Korean-born designer HYEIN SEO has reached a level of recognition rare for someone who is not yet out of fashion school. A student at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, her latest collection has recently won her the British Fashion Council’s Emerging Talent Award for Best Designer, in addition to being shown at New York Fashion Week as part of VFILES Made Fashion. It’s even become a favorite of Rihanna’s.
London-based photographer NICOLE MARIA WINKLER, whose clients include Hussein Chalayan and Vivienne Westwood, shot the young designer’s moody looks on a cloudy day at Staten Island’s South Beach. Our interview with Hyein Seo, as well as a fashion film and editorial shot by Winkler debut here.
032c: Your most recent collection was inspired by horror films. What’s your favorite scary movie?
HYEIN SEO: I was particularly inspired by Dario Argento’s Suspiria. The atmosphere was creepy but in a very slick way. I loved the colors and lights.
I also watched a lot of classic clips like the Disney Silly Symphonies from the 30s.
How does humor factor into your designs?
When I was researching the collection I started to get into ‘Danse Macabre,’ which is about finding humor in fear. I made lots of drawings from my own imagination. I’d imagine things like a horror movie heroine dancing with a ghost to hip-hop music instead of old Camille Saint-Saëns’ music. My goal for this collection was to make the horror girl contemporary by using humor. I can’t work unless I enjoy what I’m doing, and incorporating humor was a way to do that.
Is it important for you to work outside of South Korea? Has your work been appreciated in Asia to the same extent as it has in the West?
I still don’t know where I’d like to settle, but I want to stay longer in Europe just because it’s more peaceful here. It’s impossible to guess what certain groups of people will get out of my collection though. Actually, 80% of the orders have come from Asia so far.
You’ve gotten a lot of attention with the last collection, particularly after Rihanna wore some of your pieces. How do you deal with hype, especially considering that you’re still a student? Is there a pressure to start producing?
Nobody can pull it off like Rihanna did at the MTV Movie Awards. Because of the hype and requests on the last collection, I had to spare some time to organize production immediately. I don’t really feel any pressure for producing them, but I feel the pressure for creating the next collection.
Do you see yourself as being a part of your brand identity, or would you like the clothes to speak for themselves? Can the two can be separated?
I’m doing my best to get introduced to the public but I’m not very keen on designers becoming superstars. I want my artworks to live and clothes to speak for themselves. All the rest should seem effortlessly done.
Images of your pieces have popped up all over the internet, often uncredited. As a young designer, how do you feel about your work going uncredited on such a large scale?
We are now living in the time where people communicate by sharing images, so you can’t really blame them for posting images without giving credits. It’s almost like listening to the radio without knowing the name of the song. What I really don’t like is copycats making pure knock-offs.
What are your plans for your final collection at Antwerp’s Royal Academy?
My MA collection will be about expressing the twisted beauty of high school students. I want to show their immature and imperfect world. It’s going to be a mix of street style with uniform suit bases. Additionally, decorating with luxurious jewels and feminine clothes which seem like they are taken from their mothers’ closets. I want to try and create a new type of archetypal woman through the collection.
Styling CATHERINE NEWELL-HANSON@HOME AGENCY
Video GEMMA YIN TAYLOR