A Taste for Opulence
Vicki Kim arrives at the studio for her RED shoot on the dot, dressed in a crisp white blouse and tapered slacks. There are two bands on her ring finger, and discreetly sparkling on her earlobes are diamond earrings. The subtly decadent display doesn’t end there: from a bag, she takes out a selection of necklaces, rings, bracelets, and earrings, all from Tani by Minetani, the Swarovski line of her family’s fine jewelry business based in Korea. She lays out the trinkets on a white table, where it’s easier to observe the reflection of the overhead lights on each bevel of every diamond.
Often, all that glint and sparkle can overpower a look. But as Kim has shown, there’s an art to wearing these pieces, each of which has been meticulously hand-crafted into a one-of-a-kind statement.
From the display, she chooses a gold bangle inlaid with diamond studs and slips it onto her wrist. It’s an act that is obviously second nature to her, being born and raised in Korea by a jewelry designer and collector. Minetani is run by this two-generational team: Vicki, who helps with the creative direction and public relations outside Korea, her sister Sunny, the main designer who is currently leading the company, and their mother Grace Ahn, the brand’s founder and first designer.
Running a fine jewelry business with her family was obviously a major factor in cultivating Kim’s taste and style. Yet while she lives by the “less is more” principle, every now and then she experiments with different sizes such as large earrings and big necklaces, but still with classic designs.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend
When she sits down to talk about the family business, Kim is graceful and composed, her answers thoughtful and precise. She recalls a clip brooch decorated with jade and onyx from her mother’s collection, and the Art Deco piece perfectly contrasts with her personal aesthetic, which leans more on simple and clean lines. She also draws her favorite gem shape, an emerald-cut diamond; her engagement ring is of the same cut, and despite being an antique piece from the ’20s, it feels modern.
“I grew up around jewelry,” Vicki affirms. She says it’s a rarity for her these days to find women—even men—who don’t like jewelry. Perhaps for people like her, all that glitters is gold. Looking at her mother’s jewelry collection alone puts Vicki in high spirits. “As my mom says, her favorite thing to do is to sit there, look at all her stones, and just design. Just draw. She’s really the most artistic out of the three of us.”
Grace Ahn, a designer and an avid collector of fine jewelry, began
Minetani over 20 years ago when she found herself wanting to see more unique designs in the Korean fine jewelry market. The brand launched in 1996, immediately filling a void in the industry with its luxurious and elegant collections made specifically to complement haute couture. The brand is her namesake, a fusion of two words: “Mi” from the designer’s Korean name Young Mee Ahn and “tani” from an ancient Korean word meaning “ornaments.”
Then in 2009, Tani by Minetani emerged from a collaboration with Swarovski. Sunny Kim headed this new line, as by then, Vicki had already relocated to the Philippines. For the collaboration, crystals are fused with trendy metal finishes to create elaborately chic yet wearable fine jewelry. Each stone is carefully selected, each piece cut and fashioned to highlight a gem’s beauty, shape, and essence.
With all that precision, nothing is too over the top or underwhelming. The Tani by Minetani woman embodies timelessness, with just the right amount of glitz and glam. She reinvents the status quo by sporting pieces that adapt to current trends without going out of style, and she manifests the wearable luxury of fine jewelry.
The comeback collection
The family’s love for fashion is the brand’s primary source of inspiration, but for Kim, art and travel are also creative wells. “Travel inspires me to get outside my normal comfort zone and push my boundaries,” she says. “It allows me to see new designs, new colors, new artists. I am always thrilled to meet inspirational designers from all over the world.” Based in the Philippines for over eight years now, she represents Minetani at meetings outside Korea, overseeing everything from creative direction to trunk shows.
“I used to design a little when I was younger,” she says, adding that she is working on an upcoming collection. “That [would be] sort of my comeback, I guess. My sister and I want it to be an ode to our mom. We went through all of her archives and [selected] her iconic designs, but we’re trying to make them a bit younger, a bit more wearable.”
The two sisters frequently turn to their mother not just for inspiration but also for approval of their designs and artistic direction. Not surprisingly, Grace Ahn is her daughters’ toughest critic and boss. But much like the precious gems that the family works with, only the best kind of pressure can make astounding results. As Vicki quips, “What’s not to love about [making] jewelry and hanging out with your mom and sister?” •
Left: Vicki Kim plays around with proportions by mismatching a slim gold bangle and large diamond clip earrings.
Trend meets tradition in Kim’s layering of Swarovski crystal necklaces from Tani by Minetani’s Great Expectations Collection and Classic Collection