Juun.J : Opposites Attract
For Korean-born designer Juun.J, fashion was first and foremost a family affair. With two parents in the industry, his younger years were spent at their atelier, playing with fabrics, mannequins, and textiles. The designer’s love of tailoring and eye for the unexpected has helped him to establish a successful brand around the idea of “street tailoring,” altering traditional constructions by using sportswear and military-inspired techniques. His style embraces a new code of unisex dress that is at once wearable and innovative. One of his signature pieces, the trench coat, has been subject to much experimentation. Throughout his collections, he has deconstructed the conventional silhouette to embody a futuristic nostalgia, calling into play fashion’s perpetual renewal of its own history. His effortlessly refined taste has allowed him to compete at the same level as that of the great Parisian couture houses that he idolized as a child. We can now count Juun.J amongst those canonical designers.
You used to work under the name Lone Custom, was the transition to Juun.J an easy one?
I worked ten years in Korea as Lone Custom, and I changed to Juun.J once I decided to debut in Paris. I made a bold transformation from Lone Custom in Seoul to Juun.J in Paris. I faced the fear and flutter when I prepared for my first show. I was also worried that my pieces would not get nods from the fashion world. It was definitely the hardest time, yet the most exciting and ecstatic.
When did you realize you wanted to be a designer, and how did you fall into the fashion world?
My parents worked in the fashion industry ever since I was a child, so fashion came very naturally to me. It always fascinated me how clothes were created. I always wanted to be a designer and worked diligently to achieve that goal. However, there were no professional fashion education associations in Korea, so I entered art school. After I completed my mandatory military service, I was excited to hear that ESMOD, the famous fashion institute from France, would open in Seoul. I thought it was my destiny to study fashion. Instantly, I quit the art school and entered ESMOD. That was the big turning point.
What was your earliest creative endeavor?
When I just started as a designer, I created a white shirt with knitted sweater sleeves. At that time, it was too extreme and ridiculous, so the sales were bad—perhaps it was too ahead of its time. But, 20 years have passed since, and that shirt (of course, the design itself has become more sophisticated) has become one of the best selling and most popular items in the Juun.J collection.
What was a defining moment in your life or career?
The highlight moment in my career was the first collection I held in Paris. That was my first big step into global fashion. Anything which is called “first” is beautiful and splendid. On June 28th, 2007, I showed my reinterpretation of a perfect trench coat, a familiar item to any Parisian. It might have been reckless to challenge what already was too familiar and too perfect. I reconstructed trench coats with Juun.J’s identity by deconstructing the collar, applying pockets, belt, adding taps details on the pants, and changing it into a cape. What started as a partly thrilling and partly fearsome debut collection, resulted in something fantastic. There was acclaim in the press that Juun.J represented originality through the perfect reconstruction of the trench coat.
Why choose Paris to premiere the first Juun.J line?
Paris is not a city but a universe. Paris is the city that mixes fantasy and reality. Paris has an artistic ambiance, and it has something that other cities don’t. It is the center of the fashion world, people are fashionable, and it is the place where one can compete with the best designers there are.
Things like that inspire me and I enjoy the ambiance. Paris appreciates the designer’s originality and style, encourages the designer’s perspectives, and respects the artist’s creativity. That is Paris.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
The aesthetic of Juun.J combines two different elements. Juun.J is disintegration and assembling, mix and layering, masculine yet feminine, strong yet soft, bold silhouettes but delicate details. It defines futuristic and artistic, but it’s also commercial. These elements come together to make the new look of Juun.J.
Where do you usually find inspiration?
I get inspirations from everyone I meet. I am not just talking about fashionable people, but anyone I meet. What they say, talk about, wear, and show are part of my inspirations. Fashion is for the people, and the inspirations for fashion comes from them. I observe on the streets: fashion leaders, seniors with very old clothes, military personnel. Sometimes their style is much more “cool” than models on the runway. It is very interesting to me that high end design is made from ubiquitous items on the street.
What are you currently working on? Could you give us a sneak peek into next season’s inspirations?
