in partnership
(Image courtesy of Susan Kim).

Artist of the Week: Susan Kim of SUM Style

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been styling? Do you work with other mediums?
I’ve officially been styling as a career for a little more than three years, but I’ve been in the fashion industry ever since I was nineteen years old when I started school at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. I jumped into the industry by interning at fashion marketing companies like Caro Marketing, learning distribution and e-commerce at the infamous Downtown Los Angeles Fashion District, and selling and styling at Bloomingdale’s and All Saints. We are in the process of working with other mediums.

How does styling and fashion count as art?
To me, styling and fashion is one of the most powerful forms of art. It’s easy to generalize art as grand canvases and/or geometric sculptures but fashion is a daily form of art people create. It’s one of the most precise and powerful ways on how human beings express and create visual expressions.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
Our styling packages are designed in four easy steps and each stage has a hint of artistic process.

The first step is the phone consultation and the second step is the in-person consultation. The first two steps are when I get to first hear the voice of my prospective clients and to get a first impression on what they want to accomplish from this styling consultation. These first two steps are when I get creative with my team and when we brainstorm, imagine, and gather ideas of our clients new and improved style.

The third step is when my team and I go shopping for our clients. We pull from department stores, boutiques, and online retailers depending on our client’s anticipated look and budget. This is when our artistic juices definitely flow the most and when we process, create, select, arrange, and style complete head-to-toe looks for our clients.

The final step is execution, exhibition, and observation when our client comes in for the fitting and when our client tries on all the garments that are customized and styled to serve their needs and wants.

Tell us about where the inspiration for your styling come from?
I get a lot of my inspiration from fashion magazines, publications, and influences like Vogue, Elle, WWD, SongOfStyle, and ChrislleLim but my personal inspiration for my style is highly influenced by my mood. I choose the garments I style and wear with a lot of thought and I use fashion as a tool to present myself the best way I can for the day. If I’m feeling overworked and stressed, I choose a vibrant color story and contrasting textures like pleather, velour, and vinyl to uplift my emotions.

As for my clients, my client’s life story and their journey to wanting to improve their style deeply inspires me. Every consultation with a client allows me to see visual imagery of colors, textures, moods, and various styles to help express the best version of them.

I’ve also been heavily inspired by the breathtaking nature ever since my move to Seattle. The four seasons, the contrasting weather, and even the thickness of the air helps me to feel the fabrication and see the colors of garments in a different way. The four seasons here in the beautiful PNW also help with my creativity with being versatile with spring/summer pieces and layering them and being as creative as possible to recreate them as interchangeable pieces for the fall/winter. We are all very fortunate to reside in such a pure, innovative, and beautiful city like Seattle and I am continually inspired and in awe every day!

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best when it comes to fashion?
My specific “beat” I like best when it comes to fashion is that self expression is limitless and you can be perceived how you want to be by wearing different styles.

What fashion icons do you have/who inspired you when you were young?
Princess Diana was and is still one of my all time favorite style icons. Her poise, elegance, and her bold choices in cuts, prints, fabrics, and accessories like wide brim fedoras, gloves, and belts is still what inspires me. Another style icon that is contrasting from Princess Diana is Gwen Stefani. Her current style is breathtaking but her edgy chic style in the 90’s energized me. Her mix of classic elements of punk and feminine empowerment is still what drives me to be adventurous with my style.

What experiences in your life have affected your styling/business?
Some of the experiences that have molded me to start my personal fashion styling business is my ultimate goal to help others through fashion and style. I was a huge tomboy when I was young but reflecting back, I was always flamboyant and super feminine inside. There were factors in my culture, my era, and others that limited me to truly express myself. Fortunately, growing up with a supportive family while traveling a lot and experiencing various cultures allowed me to feel comfortable and confident in myself. Fashion and finding my own style defined me, empowered me, and allowed me to stand out while fitting in. I also fell in love with the technicality of fashion and how fashion has so many layers and depth than how it may be generally perceived.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
You can visit our Instagram @sumstyleco and also our website at

We are also currently in the works of migrating all our blog posts regarding collaborations and client stories to our website listed above so please be in the look out for those changes.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
My team and I are currently working on a crisp new project called “Dress the part - Industry Edition”. The concept behind creating this project is to solve the problem of, “What should I wear to work today?” We are focusing on industries that are high in demand in the Seattle/Bellevue area such as Information & Communication Technology (ICT), Fitness, Real Estate, Electronic commerce, Counseling, and many more where work attire can work as an immense tool to benefit work performance and self image. This project has been and will continue to create collaborative efforts as our team builds and connects with local businesses and as we get to understand and learn about the Seattle lifestyle and culture.

Our next big project that we are working on is to expand our business into a total fashion and makeover destination. We are in the process of partnering up with hair stylists, make up artists, estheticians, and even massage therapists to make Sum Style a full service destination to solve all your beauty and fashion needs.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
On the daily I take Starbucks cold brew with 1.5 pumps of caramel. On my cheat days, I go for their skinny caramel macchiato with half pump of caramel and light ice!