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Laur's List with Jisoon Kim (HARDWORKUP)

[This article was also published on on May 4, 2024.]

Editor's note: When I first had the idea for Laur's List, a recurring interview column for the fashion industry run entirely on my own platform, I wasn't sure where to start. All I knew was that somehow, I had one day woken up to find myself with the immense privilege to speak candidly to some of the most inspiring names in the industry, in rooms I never thought I would be in. I am blessed to have the opportunity to ask questions, receive both business and life advice, and get to know amazingly accomplished people in private chats and over coffee every single day - and I knew that I wanted to bring that palpable inspiration out into the light and to the rest of you. Starting anything new can be intimidating, as you will quickly discover when speaking to any of the people that I've interviewed for Laur's List to date about their journeys to where they are now. A first step can sometimes feel like it is a step off a cliff, into the unknown. This column itself was no exception to that paralyzing intimidation. However, something that so many designers, entrepreneurs, and other creatives tell me is this one simple thing that can often make that first step so much easier. When you don't know where to start...simply start with a friend. I welcome you to the first edition of Laur's List with friend, designer, and conceptual artist Jisoon Kim of HARDWORKUP.

Jisoon Kim is a force of nature.

The HARDWORKUP designer and I chat almost daily on Instagram. Despite running a business currently based in Korea, Jisoon answers me in the middle of the night of his time zone often. In my time for New York City, this is usually around late afternoon, but occasionally we will have a conversation past midnight in Eastern time as well. Eternal business hours and lack of sleep - the great equalizer for so many creatives working hard to make their dreams into reality. When I ask him why he's awake at 5am today, he simply tells me that he has a new project coming up. Laziness doesn't seem to be in Jisoon's vocabulary - he bounces with success from project to project at such inhuman speed that it's no wonder he named his brand after his own hard work ethic. He excitedly informs me today that he's also working on a new logo, continually refining his branding and finding his voice even more through his art. I get a photo. The new design is smartly done and fits him perfectly.

Talking to the designer, it's immediately apparent just how passionate he is about making his unique reworked design brand, HARDWORKUP, into a legacy. Pinned to the top of his Instagram profile with the image of a shiny silver bag repurposed from a pair of Nike Jordan sneakers, the very first post caption on his page proclaims "I'm gonna make a living doing what I love." Jisoon has gained recognition internationally from major outlets in streetwear and fashion like Hypebeast, PAP Magazine, High Snobiety, Gastt Fashion, Hypebae, and even Nike's SNKRS division. His innovative repurposed footwear designs have appeared on multiple emerging Korean pop idols such as girl group STAYC formed in 2020, popular new girl group Illit (who you might be familiar with after their song "Magnetic" went mega-viral online this month) and BABYMONSTER of YG Entertainment for their music video of the highly anticipated "Batter Up" debut single. Jisoon not only creates redone footwear and handbags, but has also experimented with an overwhelming amount of creative materials aligned with his clear creative vision around streetwear: a woven 3D-printed floral balaclava, a racing helmet, multiple sneaker-themed interior lamps, a textured Nike vase, and even an Adidas sandal made from old-fashioned film strips.

HARDWORKUP's new signature Wine Bag, an original repurposed Nike sneaker design by Korean artist Jisoon Kim, which has inspired many iterations from other designers since its viral inception. / Courtesy of Jisoon Kim.

In a world where endless consumerism seems inescapable, there's a certain beauty in repurposing existing design and materials to make something new. It seems the media and styling world is starting to take note, if the growing eyes on HARDWORKUP are any indicator. Streetwear and the infamous "hypebeast culture" (a term coined by Kevin Ma of the synonymous media outlet in 2005) have a long history in fashion, built upon the connective ethos of not only purchasing a piece of a clothing, but in then posting widely and showing off that piece to a community equally invested in similar niche style.

Laur x HARDWORKUP featuring the Wine Bag in white, with special thanks to Julian Peeples.

However, over the last two decades since its pervasive mainstream root, streetwear has evolved to mean something new. Now, brands and emerging designers are looking to subvert existing iconic basics for a new form of artistic expression. Virgil Abloh, Off-White founder and lauded streetwear designer, famously told Dazed Magazine in 2019 that he suspected streetwear would fade out slowly to its death in a few years - "how many more t-shirts can we own, how many more hoodies, how many sneakers?" he was quoted. He went on in that same interview to predict that fashion lovers would turn away from buying new and turn instead to their archives and vintage for style inspiration.

Though Abloh's predictions didn't fully land in that streetwear is still alive and well in 2024, he did get one thing right: both consumers and designers are looking ever more inwards to their own wardrobes and archives to repurpose existing looks into new shapes and fresh forms from the original. Jisoon Kim is one of them. His reworked pieces made from some of the most trademark shoe silhouettes in the world like Nike's Air Jordan, Adidas Forum, and classic stiletto high heels embellished with sculpted Alpinestars motorsport shields bring a breath of unexpected fresh air to iconic household designs. Both approachable yet cheeky, HARDWORKUP gives personality to big designer names.

