Ximon Lee Wins H&M Design Award: See the Collection and Read an Interview with the Designer

Ximon Lee SS14 collection lookbook image photographed by Shirley Yu

On Tuesday morning, H&M announced the winner of its Design Award — a menswear designer for the first time — Ximon Lee. The award comes with a roughly $56,000 prize, mentorship, and the opportunity for Lee’s pieces to be sold at H&M stores later next month.

Get a preview of his award winning collection photographed by Quentin De Wispelaere here:

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In June of 2014, Lee was also the recipient of the Parsons Menswear Award for his collection. At the time of the award, we ran an interview with the designer which you can read below.

This interview by Vince Patti originally appeared on BlackBook in June, 2014.

Last Wednesday was the Parsons senior fashion show, a much-anticipated event for anyone watching emerging talent, and fashion tiger moms alike. This year the seniors showed at a new venue, in the new Parsons Building on the corner of 13th and 5th, feeling highly curated and very homogenous. But among the forest of men’s streetwear, one designer stood out: his name is Ximon Lee. He hails from a small town on the border between Manchuria and Siberia. We sat down with him during one of his few free moments to talk about designing for retail, Post-Soviet Russian style, and melting trash bags.

I wanted to start right off the bat by asking you about Dover Street. Can you tell me about your relationship with them and how that started?

I did this competition earlier, as a part of the IT Group, which is pretty much the biggest fashion retailer in Asia. I won the prize… and I developed this capsule collection for them. The IT market in Beijing is pretty much the luxury market. It’s pretty much between a conceptual collection and something wearable and marketable, something people can wear on a daily basis.

Is that gonna be for pre-fall?

The production, according to them, is August, and the collection will be launched in December. It should be in the store for next spring. They said globally, but I’m not sure which physical store. The main store in the center of Beijing would be great. It’s good exposure in the Asian market.

So would you say you’ve drawn influence from other designers in that store? Say, Rei Kawakubo.

So, IT brought us to the store as part of the competition. We got into all different brands, not just Comme des Garçons. But our generation is influenced by all of them–Raf Simons, Phoebe Philo–all their designs and philosophies. Personally I wasn’t a big fan of Comme des Garçons already, but I think what they’re doing is really pushing the boundaries of fashion.

Of course. I think also practically or in a business sense she’s doing something very interesting. So, your thesis: the title was “Children of Leningradsky”. Can you elaborate on that?

I was born in a very small town on the border between China and Russia. It’s like suburbia. I keep remembering from childhood the people who crossed the borders and trade. There are interesting trades that happen there, like bubblegum or Chinese white wine for a Russian fur coat. To them, it was nothing, but they would like to get a pack of bubblegum. So that’s really interesting–my mom had a collection of fur coats. It’s lonely, everything’s gray. It’s all really influenced by Soviet architecture. The buildings just look like blocks, very geometric. We moved from there. My life is all about traveling because my parents traveled a lot. I had a hard time making friends in school since I pretty much transferred every year. It got to a point where I got sick of meeting people because I knew I’d just be leaving at the end of the year.

So, do you think that loneliness played a part?

Yeah, it definitely played a part. I think that’s when design comes, in high school. I pretty much put myself in a bubble. I wasn’t really into schoolwork cause every school my mom sent me to was a different education. My mom had a strange way of educating: “You should go to an American school in the country so you can get an international education.” And you’d get a completely traditional education; it’s a Chinese-owned school. So it’s very different. And every city has different dialects. So design became something that distracted me. I don’t really know what I designed back then. It’s all visual things; I clashed things on my homework book, a lot of architecture too. What I was touched by in the documentary [“Children of Leningradsky”], going back to that, was how the kids were constantly moving. They’re pretty much abandoned and there’s no home for them after the collapse of the Soviet. I actually cried after watching it because the architecture looked so similar, and the style. I don’t want to say that, because I hate to romanticize something that is quite sad for them, but I think it’s romantic, especially when the boy is holding a heart. I think he found toys as love and was proposing to the girl, but they were super young and didn’t know what it really meant. It’s very emotional, and I think they know more than me. Some of the words that come out of their mouths, they really know what they’re doing.

