I typically measure all I observe and try to relate it to my own life. Often I do this to put my observations in context with what I can empathize with or at least understand. When I first came to know of Kim Berhanu, I was initially struck not only by the clothing she designs but also by her unique look. It’s a look forged by a fantastic heritage. But far beyond that, there is an incredible depth to her personality. That’s what constitutes the utterly fascinating part about her.
Kim and I have in common that we are mixed-race kids with parents who met with the least likely of odds. We were also both raised by single mothers who worked endlessly to support us. Kim’s father was Ethiopian. Her identity and influences are forged from this fantastic mixture. She carries that fire along with her in both life and art. Clearly, she is inspired by what she’s experienced and witnessed – particularly from her mother.
I am struck by designers who break molds. With her brand, Dynasty The Label, Kim qualifies not only by combining Vietnamese fabrics, colors, and prints with their African counterparts, but by carrying forth a torch of social activism that I dare say is fierce. I mean that as the highest of compliments.
It’s almost too easy to write about how insanely awesome her clothing is. Everything from her signature reversible bomber jackets to the C19-era face masks she produces to make the best of a bad situation turns out cool.
It’s super hip and gritty, but make no mistake, it’s unbelievably flattering and sexy at the same time. It achieves this in a non-compromising way that says,” my body is my body.” It says, screw the way many men view Asian women as subservient or easy. It says, screw predefined gender and race identities. It says, fight for whatever you believe in and with all the power you have! Defend those in need and destroy stereotypes.
Instead of going on and on about the clothing, I’m going to leave it to you to explore the links. Do some research on your own about Dynasty The Label. Kim has become a champion for businesses owned by and supportive of those of African descent in Vietnam. She is a leader in gender acceptance. Sexuality acceptance. Body acceptance. She is fierce about all of it. Fighting for others. I see it from her nearly every day on her social media.
Intergalactic Mermaid Hooded Kimono
In 2020 perhaps we have seen some glimmers of hope that things will change for the better in the social landscape. We are seeing anger burst forth from those that represent citizens marginalized for decades (or centuries). But there are miles to go. It will take the dedication of people like Kim to carry through to the end. It will take an army of people adhering to her beliefs to make it happen – and she is a natural-born leader for us here in Vietnam. In my opinion, that is secondary to the excellent clothing she makes. Vietnam’s legendary wartime leaders would probably have taken her under their wing based on her exceptional integrity and courage.