Keith Abrams was a teenager in grunge-era Portland a decade before Soo-Young Kim Abrams hit high school in the suburbs of the Bay Area. But despite their geographic and age differences, the two shared a love of streetwear and rap that would shape their early career paths. Soo-Young would go on to work for Complex Magazine, before leaving to become a fashion editor and photo art director at Saks. Keith, too, got his start in media, cutting his teeth at hip-hop bible Mass Appeal before becoming the managing owner of Kinfolk, the cult Williamsburg streetwear label, store, and nightclub. The two met through New York’s music and media scene, and are now married with two small children in Greenpoint. Soo-Young has pivoted to work as an aesthetician, while Keith runs brand partnerships at a creative agency.
We met in Williamsburg on a blustery winter afternoon to talk style, where it became clear that fashion always has been—and always will be—deep in the couple’s DNA. Below, Soo-Young and Keith talk Ralph Lauren in the ’90s, the perfect pair of leather pants, and a hip-hop t-shirt with a place of honor in their closet.
What were your styles like as teenagers?
Soo-Young Kim Abrams: I definitely wanted to assimilate, but still pepper in elements of what I thought was myself. I’m from the Bay Area, so we were into sweatshirts. There was this unspoken competition of who had the most unique sweatshirts—you made friends with kids at other high schools, and swapped, because wearing a different high school’s sweatshirt had an allure. Designer jeans started popping off starting in 2004, like Seven, and I also wore a lot of Rainbow sandals. But I was into sneakers, too, which differentiated me from my friends. My suburb wasn’t into streetwear, but the magazines and media I consumed really connected me to it, so I wore Adidas Superstars and Air Jordans. I loved rap music, which connected it all together.
Keith Abrams: I would describe my style in high school as very big—gigantic clothes designed by Ralph Lauren. I was obsessed with Ralph at all levels: Chaps when I was really broke, or the real deal, Purple Label. From ages fifteen to nineteen it was massive Nautica, Hilfiger, and Polo; think huge khaki pants in the mid ’90s. I was dressed like a prep, but with a 38-inch waist folded over with a braided belt that could go around [my body] twice, and a double XL Ralph polo that landed mid-thigh. I was obsessed with graffiti, hip hop, sneakers, and rap.
Did you have style icons growing up?
SYKA: Definitely my mom. She has incredible taste, and such an eye for things that will never go out of style. Being young, I didn’t always understand, but in hindsight her choice for me was always right. I also loved RuPaul—she was hosting things on VH1 or E!—and I loved how glamorous and sexy she was. And Gwyneth Paltrow and Janet Jackson. They’re such disparate influences, but it makes sense with how I think about style, because I don’t have a set one.
What were you wearing yesterday and why did you decide to wear it?
KA: I wore plaid pants a friend of mine designed for s.k. manor hill; a long-sleeve white tee from another’s friends line called Mister Green; a down vest Soo-Young helped me pick out in Tokyo a few years ago; some Vans, and an oversized camel trench.
SYKA: I was on my way to work, where I wear a uniform lab coat. I wore plaid pants, also—navy blue— some combat boots, and my lab coat. I always wear earrings to work just to give me some personality. Keith got me Gabriele Artigas earrings that are the perfect combination of edgy, elegant, and minimal. Those I wear almost every day.
What’s the best fashion tip you’ve picked up, whether in the studio or on set?
SYKA: Fit is key, but confidence is better!
Describe your personal style in three words.
SYKA: Tomboy, contemporary, and comfortable.
KA: Versatile, classic, and confident.
Do you remember your first major fashion purchase?
SYKA: The one that comes to mind is when I went to the Adam Lippes showroom for work and saw leather pants with a zipper that went all the way from hip to hem. It was gorgeous, so well made, surprisingly flattering, and badass. It was a leftover sample sale item and though it was still expensive for me, I knew they would be worth the cost.
KA: A suede Ralph Lauren button-down I bought in 1998.
What is the most prized possession in your closet?
KA: I have a t-shirt that I never wear but is very special to me. When I made it to New York, I started working for a small magazine called Mass Appeal. This was around 2005, and the new Clipse album Hell Hath No Fury was coming out. I was an assistant on the shoot we did with them. We were in the middle of Brooklyn in February, and we were expecting snow—our whole concept was built around snow—but there was no snow. So made fake snow out of foam, and we printed out these t-shirts that said “There’s No Business Like Snow Business.” We gave one to Malice, and one to Pusha, and I got one too, along with some friends and the owner of the magazine. It’s very sentimental and symbolic, and has made the move to seven different apartments.
Do you have a favorite fashion moment from pop culture?
KA: I was obsessed with the No Limit records run in the late ’90s—Versace shirts and Cartier frames. The time before luxury brands made clothes for skateboarders and rappers. It felt a bit more subversive to want something that wasn’t designed for you.
SYKA: My favorite, just because I vividly remember when I first saw it, has to be Beyoncé in a white tank, jean shorts, and red heels in her “Crazy in Love” video.
Do you have a biggest fashion regret?
What about a favorite fashion memory?
KA: When I was in the fashion business, we were doing a pop-up at Le Bon Marché in Paris, and I was like, Soo, you’ve got to come with us, and we’ll stay out for a few extra days. I was planning on proposing. We were on different flights, and she arrived a few hours before us. We all had this amazing Airbnb—a little cottage in Pigalle with a beautiful courtyard. When we arrived, she wasn’t there. But when she came back, she was wearing this beautiful Margiela coat, with a baguette sticking out of her bag. She’d just been to the market. I remember it so clearly. I proposed a few days later, when we got to the South of France.