When I heard the title I immediately thought of Gosha Rubchinskiy, the menswear designer from Moscow. I was curious, because his stuff is nothing like yours. It’s funny how you guys approach similar thematic topics but in very different ways. 

When I started the collection, I had never heard of Gosha. I started looking at random architects and photos of children from the Soviet time. I had a collage book when I was at Central Saint Martin’s; I did all the research in London. At one point I went to Russia to look at things and do research. A photographer friend of mine, Masha, did a preview photo shoot of my mockups. She showed me all of Gosha’s work, and I was stunned. His aesthetic is about the culture, and he still approached people who are very anti-fashion and let them wear his stuff. All the imagery is very attractive to me. I put it on my inspiration board. I want to meet him and see how our two different perspectives would come together.

Let’s move on to more aesthetic stuff: the associations that I made right off the bat were Margiela and Comme des. Were you thinking structurally about the history of either of those houses, or alternatively, someone avant-garde, when you were doing the collection?

The collection really came out of nowhere. There’s reference to architecture and the drapes of homeless people sleeping on the street, the silhouettes of material draping over their bodies and the sandwich board walking sign on their body. That’s a starting point. What they’re wearing is a matter of survival. So I didn’t draft a pattern from zero. Instead, I went to the Salvation Army and got a bunch of old man XXXL sweatshirts. All the patterns are based on those deconstructed garments. Margiela is almost the legend of deconstruction, but for me I wasn’t looking at designers but rather something quite ordinary–oversized sweaters manipulated into different sizes.

I noticed at the show I saw that the menswear was very oriented towards sportswear like basketball uniforms and casual clothes. Would you say you see yourself in opposition to that movement in menswear right now? How has that affected you?

Yeah, I see all my peers doing something quite on-trend. I feel like this is really my last collection in my fashion education so I want to push this concept and not think about marketability and wearability. If you look at any piece and simplify it a little, it could be very wearable. A plastic can be developed into a special vinyl; you could easily have a tanktop with a really cool drawstring. In New York, students are more concerned about marketability. The year I spent at Central Saint Martin’s was very different because I could go crazy and experiment with silhouettes.

Could you tell me more about the materials you used for your thesis? I heard you had all of those developed.

All of the original fabrics are really cheap. The entire collection is very cheap. I saved a lot of my budget by doing something homeless. A lot of the denim is from Indian fabric stores in the denim district. No one walks into those stores because of the tacky bling-bling window displays, but in the back they have really cool denim. I bought a bunch of different denims and started thinking about how they could work with different materials. So I ended up bonding them into different types of thickness to fit different looks. Besides the denim, and the bonding material, which is the glue and the sponge between them, I also used trash bags. I spent pretty much three months melting trash bags with different heats and ways of steaming to make them presentable. I also used a lot of bleaching on textiles, not traditional bleaching. I actually dipped a brush in the bleach and then painted on top of the denim so you can see a perfect gradient. That was fun. I realized it could be developed into something with a lot of visual impact. The beginning of the collection was black denim, white denim, some copper trims and panels–all very cold. That defeated the purpose because it was more about the children than their dream of seeing the ocean and the sky. That’s why I started bleaching more pastel blue colors.

Do you have any background in painting?

I studied painting before, but nothing like that.

It seems like Parsons really curated the show well towards a certain aesthetic. How would you say they’ve influenced you, or you’ve influenced the way they’re moving the aesthetic?

I think it’s very interesting and different from the last few years. A couple years ago, the show was at Chelsea Piers and the runway was very long, so the model would come out but you couldn’t see them all standing together. This year there’s three sections, and each segment you realize it’s a very colorful collection, and in the middle it’s black, white, and neutral, and the end is more conceptual, something new. What they’re trying to show is a variety of works. It’s quite impressive because a lot of choices are not what they used to be. It’s more experimental.

They went out and picked a lot of kids who are doing different stuff from the New York aesthetic they were pushing before. So it’s cool they picked someone like you, who embodied that new mentality of deconstruction. It’s funny; even Calvin Klein has gone from doing super clean minimalism to a more deconstructed aesthetic in the women’s spring ’14 collection. Do you think that’s up and coming, like it’s going to have another renaissance?

