Buro 24/7 Exclusive: Kathleen Kye for Shu Uemura

Seoul street fashion meets Japanese artistry


By Wei Yeen Loh

Buro 24/7 Exclusive: Kathleen Kye for Shu Uemura

One of the more exciting beauty x fashion collabs from the East that will be hitting our shores this May, KYE for shu uemura combines the artistic expertise of South Korean high-end street fashion designer Kathleen Kye with shu uemura‘s cutting edge beauty products.


If you haven’t heard of Kye (whose bold and witty designs that have graced the runways and streets of Seoul), here are a few tidbits on the talented designer: Born in the USA and raised in Seoul, Kye was trained in her field at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design, and was shortlisted for the 2014 LVMH Prize along with having her first autobiography published later that year. Kye is most well-known for her logo (an illustration of fingers) alongside her quirky graphic symbols that always tell a story. Be prepared for a range of limited edition makeup, skincare and haircare products inspired by the Kye’s signature look: edgy black eyeliner, flawless skin, and bold brows and lips.

Buro 24/7 recently spoke to the award-winning designer about her thoughts on this collab, the meaning behind her icons and her secrets to flawless skin:


How did you feel when you first heard from shu uemura about the collaboration?

When I first got a call, I was just like hands up yes! I have loved shu uemura‘s products for years. I’ve been using them since I was in high school, which is over a decade now. I’ve always wanted to collaborate with a makeup brand because I love mixing creativity with brands that share the same vision as KYE but are in a different field. And obviously, shu uemura is the best brand for the collaboration, so I was very honoured. I was really thrilled about the collaboration that I wasn’t even concerned with the terms and conditions or anything. I was like, “I have to do this!”


What do you think shu uemura and KYE share?

shu uemura and KYE are both very cool and innovative brands from Asia. I think we share a common goal to showcase Asian beauty and Asian style to the whole world. That is something that we will always share. For KYE, we are very much focused on artisanship and craftsmanship. I think shu uemura is a very artistic makeup brand that strives to be innovative and cutting-edge cool. These are traits we also have in common.


This collection‘s concept is K-wave. What does K-wave mean to you?

For this collaboration, I wanted to showcase the K-wave and express the energy of Seoul. If you walk around the streets of Seoul, you will see lots of creative people, interesting ideas and feel the energy of of the city. Seoul is a city that never sleeps. The shops are open 24 hours a day and you can see many people roaming around the city. Even if you get hungry in the middle of the night, you can buy anything you’re craving for. I wanted to share this interesting vibe of Seoul’s street life through this collection. This is also a key theme of the KYE brand too—focusing on the youthful spirit of the streets of Seoul to the high-end fashion industry.

Can you tell us about your logo? Where did you get your inspiration from and what do the fingers represent?

First of all, KYE is my family name so that’s that, and the fingers were inspired by many things. KYE is a brand where the majority of the work is done with my own hands, from every single illustration, the graphic design to even the visual styling. So I wanted to have that handcrafted feel to the logo, and also the initial prototype of the logo was made back in college, where I spent my whole BA and MA studying the human body and fashion. The logo is one that I made initially, using a photo of my hand and that became the logo of today.


Can you tell us how you chose and design the packaging of this collection?

Motifs and emoticons are just like the pictograms of olden days. They tell stories and people communicate through these icons and picture images. I wanted to come up with a couple of interesting icons that can tell the stories of K-wave, KYE and shu uemura. Naturally, I love all of them but there are a couple of special motifs that I want to show you.

There is the number 24 motif, which symbolizes the fact that Seoul is a city that never sleeps. Everything is open for 24 hours and the city’s vibe is very energetic. The other motif is a coffee sign with shu uemura on it—Seoul is peppered with coffee shops. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that Seoul is one city that has the most coffee shops in the world.

Another motif is the one of sunglasses. Many people might already know this but Korea is obsessed with beauty, and cosmetics are a very crucial item in the city these days. All the Korean girls are very careful with their skin and all about protecting it against the sun. So I wanted to illustrate that by including an image of sunglasses.

Can you share with us the secrets to getting flawless skin?

Obviously, skincare is very important. But I love applying makeup and even looking at makeup in general. I personally started wearing makeup fairly early on and while my mother appreciated my experimental thick eyeliner, she always instilled the importance of cleansing—which I take as being equally important as applying makeup.

Since I was in high school, I have been using the iconic shu uemura cleansing oils—the very first one I used was A/O (the green version). I occasionally had bouts of acne, so I used that for its antioxidant properties. As I got older, I tried all the different types and loved collecting the ones from collaborations. Since these are collectibles as well, it added a little fun to my bathroom countertop. Now I use shu uemura Ultime8 which makes my skin really smooth. I can’t explain what it is but it just really works for me.


What did you wanted to give to clients with this beauty collab?

So for this collection, I wanted to focus more on the colours and accents that show the KYE style in a shu uemura way. I usually focus on bold eyeliners and eyebrows but instead of the usual black and brown hues, we tried to find shades that can still be wearable but are edgy enough to show off our unique style.

How did you find the shooting?

The shooting was really fun! The staff was very nice and the whole process went very smoothly. I have been working with Mok, the photographer, for years but this was definitely one of the more memorable moments from our times working together. I have done many photoshoots before but it was a little bit awkward being in front of the camera as a beauty model. But I am truly very honored and thankful to all the staff for this opportunity. I am really looking forward to seeing the final results, but I have to admit that I am also a little nervous to see how I look!


Do you have any message to impart to shu uemura customers?

I am obviously very excited about this collaboration. It is like a dream come true for me, and seeing the real products for the first time was very exciting. Makeup has been another big passion and interest of mine in addition to fashion design. I cannot wait to show shu uemura to my customers in Seoul this May.   


Take a look at the rest of the collection below:

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KYE for shu uemura Limited Edition collection will be available in shu uemura stores nationwide from 1 May 2016.


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