The buzzy London designer on collaboration, cooking and sticking to what you love.
Designer Rejina Pyo, who cut her teeth at Roksanda prior to launching her own line, has crafted the kind of label that speaks to today’s fashion attitude: individual, intelligently minimal and experimental. The spring/summer collection is full of compelling details: subdued ruffles, mismatched buttons and unusual textiles – think silver fringe and hole-y denim. Here's what Pyo had to say about her brand, branching out into shoes and how to stand out as a young label.
You previously worked at Roksanda, how did that shape you as a designer? Could you have imagined starting your label straight out of school instead of working for other houses first?
"When I was a kid, my mum used to make lots of my clothes at home and I used to drape the fabrics around me like an Haute Couture dress. She studied fashion when she was young and she used to hide her sketch books from me, she didn't want me to go into fashion. But I always found them somehow and practiced. When I was teenager, I was fascinated by the value that a brand can hold and always wanted to create something of my own. After finishing my MA at Central Saint Martins, one of my tutors, Julie Verhoeven, introduced me to Roksanda because she thought we shared a similar aesthetic and I became her first designer. It was great to see how a studio-based label works as I used to work in a big corporation in Korea before moving to London. It was there that I learned about flattering shapes on a woman¹s body and the business side of it as well. I still consult for other companies now."
Tell me about the spring collection.
"A refined yet carefree elegance lies at the core of Spring 2017. I wanted to celebrate the modern woman – strong, independent and living entirely in the moment. I explored fresh proportions by studying the space between the body and garment. The collection also extends to footwear and eyewear in collaboration with Korean brands, Yuul Yie and Projekt Produkt."
I'm a huge fan of the shoes! How did the design develop? Is this a category you'd like to explore more?
"Thank you! I love collaborations – we are a very small team so it's great to work with other people who have a special knowledge in that particular area. I was looking for a shoe brand to collaborate with and found Yuul Yie, who are based in Korea. I realized that they worked with a friend of mine, so it just happened very naturally. When I was designing the shoes, because we are using the hardware in an unusual place Yuul Yie were so helpful with their knowledge. They have received a huge reaction which we are both happy with."
How do you stand out and get noticed as a young label?
"These days, because of the internet, we are surrounded by thousands of brands and products every day. So as a designer, you can't really cater to everyone. I think it's best is stick to what you really love and are passionate about and people who like similar things will follow. When I design something that I want to wear, people really respond to it."
Do you think your aesthetic speaks to the overall mood of fashion today? Do you feel like you're tapping into what the new, savvy fashion consumer wants to wear?
"I am thrilled when people say, 'this is my favourite coat, I wear it all the time' and they treasure my pieces regardless of the season and trend. My customers are intelligent women, they know what they want and what suits them and are not wearing something for the sake of the brand. They love a high quality product that you can't get everywhere. We don¹t have a stockist in Canada yet but I see that some Canadian customers are already shopping at our e-store. I¹d say they are pretty savvy fashion consumers!"
What's next for you?
"Last season we had a very intimate drinks and launch event in New York rather than doing an official presentation at London Fashion Week. It was a very spontaneous decision and could not have happened without Kate Foley and Maryam Nassir Zadeh who hosted the event together. It was very private with a lot of chats and laughs; a magical evening rather than a formal presentation. I loved meeting Leandra Medine from Man Repeller and editors from New York. The reaction was great and we've picked up more than 20 new stocklists this season. I would love to expand on accessories, adding bags to complete the range! And lots more exciting collaborations to come! On a personal level, I'm having a baby so that¹s the most exciting thing! My husband Jordan Bourke is a chef and we wrote a Korean cook book together called Our Korean Kitchen and hosted a #CookForSyria charity supper club. I would like to do more things outside of the fashion world as well."