I had this question for a long time: how can you produce something new? All human beings want something new. You want to get excited, but I feel like everything in fashion is just circulating. Calvin Klein had been doing this really well in the past decade. All clean cut, black and white. It’s good to have in your closet, but they realized the market was shrinking and people want to buy more colorful stuff and wear it, there’s more young generations becoming a big group of spending in fashion. But I think they’ll go back to what they were doing, because it’s all a cycle.

Do you see yourself in that cycle?

I get sick of things really easily. When I look at my collection now, I just feel like I need something new and could have done it better. I think every brand and every person has to have a core to keep. I still feel like my stuff is amateur. There might be something very me, but I’m looking for something to focus on, so I’ll concentrate on that.

For most people this happens for a really long time. What are your plans now that you’re graduating?

I’m not sure, actually. I’m taking a break in the past three days. It’s a luxury. For now I need to finish this capsule collection for IT. After finishing this collection I think I’m going to participate in some of their store events in July. Simon Collins, the dean, is actually going to judge the second competition in Beijing. It should be a great chance to meet people. There’s a store in Berlin that wanted to purchase pieces. There’s a show director in China who wants to introduce me to a director at GQ so we can have a presentation in London Men’s Fashion Week. I feel like it’s not there yet. I want to produce cool works, and when it’s time I want to show it, but I feel like I need some time to keep in touch with them and see how it goes.

If you were to get an offer from any menswear house, what would be the one that you would be most excited about?

I would die to work with Phoebe Philo. Celine’s always been my dream, but they don’t have menswear. I wouldn’t mind. Everything’s so perfect; the cut, the pattern. It’s just beautiful. And Balenciaga. The silhouettes go with them, and I want to see what they’re moving to now. Their menswear collection is quite small, so if I worked with them I’d have a chance to learn.

If you were to start your own line, would you want to be recognized as a New York designer or a Chinese designer?

I got my education here and all my friends are based here, and everything is produced here, so I like this connotation. My background cannot be changed, but if I establish something in the future, I’d love to base it here. Everything is so active, and quite exciting for new designers. After this collection I feel in love with denim, so I’d love to focus on that. The denimwear market is really boring. We need something more exciting, and denim is very American.

Parsons Menswear Award Designer Ximon Lee Talks Homeless Kids, Rei Kawakubo + Denim

Last Wednesday was the Parsons senior fashion show, a much-anticipated event for anyone watching emerging talent, and fashion tiger moms alike. This year the seniors showed at a new venue, in the new Parsons Building on the corner of 13th and 5th, feeling highly curated and very homogenous. But among the forest of men’s streetwear, one designer stood out: his name is Ximon Lee. He hails from a small town on the border between Manchuria and Siberia. We sat down with him during one of his few free moments to talk about designing for retail, Post-Soviet Russian style, and melting trash bags.

I wanted to start right off the bat by asking you about Dover Street. Can you tell me about your relationship with them and how that started?
I did this competition earlier, as a part of the IT Group, which is pretty much the biggest fashion retailer in Asia. I won the prize… and I developed this capsule collection for them. The IT market in Beijing is pretty much the luxury market. It’s pretty much between a conceptual collection and something wearable and marketable, something people can wear on a daily basis.

Is that gonna be for pre-fall?
The production, according to them, is August, and the collection will be launched in December. It should be in the store for next spring. They said globally, but I’m not sure which physical store. The main store in the center of Beijing would be great. It’s good exposure in the Asian market.

So would you say you’ve drawn influence from other designers in that store? Say, Rei Kawakubo.
So, IT brought us to the store as part of the competition. We got into all different brands, not just Comme des Garçons. But our generation is influenced by all of them–Raf Simons, Phoebe Philo–all their designs and philosophies. Personally I wasn’t a big fan of Comme des Garçons already, but I think what they’re doing is really pushing the boundaries of fashion.

