When Eugenia Kim got her first client in 1998, it was not only the result of her already-budding potential, but it was a case of speaking too soon. “The New York Times was writing about my line, say, in April, and I had met with Barney’s in maybe February/March,” Kim tells me. “And [Barney’s] said, ‘We like the collection, we think we’ll place an order,’ but I was really naive. So then the New York Times was like, ‘where will it be available?’ and I said, ‘Oh, it’ll be available at Barney’s New York!’”
While a buyer called Kim, scrambling to make an order after the article’s print date, her career solidified and her relationship with Barney’s was cemented. So, twenty years later, there was no better retailer for her to collaborate with on a vicennial collection. Recounting some of her greatest hits, from the first hat she ever made (to conceal a self-botched haircut) to the beret Beyoncé wore over Grammy weekend earlier this year, the collection celebrates and recreates 20 years of Kim’s evolving headwear.
“I’m surprised that I survived twenty years,” Kim says. “I thought I was just gonna do this to ride the wave and see how it went.” And while her go-with-the-flow attitude towards the start of her business seems nonchalant, she became practically an overnight sensation and eventually an accessories mainstay. She created pieces for pop legends like Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears, costume pieces for films such as The Beguiled, and won The CFDA’s Accessory Designer of the Year award in 2004: all of which will be available later this month at Barney’s Madison Avenue boutique and online.
As evidenced by Kim, the department store has always worked to incubate talent, regardless of commerciality or age. “They’ve always been so supportive of my growth,” she says. And while she describes Barney’s as her own “Tiffany’s,” her happy place consisting of a day of shopping and eating at Fred’s, her relationship with Barney’s has always been one of great support. “I remember when I was younger, doing windows with Simon Doonan. At the time, I wasn’t very commercial. That’s what’s cool about Barney’s, is that they’ll take a young designer that’s not so commercial and work with them.”
Main photo credit: Eugenia Kim