for me. The Lapaccio Track Top
has a great silhouette which made it easy to pull off. With this, I wanted to challenge myself to design differently, but keep the primary aesthetic.

Personally, the Prado T-shirt was the most iconic ellesse piece. I wanted to keep its identity, but play it differently, showing the possibilities of changes in style, look, and silhouette. Similarly, the Marono Polo Shirt is a dandy and classic item of clothing so I wanted to break the stereotype and show how a polo shirt can be styled as street wear. I also loved the colors and logo play on it.

When it came to the Piacentino Black and Piacentino Grey sneakers, it was the shape that first interested me. It’s neither too simple nor too much.

Are there any style rules people should stick to or are all rules made to be broken?

I do not want people to follow the rules and trends. I want people to develop their heart to make their own rules of fashion and make it natural for them. When I go through daily fashion blogs, I see so many similar styles and the same brands over and over. Let’s forget about the trends. Let’s focus on what we genuinely love and feel passionate about.

From what you know about ellesse, how could they be considered a rule-breaking brand?

Through collaborating with different designers, ellesse pushes their boundaries and aesthetics. When opposites meet, they create synergy, rule-breaking, and innovative design. That’s what makes ellesse a rule-breaking brand.

Why are you interested in fashion? What makes style more than simply the clothes people choose to put on every day?

My main interest in fashion is to look cool. Starting the year of my high school, I loved shoes and later overall fashion. I was amazed that style could change people’s looks and attitudes. Whenever I dressed nice and cool, it gave me the confidence to talk to people, or people came to speak to me first. Since then, I wanted to give confidence and joy to other people. Fashion is not about clothes. It is about the ego.

Give us a little insight into your education and professional history, how did you get to where you are today?

I graduated from The New School’s Parsons School of Design last year May. After graduation, I started my brand OFFCENTER. I barely had any intern experiences, but I was passionate and trusted my abilities. I always had a dream of being a fashion designer since high school. I did not give up my goal, met fantastic teammates, and kept moving forward. In the middle of the journey, I’ve had this opportunity to work with Highsnobiety and ellesse.

Tell us about your brand OFFCENTER.

Before OFFCENTER, I had a brand called LET_ which sold t-shirt, hoodies, and caps. It did not work out very well. I had to close the brand and there were so many leftovers. So I started to redesign them for fun. That caught my team’s attention and we decided to launch the brand using the leftovers.

OFFCENTER’s primary sources of material are from thrift stores and donations. We try to reduce waste and make it as sustainable as possible. Sustainable brands are stereotyped as being classic and mostly targeted at the older generation. OFFECENTER wants to break the stereotypes and make stylish, sustainable clothes for a young generation.

How has New York influenced the way you think about fashion, style, and design?

New York City gave me so much cultural experience. I’ve met so many different people from around the world exploring various areas in New York. Now I have a more comprehensive view and have become more open-minded, I understand why and how people dress, talk, and eat; my designs have become stronger and more vibrant. Chinatown is hugely inspirational — the busy, crowded, smelly streets gave me the energy to work.

The most lovely thing about NYC is that people try to respect and understand each other. NYC has strong individual identities. I still keep falling in love with NYC.

What routines, habits, or practices do you have that keep you focused and boost your creativity?

Taking breaks where I don’t think about work at all is essential to boosting my creativity. I’ll ride a bike around the neighborhood and watch movies with my favorite ice cream in my bed. I completely turn off my creative side and try not to think about it. I make sure to set the schedule and have my plan as organized as possible.

What are you working towards right now and where can people find you and your work online?

I’m working towards the future of OFFCENTER. I want OFFCENTER to be more than a brand. I genuinely hope the brand will give joy and confidence to people, not just clothes. Also, it will reduce the waste the fashion industry is making. I want OFFCENTER to be the trendiest sustainable brand in the world. You can check it out at offcenterofficial.com and on Instagram at @offcenter_official.

Shop ellesse’s SS19 collection in-store
now and online via the link below.
Follow all the latest from ellesse on Instagram.

Words by Aaron Howes
Branded Content Editor