Of course. I think also practically or in a business sense she’s doing something very interesting. So, your thesis: the title was “Children of Leningradsky”. Can you elaborate on that?
I was born in a very small town on the border between China and Russia. It’s like suburbia. I keep remembering from childhood the people who crossed the borders and trade. There are interesting trades that happen there, like bubblegum or Chinese white wine for a Russian fur coat. To them, it was nothing, but they would like to get a pack of bubblegum. So that’s really interesting–my mom had a collection of fur coats. It’s lonely, everything’s gray. It’s all really influenced by Soviet architecture. The buildings just look like blocks, very geometric. We moved from there. My life is all about traveling because my parents traveled a lot. I had a hard time making friends in school since I pretty much transferred every year. It got to a point where I got sick of meeting people because I knew I’d just be leaving at the end of the year.

So, do you think that loneliness played a part?
Yeah, it definitely played a part. I think that’s when design comes, in high school. I pretty much put myself in a bubble. I wasn’t really into schoolwork cause every school my mom sent me to was a different education. My mom had a strange way of educating: “You should go to an American school in the country so you can get an international education.” And you’d get a completely traditional education; it’s a Chinese-owned school. So it’s very different. And every city has different dialects. So design became something that distracted me. I don’t really know what I designed back then. It’s all visual things; I clashed things on my homework book, a lot of architecture too. What I was touched by in the documentary [“Children of Leningradsky”], going back to that, was how the kids were constantly moving. They’re pretty much abandoned and there’s no home for them after the collapse of the Soviet. I actually cried after watching it because the architecture looked so similar, and the style. I don’t want to say that, because I hate to romanticize something that is quite sad for them, but I think it’s romantic, especially when the boy is holding a heart. I think he found toys as love and was proposing to the girl, but they were super young and didn’t know what it really meant. It’s very emotional, and I think they know more than me. Some of the words that come out of their mouths, they really know what they’re doing.

When I heard the title I immediately thought of Gosha Rubchinskiy, the menswear designer from Moscow. I was curious, because his stuff is nothing like yours. It’s funny how you guys approach similar thematic topics but in very different ways.
When I started the collection, I had never heard of Gosha. I started looking at random architects and photos of children from the Soviet time. I had a collage book when I was at Central Saint Martin’s; I did all the research in London. At one point I went to Russia to look at things and do research. A photographer friend of mine, Masha, did a preview photo shoot of my mockups. She showed me all of Gosha’s work, and I was stunned. His aesthetic is about the culture, and he still approached people who are very anti-fashion and let them wear his stuff. All the imagery is very attractive to me. I put it on my inspiration board. I want to meet him and see how our two different perspectives would come together.

Let’s move on to more aesthetic stuff: the associations that I made right off the bat were Margiela and Comme des. Were you thinking structurally about the history of either of those houses, or alternatively, someone avant-garde, when you were doing the collection?
The collection really came out of nowhere. There’s reference to architecture and the drapes of homeless people sleeping on the street, the silhouettes of material draping over their bodies and the sandwich board walking sign on their body. That’s a starting point. What they’re wearing is a matter of survival. So I didn’t draft a pattern from zero. Instead, I went to the Salvation Army and got a bunch of old man XXXL sweatshirts. All the patterns are based on those deconstructed garments. Margiela is almost the legend of deconstruction, but for me I wasn’t looking at designers but rather something quite ordinary–oversized sweaters manipulated into different sizes.

I noticed at the show I saw that the menswear was very oriented towards sportswear like basketball uniforms and casual clothes. Would you say you see yourself in opposition to that movement in menswear right now? How has that affected you?
Yeah, I see all my peers doing something quite on-trend. I feel like this is really my last collection in my fashion education so I want to push this concept and not think about marketability and wearability. If you look at any piece and simplify it a little, it could be very wearable. A plastic can be developed into a special vinyl; you could easily have a tanktop with a really cool drawstring. In New York, students are more concerned about marketability. The year I spent at Central Saint Martin’s was very different because I could go crazy and experiment with silhouettes.

