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Hye Eun Kim

PhD Work

Designing Fashion with Qi Energy

This practice-led research explores the significance of Qi energy for fashion by materialising the East Asian culturally-specific concept of Qi. Qi features prominently in the traditional philosophy of everyday life in East Asia and my research aims to show how this philosophy can also provide an understanding of the relationship between body, garment and making, which is new to more Western concepts of fashion culture. This reflective journey unravels fashion practice in this context, focusing on the making process and the methods that were developed during that process.

I engaged in significant handwork in the field of contemporary womenswear, integrating concepts of the body and garment as a circulatory system for Qi energy. It is the objective of this research to realise garments which help the understanding of Qi as a communication tool in relationships that arise in fashion, namely those that exist between the material and the maker during the making process, the body and the garment, and the wearer and the viewer.

My research question originates from a desire to find a way to materialise Qi in garments through the making process. To pursue this, I explore a range of fields including anthropology, material culture, psychoanalysis, literature, cultural theory, and language. Apart from contextual studies, I adopted conversations and filming as methods to develop my research further. In practice, I investigate the meridians (as seaming which constructs garments), the finishing and the openings of the garment, all of which amount to a transitional interface. I view this as a concrete way of injecting Qi energy into the garment on a material level.

I have reflected deeply on my making experience; this reflection has led the entire process and also given me a much better understanding of body and garment. Through my making process, aimed at materialising Qi in the garment, I essentially tried to establish a better connection between body and garment.


  • PhD


    School of Design


    Fashion Womenswear, 2010–2015

  • I am a fashion designer, lecturer and researcher. My PhD thesis is 'Designing Fashion with Qi Energy', while my current research explores 'ambiguity' in fashion practice.


  • Degrees

  • MA Fashion Womenswear, London College of Fashion, 2010