HARDWORKUP recently hosted a pop-up exhibition in Busan along with Plomo Korea for the new Wine Bag design. / Courtesy of Jisoon Kim.

It's no wonder Korean idol culture loves these pieces that put the fun back in fashion, HARDWORKUP's reworked corset from Adidas shoes appeared in a Vogue Korea editorial, and Jisoon's own social media comments and direct message requests are flooded with inquiries on purchases and custom orders from interested fans. Instead of shying away from their classic silhouettes being ripped apart and sewn creatively back anew, the brand Jisoon works on as materials for a HARDWORKUP piece are instead applauding his work - Nike honoured the designer as their Korean artist choice to present at the Nike SNKRS Day workshop in September 2023, and fellow sneaker artist VANDYTHEPINK follows Jisoon and has excitedly reshared the reboot of his Proboard shoe with kind words. HARDWORKUP has not only garnered attention on social media, but has also recently hosted up an in-person pop up event in Hongdae in Seoul for April 2024 and continues to gain traction for new collaboration opportunities with big name brands.

Continual growth seems to be decisively on the horizon for artist Jisoon Kim, and I invite you to step into the HARDWORKUP world to be inspired by his clear cut vision for the brand, journey thus far, and unwavering dedication to hard work on turning his passion into his lifestyle.

A 3D-printed Nike vase by artist Jisoon Kim on display. / Courtesy of Jisoon Kim.


First, the obvious. Why the name HARDWORKUP?

JISOON KIM: Whenever I embark on a new journey or make a significant commitment, I align my identity with my endeavors. Previously, I engaged in a variety of activities spanning from drawing to wirework. When I transitioned into the fashion industry, I rebranded as 'HARDWORKUP.' 

At that time, I was brimming with passion and confidence in my ability to work diligently, freed from the nagging of my mother, now that I was an adult. Reflecting on my identity, I coined the word 'HARDWORKUP' as a reminder to myself to strive hard and persevere.

HARDWORKUP Slider Heels, featuring repurposed motorcycle protective gear parts. / Courtesy of Jisoon Kim.

I found you on social media, as you know since we started chatting. (My Explore page algorithm is scarily accurate in its suggestions.) I was drawn to your work immediately because there’s such a warm feeling about not only giving an item a second life, but that dream-like creative aspect of physically looking at one item as it is now, while also mentally seeing its potential as another it could be - like soles into a lamp or sneakers into a bag. It’s as if you live in your own aspirational world where something can be anything, then you bring that world to life and bring us into it, too. 

A few iconic names in the design world come to mind when I think of that repurposing and creativity, like Martin Margiela’s “One to make at home” sock-sweater tutorial from 2004 and Virgil Abloh’s more subversive designs for Off-White before he passed. Both are personally some of my own biggest inspirations, actually. Who are yours? 

JISOON: It seems like I enjoy incorporating various elements rather than sticking to one thing. Before starting my current work, I was involved in content creation, absorbing diverse knowledge along the way. 

Naturally, I have a collection of magazines like the one from Maison Margiela featuring sock sweaters, as well as books from Virgil Abloh's series. I also have books like McDonald's toy collections, original editions of Mugler magazines, and art books from Jacquemus. 

Instead of being inspired by just one person, I'm curious about the thoughts of various individuals and draw inspiration from diverse sources. (I worked on content directing for GENTLEMONSTER's dessert brand NUDAKE from 2020 to 2023, and for the WE11DONE fashion brand from 2023 to January of 2024.)

A Busan pop-up exclusive incense candle repurposed from a Nike Air Force sneaker used to create the Wine Bag. / Courtesy of Jisoon Kim.

I didn't even know Gentle Monster had a dessert line, quite honestly. I learn something new every day - and learn just how diverse every lasting brand and designer has to be to survive and test out new things. I think that's a good note to take away here, that being willing to branch out and the inspiration to try lots of different avenues before you find one that sticks for long term success.

Fashion is notoriously a rough industry to make a name in on your own, but it seems like you’ve hit the ground running. The HARDWORKUP brand identity is strong and identifiable, you’re building a cult following, working with major names in the fashion and music industries, and you manage to keep a positive attitude through it all. I love your quote, “I’m gonna make a living doing what I love” - and the 37-minute long playlist that goes along with it on your website. What a great immersive touch. What keeps you going on the day to day?

JISOON: In reality, I feel like I'm just starting to make my name known, and I believe there's still a long way to go. The reason I wrote that phrase is because it signifies believing in myself and trying to stay as far away from money as possible. Reading the experiences shared in various books, watching music videos by artists, and attending orchestral performances all help me find my motivation.


What do you both hate and love about the industry? Working in fashion, I think it’s definitely a love/hate relationship for all of us, sometimes.

JISOON: Even within the fashion industry, I admire those who genuinely uplift others and foster mutual growth. Through my friend May Kim (@guttimay on Instagram), I naturally found my way into the fashion industry. 

On the flip side, there are many who envy me and others who steal my ideas. While there are others doing similar work, they might be more famous, making it seem like they started before me and claiming ideas as their own. I dislike how some gain recognition solely based on their large following rather than merit.

