Suzy Yun is a girl’s girl designer. Her pieces are understated, easy to wear and heavy on the sass. Think Grace Jones meets Joni Mitchell. There’s some serious attitude in her signature elephant jumper, made famous by Alexander McQueen’s muse Leila Moss, of British rock band The Duke’s Spirit, who romps across stages rocking its heavy shoulders and daring short skirt. We sat down with Yun at Silverlake’s Flore Vegan for some healthy nosh, giggles and, of course, fashion talk.
When did you first get interested in fashion? I got into art and drawing then fell in love with the female form. Especially how fabric hangs on it, changes the shape and how it makes a woman feel. It was kind of always there. My mom bought my first sewing machine when I was 13 and I just started playing with stuff.
When did you design your first piece? I was playing around with this fabric and when I was younger I was into really slutty clothes. I wanted to show as much as possible. I wrapped this thing around and made the hottest bathing suit. Then one just like it was in a Tone Loc video.
The Duke Spirit’s Leila Moss, Alexander McQueen’s crown muse, has rocked your Elephant jumper on stages across America and Europe. The first time I saw them perform, I was just totally mesmerized by her. My boyfriend was in the band too and I knew I should be watching him but I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She just has this energy and strength and everything that embodies what I want Unhee to be. She really inspired me a lot. I saw that and gave her the jumper. I was really shy about it.
Who would you pick, dead or alive, to design a stage costume for? Tina Turner and the Ikettes in ‘71. They always had the talent, but this was before they had the budget. I’d hook it up. Or Grace Jones because she’d go there with you and beyond. She’d wear anything and wear the shit out of it. She’d do it proper. Debbie Harry even. People who are willing to go there and take risks.
Describe your SS2010 collection. As a kid I always thought Al from Quantum Leap was such a flashy dresser, but watching it now I realize he was wearing what people thought future clothes would look like and they are so dated. I like the idea of how we’re always trying to predict what people in the future are going to wear but it’s not anything that anybody would ever wear. I think dated future clothes are funny like Pigs in Space.
If you could bottle up your current inspirations what would you cork? Sounds included. Sticking a woman in a bottle sounds terribly masochist but I’m into bad-ass women now. Growing up I’ve always been pretty small and fairly quiet. I always thought I had to be so tough. I was into the toughest, the strongest and I always equated that with male characters. Just recently I’ve started questioning that. I wondered why I’ve been ignoring women. And now I’m so into strong women. We can be hard and soft at the same time. It’s really unique to women and makes us dynamic.
Who are designers that challenge you? I know everyone says Alexander McQueen but God it’s always like, ‘Fuck really?’ It really humbles you. I think Martin Margiela is always on the forefront. He starts trends five years before they even become trends. And my favorite designer is Alber Elbaz. What he does with fabrics, like silk, is what I think silk was meant to do. His work is absolutely amazing, always classic but with a twist.
What would you do in the fashion world if you weren’t afraid? If I wasn’t afraid I would make more things that nobody would wear. I would have more of a sense of humor in fashion. Fashion can be funny. I think I worry about what things are going to look like or if people are going to get it. But if I wasn’t afraid I wouldn’t care if they didn’t get it. I don’t want to be the kooky wacky person who wears a plastic crocodile on their shoulders. Not that I think that’s funny, but you get it. I’d add humor to my fashion more and forget about the rest.
Photo: Charlie Chipman