KANGHYUK was founded in 2017 by Kanghyuk Choi and Sanglak Shon, two South Korean designers who learned their trade at the Royal College of Art in London. The brand went on to receive a nomination for this year’s LVMH prize and create installations at the legendary Los Angeles boutique H.lorenzo, the Comme des Garçons Trading Museum in Paris, and Dover Street Market in London – and earned a cult following along the way.
Their sixth collection features clothing made from recycled car airbags. Although the silhouettes are classic, the unusual material and sewing techniques wouldn’t look out of place on a spaceship: technical stamping and white stitching on playfully deconstructed protective layering and padding. Like the early astronauts they evoke, these garments seem at once DIY and futuristic, somehow both ephemeral and sturdy.
Last month the duo released the SRS Sole Fury for Reebok’s Advanced Concepts line. Each sneaker was fitted with three layers of airbag material, haphazardly hand-stitched, resulting in a unique pattern for each cloudlike shoe. I spoke with Kanghyuk Choi and Sanglak Shon about artificial worlds, Seoul versus London, and sustainable design.
JOAN LEE: You recently sculpted a humanoid from bolts and scrap metal at the CDG Trading Museum. What interests you about robots?
KANGHYUK: Our design process focuses on using materials in their purest form, while looking at prevalent tastes in mass production. We are mainly interested in man-made materials and like to use them to project an artificial world.
The installations we did at H.lorenzo, Trading Museum Paris and Dover Street Market London are a series of artificial creatures. For example, at Trading Museum Comme des Garçons, we created hundreds of roses using airbag materials and two robot dogs made out of metal parts from sewing machines and door mechanisms.
How have the differences between Seoul and London emerged in your work? In what ways does each city speak to you?
We both studied at the Royal College of Art in London. The London energy, its cultural diversity and flexibility helped us to build design ideas more freely and know who we are.
Seoul is very industrial and familiar. Our background helped us to build general business assets and to focus on handling things such as finance, production, and business management. You can easily find very handy and crafty people all around the city, and all processes are done ASAP. This helps when running a fashion business.
The world is changing rapidly – climate change, urbanization, and political conflict are major issues today. How does this translate into your designs?
We always think about these matters. We consider the beauty of artificial fabrics. For our roses, we sourced unused airbags from different parts of the world, then manually extracted the oxygen metal chambers. From there we picked the fabric apart by hand and tried to use the original patterns of the fabric as they were, utilizing a computerized process to jigsaw the pieces together. It was a kind of recycling process.
- TEXT AND INTERVIEWJOAN LEE