Korean-born fashion designer Rejina Pyo's eponymous brand is making waves in the ongoing discussion about the intersection between fashion and art. Since the start, Pyo's designs have aligned closely with modern art and architecture, featuring sculptural silhouettes and pops of colour. Following her graduation from Central Saint Martins in 2011, Pyo paid her dues as an assistant designer under Roksanda Ilincic before breaking out on her own. For her first stint as an independent designer, she collaborated with Weekday, a socially conscious brand from the H&M family. Subsequently she worked in curation, bridging the worlds of fashion and art in museums as she went, and putting on a very successful exhibition at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Her collections each season are beautifully executed and show a meticulous attention to detail with an artful twist that isn't brash or overwhelming. In addition to being a trailblazer in the fashion industry, Pyo recently co-authored a cookbook with her husband Jordan Bourke titled Our Korean Kitchen.
Where we can find you
Harvey Nichols UK, Harvey Nichols HK, Browns, rejinapyo.com
How would you describe the ideal Rejina Pyo woman?
Someone who is not afraid of what others think of her - she is intelligent, quietly confident and at the top of her chosen field.
What does AW '16, your most recent collection, show about the growth of the brand?
Every season is different - you learn so much from the previous one that influences how you create the next one. For AW16 I wanted to expand the collection further than the clothes - we collaborated with URiBE for Jewellery and Yuul Yie for shoes. I love working on other products - you learn so much from it and the people that you work with. It has shown as a brand how we have expanded, not only was the collection bigger but our product variety has grown.
What advice do you have for other young designers?
Make sure you have a strong business plan as well as a beautiful collection.
How closely is your brand connected to your hometown Seoul?
A lot of people ask me this question. I think I am privileged coming from Korea and living in the UK as I understand Asian culture as well as European culture. It's so different in terms of the aesthetic, the values, lifestyle etc. I am not aware of the Korean influence when I am designing, but I am sure it's subconsciously in me somewhere affecting my decisions.
Why did you decide to start your brand in London instead of Seoul?
I studied in London and I was living in London, so it was a natural decision.
When and why did you move to London?
I moved to London to go to Saint Martins actually, having always wanted to do the MA with Louise Wilson. Now it's been eight years - I consider London my home!
How would you describe the fashion scene in London compared to Seoul?
In some ways it is similar - but fashion in Korea is very fast-paced and it's more trend driven. It's much more casual than in the UK (you could wear jeans to some weddings) and K-pop celebrity power is huge. There are very diverse people in London so it's interesting that it makes me think of different hair and skin colour and culture when I'm designing.
When did you start becoming interested in modern art and architecture? How do you go about incorporating these interests into your designs?
I have always loved simple abstract shapes and blocks of colour - referencing artists like Ellsworth Kelly and Isamu Noguchi. I think fashion and art share a lot of things - it's something you want to look at, you want to possess and there is often the element of surprise or something unexpected. I love playing with volume and proportion - considering the space between the body and the garment.
In 2012/2013 you created an art exhibition titled Structural Mode, can you explain a bit about this exhibit?
My graduation collection from Central Saint Martins MA won the Han Nefkens Fashion Award and they commissioned me to create a work between art and fashion at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. As I was always interested in art, I wanted to create art pieces but in a familiar form - fashion. It was never meant to be worn; it's not wearable art at all. I wanted it to be artwork but which happen to be shaped in garment form.
Your career kickstarted in 2012 with your Rejina Pyo for Weekday H&M collaboration. Do you have any more collaborations planned for the future?
Yes, behind the scenes, I do a lot of consulting and ghost designing for other brands. I love designing different things. More exciting projects will be coming soon.
In a dream world, who would you collaborate with?
In a dream world, Picasso!
What is something you think people often don't know about Seoul?
There are so many delicious dishes that are not spicy!
What are your top three places to visit in Seoul?
Bukchon Korean traditional house village, Korea Furniture Museum, Yeonnam dong area
What is your favorite modern art gallery in Seoul?
Where are some of the best places to eat Korean food in London?
Actually we are always so disappointed whenever we go to a Korean place in London as it's not very authentic. So recently my husband and I did a pop-up restaurant in London (at Carousel) and people loved it and asked for more. So we are going to do a supper club to offer authentic Korean food in a intimate setting to connect with people.
What's your favourite dish from your cookbook Our Korean Kitchen?
My favourite is sweet potato noodles. The noodles are made out of sweet potatoes so you don't feel bloated afterwards and the subtle flavour of Korean sesame oil and soy sauce is divine!