Designer Jisoon Kim with some of his Wine Bag signature creations at the pop-up. / Courtesy of Jisoon Kim.

Were there any specific moments in the early days of HARDWORKUP where you realized you messed up majorly, had to change directions, or something happened that made you think you might even fail? 

JISOON: It feels like with each change of alias, my direction shifts. I often feel like I'm standing at a crossroads. Having mostly worked alone and made decisions independently, I prioritize trusting myself, despite any mistakes or failures. Truthfully, after four years at GENTLEMONSTER and WE11DONE, starting my own work again in 2024 feels like a significant turning point in my life. While there's a sense of leaving behind a stable life and facing the outside world alone, it also brings a lot of excitement and anticipation for my future.

Let’s fast forward back to right now, then! What’s got you excited, and what special projects are you working on? 

JISOON: I always get excited about anything new. I've been tasked with creating boots for the debut song "Boots" of the Korean idol group HYBE Entertainment's 'ILLIT,' and I've also created tour costumes and boots for [Canadian singer] Tate McRae overseas, completing them in just three days. It's something I couldn't have imagined. I'm navigating everything on my own, and everything is being created by my hands. Lately, I've been feeling a strong desire to have a studio abroad and collaborate with international artists. I hope many people take an interest and reach out to me.

Jisoon Kim created the popular shoes for rising YG Entertainment Korean pop group BABYMONSTER's debut music video "Batter Up," with repurposed Adidas pairs. / Courtesy of Jisoon Kim.

You’re releasing your new signature ‘wine bag,’ made from repurposed sneakers and something you’ve worked on now for a while. A lot of your designs tend to revolve around shoes, either creatively using sneaker planes to make something new or altering shoe designs with other items, like your Moto heels armoured with repurposed biker jacket shell parts. Why shoes specifically?

JISOON: It's part of my background. I initially took a recycling class in college. While everyone else was upcycling fabrics, I wanted to work with slightly different materials. It was during this time that I noticed our family's shoe rack overflowing with shoes, from ancient ones to pairs no longer worn by all four family members. Drawing inspiration from there, I began using shoes as my primary material. High-end luxury brands often focus on bags and shoes, producing and selling content related to them after collections end. Taking a hint from there, I decided to try making bags and shoes rather than garments. There are many appealing aspects to them beyond just fabric. The unique curves and mixed fabrics blend well together. When you translate the three-dimensional into two-dimensional, the distinctive lines stand out.

A process photo of the building of the HARDWORKUP Slider Heels using repurposed moto parts. / Courtesy of Jisoon Kim.

Your work portfolio is seriously impressive - you’ve already partnered with household names like Nike, Hypebeast, and Vandythepink. Your designs are also making their way into pop culture, like the reworked shoes on BABYMONSTER’s debut music video with YG Entertainment for ‘BATTER UP,’ and an all-white wine bag for Serayah. What future do you envision for HARDWORKUP?

JISOON: A year ago, my future was unimaginable. I've been striving every day to create my future. Thinking too much about the future tends to limit my options, so I just focus on my current work. Perhaps as each piece adds up, a certain future will take shape.

Right now, I'm not envisioning the future in concrete terms. I'm just doing what makes me happy and what I want to do. However, by collaborating multiple times with overseas artists, I had been envisioning a future where I would live abroad.

Laur x HARDWORKUP featuring the Wine Bag in white, with special thanks to Julian Peeples.

Do you have a team, or do you handle everything yourself?

JISOON: There was no team. I was still leading everything with my own hands and thoughts. However, when work piled up, my school friends would help whenever they had time. Doing a lot of work alone made me feel lonely at times, but also proud of myself.

Last question…what are you most proud of, when you lie down in bed at the end of every day?

JISOON: I am proud of myself for quitting the company, and believing that I was carving my own path. I believed in myself more and wanted to take on more work. I hope many people will take an interest.

High boots in a one-off style created by Jisoon Kim for HARDWORKUP, using spare motorcycle parts and protective plating. / Courtesy of Jisoon Kim.

You can find more of Jisoon Kim's work and the HARDWORKUP brand online at and on Instagram, YouTube, and Tiktok as @hardworkup.

Assorted unique Wine Bags handmade by Jisoon are ready for purchase. Each is accessorized to be one-of-a-kind at the Busan HARDWORKUP pop-up, from watch straps to 3D-printed logos to plush keychains. / Courtesy of Jisoon Kim.



Words and image retouching by Laur Weeks @laur.weeks for Laur's List.

Photography with special thanks to Julian Peeples @julianjpeeples in NYC.

A deep appreciation to artist Jisoon Kim @hardworkup for his warm openness and good life advice, always.

Laur x HARDWORKUP featuring the Wine Bag in white, with special thanks to Julian Peeples.

An area rug handmade entirely from (new) repurposed sneaker soles - no piece goes wasted from the creation of the HARDWORKUP bags. Creativity and inspiration is everywhere. / Courtesy of Jisoon Kim.

Laur x HARDWORKUP featuring the Wine Bag in white, with special thanks to Julian Peeples.


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