Could you tell me more about the materials you used for your thesis? I heard you had all of those developed.
All of the original fabrics are really cheap. The entire collection is very cheap. I saved a lot of my budget by doing something homeless. A lot of the denim is from Indian fabric stores in the denim district. No one walks into those stores because of the tacky bling-bling window displays, but in the back they have really cool denim. I bought a bunch of different denims and started thinking about how they could work with different materials. So I ended up bonding them into different types of thickness to fit different looks. Besides the denim, and the bonding material, which is the glue and the sponge between them, I also used trash bags. I spent pretty much three months melting trash bags with different heats and ways of steaming to make them presentable. I also used a lot of bleaching on textiles, not traditional bleaching. I actually dipped a brush in the bleach and then painted on top of the denim so you can see a perfect gradient. That was fun. I realized it could be developed into something with a lot of visual impact. The beginning of the collection was black denim, white denim, some copper trims and panels–all very cold. That defeated the purpose because it was more about the children than their dream of seeing the ocean and the sky. That’s why I started bleaching more pastel blue colors.

Do you have any background in painting?
I studied painting before, but nothing like that.

It seems like Parsons really curated the show well towards a certain aesthetic. How would you say they’ve influenced you, or you’ve influenced the way they’re moving the aesthetic?
I think it’s very interesting and different from the last few years. A couple years ago, the show was at Chelsea Piers and the runway was very long, so the model would come out but you couldn’t see them all standing together. This year there’s three sections, and each segment you realize it’s a very colorful collection, and in the middle it’s black, white, and neutral, and the end is more conceptual, something new. What they’re trying to show is a variety of works. It’s quite impressive because a lot of choices are not what they used to be. It’s more experimental.

They went out and picked a lot of kids who are doing different stuff from the New York aesthetic they were pushing before. So it’s cool they picked someone like you, who embodied that new mentality of deconstruction. It’s funny; even Calvin Klein has gone from doing super clean minimalism to a more deconstructed aesthetic in the women’s spring ’14 collection. Do you think that’s up and coming, like it’s going to have another renaissance?
I had this question for a long time: how can you produce something new? All human beings want something new. You want to get excited, but I feel like everything in fashion is just circulating. Calvin Klein had been doing this really well in the past decade. All clean cut, black and white. It’s good to have in your closet, but they realized the market was shrinking and people want to buy more colorful stuff and wear it, there’s more young generations becoming a big group of spending in fashion. But I think they’ll go back to what they were doing, because it’s all a cycle.

Do you see yourself in that cycle?
I get sick of things really easily. When I look at my collection now, I just feel like I need something new and could have done it better. I think every brand and every person has to have a core to keep. I still feel like my stuff is amateur. There might be something very me, but I’m looking for something to focus on, so I’ll concentrate on that.

For most people this happens for a really long time. What are your plans now that you’re graduating?
I’m not sure, actually. I’m taking a break in the past three days. It’s a luxury. For now I need to finish this capsule collection for IT. After finishing this collection I think I’m going to participate in some of their store events in July. Simon Collins, the dean, is actually going to judge the second competition in Beijing. It should be a great chance to meet people. There’s a store in Berlin that wanted to purchase pieces. There’s a show director in China who wants to introduce me to a director at GQ so we can have a presentation in London Men’s Fashion Week. I feel like it’s not there yet. I want to produce cool works, and when it’s time I want to show it, but I feel like I need some time to keep in touch with them and see how it goes.

If you were to get an offer from any menswear house, what would be the one that you would be most excited about?
I would die to work with Phoebe Philo. Celine’s always been my dream, but they don’t have menswear. I wouldn’t mind. Everything’s so perfect; the cut, the pattern. It’s just beautiful. And Balenciaga. The silhouettes go with them, and I want to see what they’re moving to now. Their menswear collection is quite small, so if I worked with them I’d have a chance to learn.

If you were to start your own line, would you want to be recognized as a New York designer or a Chinese designer?
I got my education here and all my friends are based here, and everything is produced here, so I like this connotation. My background cannot be changed, but if I establish something in the future, I’d love to base it here. Everything is so active, and quite exciting for new designers. After this collection I feel in love with denim, so I’d love to focus on that. The denimwear market is really boring. We need something more exciting, and denim is very American.

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Photography from Ximon Lee’s lookbook by Shirley Yu

Second Season, Twice As Good: Emerging Designer Chris Gelinas Is Back

There’s nothing better than seeing someone you believe in transcend seamlessly from a beautiful first collection to an even more impressive place as Chris Gelinas has for fall 2014. Gelinas has grown even from that first time we checked in, continuing a quest to seek out unusual methods and materials, materials that aren’t normally seen but manage an elegance — think spacer fabrics or those used underneath German car seats — and making us wonder why no one else had thought to use them prior.