I am working on a collaboration with a global brand for the next collection. It is based on classics and I will show unique designs with Juun.J’s originality. The first showing will be S/S 2015 collection. I cannot tell you much about it, but it surely will be a very dramatic and big project.
In June, I plan to select ten luxury shops such as Barneys NY, L’eclaireur Paris, etc., in ten fashion forward cities and open up global pop up stores. I plan to work more with Josh Luke’s graphics which were shown on the last F/W 2014 collection. In those global pop up stores we are going to sell Juun.J’s iconic items: sweatshirts, T-shirts, and accessories.
My inspirations for S/S 2015 go deeper into the past. However, I want to remind you that the age long past is the most futuristic.
What was the impulse behind the creation of the brand Juun.J?
Any designer would like to stand up in the center of the fashion world to show their collection. When I thought about launching Juun.J, I could have easily settled for the easy, stable business in Korea. But I believed that true competitiveness comes from the global consciousness. Fashion constantly pushes to create something new, and if one does not keep up, it is unimaginable to fall back. Also, I wished to do business under my own name.
How do you balance cutting edge creativity and commercial strategizing?
The most difficult thing is to keep a balance on those issues. Collections have to show authentic beauty and creativeness, but on the other hand, it has to be worn by people. It is really hard to satisfy both, but I try hard to do it. I enjoy it.
You have always played with sportswear and streetwear elements in your more structured designs, working with movement in your “street tailoring.” Was it always your aim to adapt your sartorial skills to modern day men’s lifestyles?
People want to be young and healthy these days and a collection’s concept matches what people want. Sports and streetwear influence high end fashion, and those influences have been reflected in street tailoring. Street tailoring shows what Juun.J is. If Juun.J did not apply classic cutting techniques to street tailoring, it would just be sportswear. I would like to make high- end fashion by mixing sports and street influences with classic.
How did your time in the military influence your designs?
I spent three years in the military. While I was serving, I hated the uniform and it did not interest me at all. After being discharged and while majoring in menswear, I realized that the military uniform is classic and sporty with a street feel to it. I was enthralled by its many different facets. The trench coat, my signature item, also has facets of classic and military. There will always be an element of military in my collections.
You incorporate women’s wear details into some of your pieces. Were you ever tempted to make a women’s line? What are your thoughts on the future of unisex lines?
Having both the masculine and feminine is a part of Juun.J’s aesthetic. I use some women’s wear details and fabrics in my collections to break the border between genders.
I have plans to show women’s wear collections in the near future. Current women’s clothes have gradually become feminized from menswear, and I believe that men’s clothes can evolve from women’s wear. With Juun.J’s deconstruction and reinterpretation, unisex items might become somewhat ubiquitous in the future.
What qualities do you cherish most in Korean culture? What do you think of today’s Korean fashion scene?
[Historically,] the ordinary people in Korea wore white clothes from head to toe: white hat, clothes, and shoes. Foreigners called us ‘the white-clad folk.’ Come to think of it, they must have looked so avant-garde. You might have seen a lot of all white looks in my collection. I love that in ordinary people’s culture and was hugely inspired by it.
There is a big movement towards a global market in today’s Korean fashion. Korean designers are showing their talent; they show well-made collections by interpreting and combining Western fundamentals and Eastern elaborated details. Koreans’ attitude in fashion is very assertive and trendy, as well. They have the chance to experience every global brand in their hometown, and the development of technology and high-speed Internet is playing a huge role in our fashion scene.
Which designers do you most admire?
I admire Helmut Lang the most. He has different concepts for each collection, yet there is a link that connects them all. Through that link, Helmut Lang shows the brand’s consistency. An evolving theme that does not lose the brand’s identity is what I learn from his collections, and what I always want to keep in my heart.
Where is your favorite place on earth?
My home. I do not have any distractions. I can relax and can be lost in deep thinking.
What is your WILD Wish?
I would like to create a ‘Juun.J culture’ that not only shows collections, but represents a fashionable lifestyle.
Model: Kim Won
Hair: Kim Seung Won
Make up: An Sung Hee
Photo assistant: Kim Heejune
Producer: Ryu Kyung Yoon