By Carys Jones
A lover of fashion for as long as he can remember, designer Kang Dong fondly recalls saving up his pocket money to buy clothes in Itaewon. “A relative of my friend lived in Hawaii. When he visited Korea, he introduced my friend to the brand ‘Maui’, and Itaewon was the one place I could buy this brand at the time”, he says.
Although he had always aspired to become a fashion designer, Kang’s parents were against it, so he initially studied German at Hansung University. Unbeknownst to his family, he changed his major to fashion so he could pursue his dream. He later relocated to the style Mecca of New York, where he studied at Parsons Fashion School. On the subject of his life in NY, he says “I just loved studying fashion, so I spent all of my time learning about fashion… except for drinking on Fridays.”
In 2006, Kang founded his fashion line D. Gnak, a derivation of his nickname ‘Kang D’. “One day I saw (my name) written backwards. Since then, it has been myself, representing my world” he poignantly explains. When asked if he is satisfied with his brand, he admits that there is room for growth. “It’s my 4th season to focus on global markets like New York and Milan. Now I’ve started getting more interested in running my own brand.”
Kang has expressed an interest in expanding his role in the Asian market by introducing his line to Japan and China. As a born and raised Seoulite, he knows all too well how difficult it can be to thrive in the Korean fashion industry. “It’s tough. Designers have to do many things here”, he laments. “The market is small for designers, competition is getting harder.”
In spite of the competitive nature of the fashion design world, Kang admits that it saddens him when he witnesses other brands folding. “Fashion is patience!” he says. “I am still patient with my brand. When I started the brand, I was the only member of staff. Now I have over ten staff members. My patience has led me here and it will lead me to somewhere better in the near future.”
When asked who he would most like to sport his creations, Kang admits that he doesn’t favor any model in particular. “I just want everyone to wear my clothes.” He says his inspirations largely come from his daily routine and life experience.
As for future plans, he has three main goals: to host his own fashion show in Milan before 2017, to focus on the global market, and to build a design house for young Korean designers. With his latest collections ‘Miraz’ and ‘Path’ being showcased in London, Milan, Moscow, Rome, and various locations in the USA and Canada, it looks like Kang’s vision is coming into fruition.