N: Hi Jisoo, it's a pleasure to have you here for this interview. Let's begin with your journey into fashion. Can you share with us your upbringing, what sparked your interest in fashion, and what led you to study at Central Saint Martins and later at Westminster in London?
J: I have always loved drawing and making things since I was a young girl, so my parents encouraged me to go to art school. I hadn't decided what I wanted to major in, but I happened to see an old documentary about John Galliano on TV, and it was about the process of preparing for his fashion show and his time at Central Saint Martins. So, I became interested in fashion and CSM from then on.
Back in the day, fashion brands from New York and schools like Parsons were more famous in Korea, but I was intrigued by the British fashion style, which is more free and imaginative.
So, I thought I would like to study CSM one day. It was also the era of designers like John Galliano and Lee McQueen, which made me admire CSM even more.
When I finished my BA in Korea and went to Graduate Diploma in Fashion at CSM, I decided to change my major to menswear and prepare for my MA. On the recommendation of my tutor, I applied to the Westminster MA Menswear, which was just young enough to have its first graduation show at the time. I liked the curriculum because there's only a menswear course, so you could learn about menswear intensively, and it was very practical.
N: We'd love to learn more about your latest SS23 collection. Can you walk us through the creative process and the months leading up to its completion? How do you feel about the collection now that it's out in the world?
J: When putting together a collection, I tend to dedicate a significant amount of time to research and design, while allocating a shorter period for toile, sampling, and production. Typically, the entire process takes approximately 3 months, from the initial design phase to the final photoshoot.
To generate ideas and designs, I extensively explore various sources such as vintage sites, street photography from the 1980s and 1990s, historical garments from museums, traditional costumes, and more. Using this inspiration, I create samples through the process of patterning and toiling. After that, I refine the final pattern by making necessary adjustments to the details. Simultaneously, I make decisions regarding the colors and fabrics that resonate most with my artistic vision.
In this collection, I aimed to incorporate a sporty vibe and experiment with bold colors and materials. Personally, I believe this collection strongly reflects my unique identity.
N: Recently, we've observed a renaissance in the presence of Korean culture in the West, ranging from K-pop to cuisine. Even in fashion, "Korean streetwear" has emerged as a distinct category, characterised by minimalism and intriguing silhouettes. How does your Korean heritage influence your design aesthetics? Do you see your work fitting within the Korean streetwear category in any way?
J: Although my designs differ from the prevailing minimalist and techwear styles commonly seen in Korea, I consider my own aesthetic to be elegant and nostalgic, featuring interesting details. Nonetheless, I find inspiration in the streets, which inevitably exposes me to Korean culture, suggesting a subtle influence on my work.
While my designs may deviate from the current Korean fashion trends, I believe that embracing a diverse range of influences allows for a unique and personal creative expression. My inclination towards elegance and nostalgia, combined with the inspiration I draw from the streets, ultimately contributes to a distinctive style that sets my designs apart.
N: Your graduate collection, "Passport," caught our attention with its unique approach to mix and matching, contrasting styles, and fabric combinations. This playful attitude towards proportion and fabric choice seems to continue in your recent collections. Tell me a bit more about this design approach.
J: When I was preparing my portfolio for CSM, I was captivated by the art of mix and match diverse colors, fabrics, and items.
This inclination persisted throughout my studies at CSM and Westminster. I find this aspect particularly fascinating in fashion: the ability to merge disparate and seemingly unrelated elements to generate something captivating.
Moreover, during the first year of my MA, I had the opportunity to intern at Kiko Kostadinov, which caters to both menswear and womenswear. Those 6 months proved to be invaluable, as I absorbed a great deal from their distinctive style. I believe that experience had a profound influence on me in some way.
N: Since graduating with your MA from Westminster University and launching your brand as an independent designer, what's one invaluable lesson you've learned in navigating the fashion industry?
J: Find a balance with the public without compromising your identity. To guarantee the long-term success of your brand, it is crucial to preserve its distinct identity while also making your designs more approachable and less overly experimental or obscure to the general public.
All images courtesy of Jisoo Lee