-What are the roots of your passion?
Hyeyeon Jang : When I was young I was always into art. Before my foundation year, I was deciding between fine art and fashion. I wasn’t sure back then if fashion was the right thing for me. I used to go to Seoul Fashion Week, and take fashion snaps of people. After doing this for a few years, I decided to go into fashion. This was where I learned how people express themselves through fashion. So I would say I started fashion from taking photos.
-What does your outfit every day depend on? Is it affected by the weather, colours that catch your eye?
Hyeyeon Jang : I do think my outfit depends on the weather but I tend to wear the wrong thing to the weather. I usually start with one item that I want to wear that day, then I dress accordingly to that item.
-What period fashion do you like and why do you like it.
Hyeyeon Jang : I don’t have a period, but I was inspired by Alexander Mcqueen’s work. The shows he organizes is not just about clothes. It is about storytelling. I remember one of the models standing and a machine painted her outfit. It was about how he was against fast fashion. He was against fashion becoming industrial, and it needs a bit more art.
He was one of the first designers to challenge presentation of fashion so my favourite period would be when Alexander Mcqueen was actively producing these collections.
-What is your main source of inspiration? (Art, social media, childhood memories)
Hyeyeon Jang : If you look at my projects, I get my inspiration from art pieces like paintings or sculptures. Its harder to understand from my sketchbook because my projects are very personal to me. I put a lot of personal emotion and experience into it.
My first-year project is about defining “Emptiness”. When I was in the foundation, I was very busy, but when my BA started it was much slower. I wanted to express the emptiness I felt during this period. When a person feels empty, there are different ways to fill it, like drinking, or meeting people. So my project was about the emotional emptiness and how people fill those gaps. It’s hard to tell from my sketchbook what I am looking at because the themes I work with are so personal to me.
-From your Instagram, I see that a lot of your work relates to the body. The body is very important in fashion, but is there a specific reason?
Hyeyeon Jang : I am inspired by Iris Van Herpen. I love to watch her interviews. In one of them, she says feminity is very fluid to her. She believes that feminity is so fluid and that it can be created through different body types and clothes. My course lets me do menswear and womenswear. I try to experiment with menswear because it’s a path that I wasn’t very experienced in.
I love going to museums. In the British Museum, there is a lot of beautiful sculptures that were once considered beautiful but today, it might not be seen in the same way. it’s so black and white how we see bodies. Like I have clothes that look good on me and some clothes look better on a different body type. If you use that as an advantage, you can make beautiful fluid clothing. Which is why I try to design for different body shapes.
In a part of my “Emptiness” project, we had to go to different museums for inspiration. I chose to go to the British Museum. In there almost all the artefacts aren’t from the UK. Most of the sculptures, that I liked had missing arms or broken faces. Looking at that I felt the same “Emptiness” because these artefacts weren’t in their countries and were missing a part of themselves. Also knocking on a sculpture makes a hollow sound. I worked with my friend in Chelsea who studies Fine arts, to plaster caste her chest. I wanted to use this as a part of a garment but I’m still developing it.
-When you express yourself in fashion, do you have your philosophy?
(For example, incorporate something from your race, wear something sustainable, of express your emotional status)
Hyeyeon Jang : I do think my fashion relates to my emotional status a lot. It reflects how I feel or felt back then. My work especially is related to personal emotions too. On the other hand, I want to try connecting to my South Korean culture. Culture is such a big thing in Asia especially. Many people make clothes from their culture. I think it becomes repetitive so I just want to take a different approach, but I haven’t found a way I could take it in my work.
-What power do you think fashion has?
Hyeyeon Jing : There is a tendency to think that Fashion is about the image but if you look into what the person research and get inspiration from, it blows your mind. An item of clothing can contain so much knowledge and passion.
That’s why I do fashion, It’s really sad because my friends in Korea don’t study fashion so they can’t understand what I am doing. My parents love and support me but they aren’t art people. It’s not just about how cool and edgy something looks. It‘s about how much passion, or the time the designer put into. It could come from anything so I think that’s why fashion is so powerful.
-You are studying Fashion design development (FDD). It is a unique subject that prepares you for the industry. Could you talk about your course and how it is different from studying fashion ‘traditionally’?
Hyeyeon Jang : To be honest, when I applied, it wasn’t my first choice. Originally it was a commercial or business-centred program. The new head tutor is trying to make some changes.
In my course, you can do menswear and women’s wear. There are different jobs in the industry, you can be willing to work in fast fashion or big labels like Balenciaga. He understands that we can learn from any place and anyone. My class has twenty students and some students design more commercially while some design more avant-garde. It is an interesting course which the tutors listen to you. They are willing to see what our interests take us, they don’t push their style which is important.
-How do you feel your ‘race’ is represented in the fashion world?