There’s a sensibility to his clothes. The collection holds so much meaning, but when it comes down to it, it’s truly functional, wearable, beautiful, and flattering. You’d think a voluminous sweatshirt-like top might cause the wearer to appear oversized, but a thoughtfully cinched waist with a built-in belt does wonders to show off a woman’s figure.

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For fall, Chris Gelinas turned to the Space Race of the 1950s and ’60s, the idea of weightlessness. The influence is seen on the materials used, even the foiling of the shoes, which also carry another meaning:

In his own words, “The shoes are reminiscent of bronzed baby shoes. This collection is really about time. Everything is so frantic and rushed these days, I think that there’s nothing more beautiful than giving someone a moment of your time. We have so many rituals that try to capture these moments and these memories, and a lot of this, going back to weightlessness, is the beauty of a moment in time, and the beauty of appreciating this moment.”

So the reference to the Space Race? “This is nostalgia, but it’s forward,” says Gelinas.  “The comfort of nostalgia with the pressure to progress and move forward.”

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Watch BlackBook’s film on Emerging Designer Chris Gelinas here.

 

Catching Up with Emerging Designer Karolyn Pho

When we met with Karolyn Pho this past October she had only just shown her first collection designed in New York and now, not even four months later, she’s preparing to present her debut collection at New York Fashion Week. Despite the usual chaos associated with Fashion Week, Pho is calm, cool and collected.  The obvious dissemination of this confidence into her clothing is probably what we love most about the eponymous label.

We stopped by to catch a quick glimpse of her mood board and discuss her inspirations, her design process and her plans for the future.

What’s changed since we talked in October? I am going to guess a lot.

A lot has changed since then. Spring/Summer was my first collection in New York. So that transition from LA to New York really affected that collection. This new collection is me being more comfortable here and having received a lot of feedback from this community, really trying to add it in and be mindful of it. Which helped me grow a lot as a designer and as a person in general. This whole transition phase has been a great leaning experience. And now I am here and I can’t believe it.

On the fashion calendar!

If you told me this a couple months ago I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s absolutely surreal.  I feel blessed and so thankful.

That must have been quite a change going from first collection in New York to showing at Fashion Week?

It’s so surreal. From last season, where I was just getting my feet wet and receiving feedback, to this.  And taking all of that feedback and infusing it in this collection but still keeping my concepts and aesthetics. That was the main evolution.  I took the community’s response and really tried to focus it and push it toward the collection. If the editors and buyers can see their notes from the last collection and compare them to the new collection and be happy, then I am stoked, because that’s exactly what I was trying to do. And that’s out of respect. Yes, you should have your own voice but at the same time you need to respect your community. These are the people supporting you.

How did that cross-country move from L.A. to New York affect your collection?

If anything it gave me more confidence in the collection. I was doing something similar in L.A. and I just don’t think the community there was as receptive to it. When I brought it to New York people were really feeling it. When the community says, yes, we’re into it, that’s everything, especially when you’re in New York. It really validated for me that I am doing what I should be doing.  New York really pushed me to my limit, pushed me to my edge. And I think New York does that for everyone, in whatever occupation. There’s a really fun energy here.

KPho FW14 Inspo board

What was your inspiration for this collection?

Well here’s my mood board (see above.) The way my mind works is kind of like a Venn diagram. I have two circles overlapping with two different ideas and whatever meets in the middle is what I take as the backbone for the collection. The left side is darker while the right is lighter with much more vibrant colors. These are clippings that I’ve gathered over the past couple of months and none of it really made sense until I printed it all out, laid them out and saw what my mind was trying to get to. And it all plays well together.

I am calling this collection “Self-Preservation”, as in the idea of protecting oneself for the purpose of moving forward; that ability to move to another life if you will, to whatever your heaven or your afterlife is. My collections always have some sort of religious undertone. I take a general interest in it. I don’t really know yet what I believe except that I believe in a higher power and all my collections have this feeling of what is purgatory, what is afterlife? My last collection was called “Unknown”.

