Gemma on Runaway

Gemma Kahng—Back for Her Second Act

Gemma on Runaway

Call her the comeback kid or a risk taker, but either way get your shopper’s wish list ready because this is the much anticipated return of NYC based designer, Gemma Kahng.

The hit 90’s fashion designer credited with creating the iconic woman’s power suit of the 90’s, has recently made her way back into the fashion scene. Along with a new team she is looking to re-launch her label and is determined to make her star shine once again.

An unknown name now, at her peak, the Korean designer was seen as ahead of her time and quickly made the woman’s bold jacket a must have in the early 90s.

Her designs flew off the racks at high end department stores like Saks, Neiman Marcus, Barneys, and Bergdorf Goodman and her collections sold out across the nation.

Around the world fashion editors praised her creativity and magazines rewarded her with editorial spreads. Her designs graced the cover of Vogue’s August 1992 issue and its success helped to solidify her career and sky rocketed her name.

Her cliental base featured A-list celebrities like Sharon Stone and most notably Madonna, for whom she created a “pink jumpsuit with the butt cut out” for a Vanity Fair spread. The suit pushed the boundaries of fashion at the time and to many Gemma was the definition of edgy.

So what happened to this once great designer?

Unfortunately for Kahng the pressures of becoming an overnight success led to bad business decisions and in 2000 she was forced to close up shop.

But the calendar no longer reads 2000 and twelve years later the designer is back and ready to make moves that could launch her career for the second time.

Her first re-appearance came in 2011 in an episode of  All on the Line with Joe Zee on the Sundance Channel, where Zee, the creative director of Elle Magazine, helps to guide once successful fashion designers back onto the road of success. It’s almost like Fashion Rehab for Designers.

Gemma was criticized for her bad business management and her worn out designs. However, during Fashion Week and along with the help of Allison Harvard (a runner-up America’s Next Top Model), Kahng lay to rest any doubts in her abilities to create the fresh and edgy fashion designs she was once known for. Her 2012 Gen Art Fashion show for Fashion Week was deemed a success. Gemma presented new pieces that, unlike her designs from the 90’s, were romantically inspired with a feminine touch.

When I had the opportunity to meet Gemma in early January before fashion week, the designer explained that her designs were inspired by Renaissance portraiture and hip hop, evidenced by the various Renaissance art and hip hop icons that surrounded her work space. Kahng also said her current spring collection was inspired by culture, art, and history.

The eclectic mixture of the various elements came together during Fashion Week and proved to be a hit. It was tempting to walk away with most of her pieces. Some designs included a dramatic trumpet skirt, black-lace cat suit worn with panties, a ruffled jacket and a gold medallion and black breast plate decorated with gold and jet embroidery and worn with motorcycle pants.

These designs were not for the easily intimidated and are currently being sold at Kima Zabete, 96 Green Street, in New York, Pearly White in Taiwan, Neiman Marcus (a few select locations), and Tootsies in Texas. Gemma designed hats and spats are soon to be in End of Century on the Lower East Side. Check out her website for updates.

Overall, Gemma has announced that she is here to stay, but as the next fashion season approaches, only time will if she will be able to regain her throne in the Fashion World.

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