Hyeyeon Jang : With the emergence of K-pop, more people are interested in Korean Fashion. Which I think is amazing but I feel k-pop is similar to a factory. It is great publicity, a lot of Korean designers are getting attention Ader Error, Gentle monster, Flat apartment, there is so many.
I didn’t think I was the type of person to be proud of my culture but it makes me happy. The reason why I chose to study here is that I felt Korea was too commercial. I see these brands stepping away from the commercial side. It gives me hope and it gives other Asians hope that they can start their brand and sell their beliefs and it would work.
Studying heavily is such a part of the culture as well. Usually, for young designers, it would be good designs bad executions. But for these Korean designers, there is a very good technique and innovative ideas. Which makes it so exciting.
-How do you feel that your identity plays a role in making art? Do you feel that it occasionally limits you?
Hyeyeon Jang : I think both. I can operate my projects in my work because I put in so much emotion. But I don’t have much confidence in how I look or my work. I feel that I don’t have much value so I push myself to work hard. I tend to stop in the middle of my work and worry what if it doesn’t look good. I think my personality limits how I feel about my work.
In Korea, we have a saying that we try to be same as everybody else. As soon as you graduate University we compete to be different to get a job or do business. Modesty is very important in Korea. I think that contributes to some extent to this.
-Due to the pandemic, the way fashion is presented is very different. What are ways you continue to make original work?
Hyeyeon Jang : I think a big part of how I produce work is because I have Gavin. We both are very passionate about our goals. We both want to be successful in this industry with our own beliefs. We get a lot of motivation from each other. My project in LCF and his project at CSM, we call those project ‘ours’. We very much feed off each other and keep producing.
-How do you communicate your views on climate change and politics through fashion? and how do you maintain your originality through that?
Hyeyeon Jang : I don’t start it until I genuinely feel like it. Unless I am confident about it and know about it.
-With quarantine and staying at home, many find it harder to be creative. What are ways you get inspiration?
Hyeyeon Jang : Exhibitions, I also think social media is such a big thing, small vintage brands sell items on Instagram. They have followers that can connect with other followers. So social media is a great base to get inspiration. Fashion designers and exhibitions are finding new ways to sell their tickets. Social media is a great place if you use it wisely.
There is this account where they post old paintings every week. It’s like an exhibition. 2000archive is a UAL graduate. They were in Vogue Korea as well. They started by selling vintage then they started selling their items through collaborating. It is motivating to see young designers who are struggling like us but producing collections.
-When are moments that you discover your identity? When is the time you feel that you break out of your own identity?
Hyeyeon Jang : I don’t think I discovered my own identity.
I believe that one person doesn’t have one identity, It makes people interesting. Like a fashion designer can have very different collections. Your identity and beliefs can change. I think my identity and beliefs are constantly changing.
-With the pandemic, do you think ‘collaboration’ between artists/designers has changed?
Hyeyeon Jang : Designers who use technology in their work get more collaboration. Everything is on the internet now. I think it hasn’t changed that much. Even before that designers and artists are aware that social media play a big role in presenting their work. So the attitude has not changed but people who are skilled in technology would find it easier.
I noticed you really enjoy galleries and exhibitions. Would you want your work to be exhibited in an exhibition format as well?
Yes, I think it would bring a new perspective on how fashion can be presented. My favourite avant-garde designer, Iris Van Herpen, she doesn’t sell and she earns from her exhibitions around the world. Her clothes are unsellable and she does couture as well. Most of her income comes through exhibitions. I heard her exhibitions are amazing and I would love to go to one.
I think after fashion shows, fashion exhibitions would be a new way of presenting your work. It’s easier to manage social distancing in exhibitions than a fashion show. Also, it can bring a new perspective to people who don’t study fashion. With that, more people can appreciate fashion in the same way art is appreciated. We would love our work to be exhibited in that format. Iris Van Herpen and Channel use special design effectively which is very important. Rick Owen designs his shops as well.
In an exhibition setting, you feel forced to engage with the work.
-Currently, fashion is experiencing a big transition. As a fashion student in this era, what are your next steps?
Hyeyeon Jang : TakiSustainability became more important. I wasn’t very interested in sustainability at first, but making fabric in with different materials was always my interest. Now that more people are looking into more sustainable alternatives like dyeing fabrics, the information is easily accessible on social media as well.
-What is your advice to someone who is trying to step out of their comfort zone in fashion, to test their limits and take action?
Hyeyeon Jang : Taking one step is better than doing nothing. For me it’s been very hard, My biggest steps were during foundation. The most important thing is that you can’t be pushed by someone else. You have to take that step because you genuinely think that, and believe that something would come out if you take that step. Sometimes when you take a step you might have unexpected outcomes but its all about the experience. So don’t be sad it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid that it might not work. It’s better than doing nothing.
text Maya Lee
Hyeyeon Jing is a second year student at London College of Fashion, Fashion Design and Development (FDD).