Do you have any daily routines?

My daily routine is that I don’t have a daily routine. I don’t know what you call it because it’s not ADD or OCD. But like I have to be working on at least five different projects. And I like that. I don’t have to feel like I have to do any one of them right now because creatively I can’t force myself to do something it just comes. I just let it go when it happens, when I am feeling in. And that sounds super hippie-dippie but I don’t know how else to explain it.  My routine is that I have no routine.

What about if you’re in a creative rut?

I go for a really long walk and this is going to sound insane but I play the same song over and over. I walk seven miles listening to the same song and I don’t know what it is but the monotony of it all gets me thinking, Walking helps, music always helps. Movies sometimes too, I am by no means a cinefile but I do appreciate a really cinematic film.

Does your background styling for film still affect your design process?

I can’t say that what I was doing then is so much different than what I am doing now when I’m conceptualizing. You’re trying to tell a story and create a character and show how that character lives in the story.

If you had to pick a film for this collection, what type of film would it be? Who are the characters?

I can’t help but think of that movie I Am Love with Tilda Swinton. It’s the characters, the time, the movement, the space, the pace and the music in the film.

Favorite piece from the collection so far?

I can’t pick a favorite. Okay, that’s a lie I do have a favorite. It’s this rabbit fur tank top. It’s really the look in general. I am pairing it with a pair of slouchy, baggy tuxedo pants and it’s so formal but so andro and so masculine. I love that. I don’t think there’s a sexier, harder look.

We loved your exploration of textiles in your last collection. Has that carried into this collection as well?

I love experimenting with textiles. Every collection that I do has a similar silhouette. That keeps the consistency in the brand. Where I have room to play is in the color, fabrications and textures and I am really heavy on that. I love finding weird quirky things and adding it as trim, just a little touch of this and little touch of that. Everyone wants to wear something that they are comfortable in but at the same time they still want to be different and unique and those little touches really help with that.

Did you have a goal for this collection?

Industry approval sounds bad. But from the last collection I got so much feedback from the community that I really tried to keep that in mind and push that into the new collection and make it stronger and build it. That was my main goal. The concept is always there but as a designer I am still growing and that feedback helps so much.

What is the biggest different between this collection and collections past? 

I think silhouettes. There are certain silhouettes that I think are beautiful and conceptual but from a market standpoint maybe you can’t sell it. So I still have my conceptual pieces and I get to show them but they’re not the backbone of the collection rather they strengthen it and are building blocks for it. I feel where I’ve grown the most is in creating tangible relatable pieces that have the concept and idea but are so much easier to wear. I really played with different materials and different color ways. That was my main goal, making it more tangible to the people.

Do you have any advice for young artists?

Be true to yourself. This is so lame but I was drinking tea this morning and the tag on the tea said “know that you are the truth” and I was like wow, this is the perfect day to have this little tea bag. And I think what I want to say to young designers is you’re the truth. You are your voice and you are your concept.  Stay strong to that. Don’t waver. At the end of the day it’s you, and it’s your name and it’s your brand.

Do you have a strategy going into Fashion Week?

I am a control freak so I’ve always had a game plan but to be honest this time, I don’t. I’ve done as much as I can. And everyone I am working with is so on top of it and that helps so much. I am not worried, I am nervous but I am not worried. It’s all there.

What do you hope comes from this experience?

It sounds terrible but this whole act is totally selfish. This collection is for me. I obviously want people to enjoy it and there’s sales and yada yada yada but really at the end of the day I just want to see a beautiful show and I want to know that I can do it. It’s so rewarding even just to see the collection done and then presenting it is, I am lost for words. I may cry! I don’t know.

I can understand crying.

Yeah, there are heavy emotions. But I have to be honest after it’s all done, the designing that is, I immediately detach myself from it. Because when I start working with a stylist for instance who’s saying do this, do that, I can’t get my feelings hurt. And especially with a collection being shown on a runway, other people have opinions, and once it goes to sales buyers have opinions. And that’s something I have to be okay with listening to on the business side. I have to be receptive without getting defensive.

How do you do that?

I start thinking about the next collection. It’s like a bad break up. You just have to move on to something else and not think about. That way it doesn’t hurt so badly.

When we talked in October you described the girl who you imagined wearing your collection, is she the same girl for this collection or different? 

It’s always going to be the same girl and the same silhouettes. I don’t want to veer too far from off from that. That’s the consistency in the brand. I want people to be able to come and find that certain something. However, the colors and fabrications will be forever changing.

What’s that certain thing?

I want them to shop Karolyn Pho when they want something that will make them feel confident, comfortable, professional, classic and elegant on a day-to-day basis.  You should dress how you feel!

What are your future plans for your line?

I just want to continue doing what I love. And I want to be able show again next season!

Watch our film on Karolyn Pho here.

Emerging Designers: Chris Gelinas

With an actively gentle yet realistically shielding touch, newcomer Chris Gelinas brings the beautiful clothes of our impending future to New York fashion, in material, construction, and in respect to the elements. There’s thoughtfulness to CG’s designs, a consideration of our environment, the impact we’ve had on our nature and how exactly it’s being paid forward back to us. Considering the dual warmth and warping the sun provides, Chris Gelinas imbues his wearer with a strengthened grace; she’s a sweet girl with a realistically wary outlook, self-protective without getting lost behind her shield. In fact, it’s the shield helps her stand out more.

With industry approval at his back (Gelinas has garnered recognition both from Peroni as the winner of the MADE for Peroni Young Designer Award and now as a finalist for the LVMH Prize), his hands searching through the most innovative materials, and his feet planted firmly on the ground, Gelinas promises to take CG far. We can’t wait to wear his pieces and watch his brand grow.

Emerging Designers: Abigail Daphne Lewis

Considering that she’s only just graduated from the Parson’s MFA program, Abigail Daphne Lewis displays an impressive depth – a talent one would consider to be a sign of experience and time. But maybe it’s the simple headspace that a school program offers that has allowed Lewis to delve into the complexities she has with her graduate collection.

The thickest-ply cashmeres and couture-level glass medical tubing-cum bead work are beautiful as they catch the light and envelope the body. How the clothes interact with their environment and the context in which the pieces are worn is something Lewis considered. The feel of the clothes was important as well. But beneath the beautiful tailoring, sculptural layering, and painstaking beading lie troves of thoughts on gender conventions and domesticity (a reclaimed smock or apron), Jungian concepts (Jung’s enantidromia is clear in the delicate glasswork that acquires strength in its repetition), and the importance of intellect. Her clothes, as her website says, are “for women who think.”

 In an earlier interview Abigail tells me:

“The woman I design for is deeply complex and embodies an array of contradictions. I am interested in her life and opinions apart from fashion. She uses style to draw people inward, but her mind quickly overpowers physical beauty. She is at peace with the strength required of fragility.”

In other words: the clothes offer protection, comfort, and vestments in which to live your life, but she’ll let you speak for yourself.

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Photography courtesy of Abigail Daphne Lewis, in collaboration with Paul Jung.

Watch Emerging Designer Karolyn Pho. 

Emerging Designers: Karolyn Pho

Since designing her label’s first collection in 2012, Karolyn Pho’s clothes have already appeared in stores across the world – Satine in California, West LA in Dubai, Beaute in Japan, Melange in Kuwait, and Raised by Wolves in New York, among others.

Pho’s clothes do an easy aesthetic bounce between New York and Los Angeles. Though she’s California born and bred, her silhouette recalls a slightly more structured culture, though by no means uptight. Her girl is a youthful, fun, determined sophisticate on the rise – just like the designer herself – and her carefully chosen colors – nude, red, black, white – make an easy wardrobe. It’s minimalism with a punch.

Femininity still reigns, without ever faltering toward girly. She doesn’t take herself too seriously – just consider the “Boobie” tee. Smart additions like latex cardigans that employ trompe l’oeil are formed specially to appear 3-D, swinging skirts, and perforated summer blazers take the work out of dressing appropriately and interestingly for anything– she can go anywhere without a costume change.

Pho has thought her customer out fully – it makes sense, given her background as a fashion stylist and wardrobe designer for film. She knows the whole story, and she’s telling it through her collections.

Karolyn Pho wears her own designs in the film above.