Seoul, South Korea-born, Soonil Kwon studied art for two years in Seoul and then traveled quite a bit before coming to the United States in 2008 to pursue his studies in design. His original focus was automotive design, but he eventually found his way to Parsons. He was nominated for the prestigious Kering x Parsons' Empowering Imagination prize, as well as for the coveted Designer of the Year prize, which has been awarded to Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, and Cushnie et Ochs, among others, in the past. We caught up with the young designer to talk about what he has been doing since graduation, his brand, the plight of the young designer, and more ...
The Fashion Law - You graduated from Parsons not too long ago. What have you been doing since then?
Soonil Kwon - I graduated from Parsons in May, 2013. I’ve continued to expand my horizon by traveling overseas and spending most of my time creating my new collection. Aside of the collection, there have been many things going on since the graduation, both good and bad. One of the most memorable things that happened last year, however, was that I adopted a new dog, Bruce.
The Fashion Law - What was the Kering x Parsons competition like?
Soonil Kwon - As one of the finalists in that competition, I had to present my collection in front of 6 people who were key people in fashion industry: that includes Dirk Standen (Style.com), Laurent Claquin (Head of Kering Americas), Dennis Freedman (Barneys) and Simon Collins (the Dean at Parsons). The presentation was unexpectedly pleasing as I didn't have to explain in every detail. They are predominantly accomplished individuals; they don't need a lot of talking.
The Fashion Law - You worked at Marchesa while you were attending Parsons. What have you taken away from that experience?
Soonil Kwon - I really learned so many things from interning at Marchesa. I got to experience all of the little details of what fashion designers actually do in a company. I learned how they select their inspiration and collection pieces. I saw how the clothes were made from rough sketches all the way to the finished pieces. Their whole process is more in-depth than the procedure we take as students. So, it gave me a new perspective about the fashion industry and it helped me to prepare to be a more professional designer.
The Fashion Law - What do you think is the most difficult part about being a young/new brand in the fashion industry?
Soonil Kwon - Opening doors as a new brand in the fashion industry isn't be easy as the competition is really keen. The most difficult thing seems to be establishing brand recognition and outshining among other entrants.
The Fashion Law - What do you think is something that most young designers don't understand about fashion or working in fashion?
Soonil Kwon - Not identifying what skills you are lacking, what you are good at, or what the audiences want, that results in generating second-rate, characterless pieces. I think being constantly preoccupied with the thoughts of yourself and your brand is something you should try to avoid as a young designer. This is something that has been challenging.
The Fashion Law - What established designers do you especially admire?
Soonil Kwon - Christophe Lemaire, Phoebe Philo, Riccardo Tisci, Miuccia Prada, Proenza Schouler and many more. I like creative directors/designers who are persistent but at the same time, open to innovation. I admire Thomas Maier’s quality and Dsquared2’s wittiness. I am open to all the designers who have their own style and exploring different designers’ specialties inspires me.
The Fashion Law - What is the Soonil Kwon woman like?
Soonil Kwon - My woman is someone who is naturally chic and edgy. She has an effortlessly elegance. Also, she is fun and spontaneous. She is confident, and even has a hint of arrogance, maybe.
The Fashion Law - Is that your dream? To have your own brand?
Soonil Kwon - Yes, my dream job in fashion is to launch my own brand. Furthermore, I’d really like to lead a top fashion house, where I can challenge myself with a classic luxury brand that might have different aesthetics than my own and create new looks within their boundaries to attract a new generation of young customers.
The Fashion Law - What has surprised you the most about the fashion industry so far?
Soonil Kwon - That you get paid so little for how much talent is required. I was surprised that there really are some good people in the industry, despite a lot of the assholes you have to deal with!
The Fashion Law - What are you obsessed with right now?
Soonil Kwon - Since I have Bruce, my dog, I am obsessed with him. Also, I am very interested right now in researching high quality leathers and fabrics. This is one of the reasons I am planning to travel to Paris, in addition to going to see the accessories designer (Oki-Projects), who I have collaborated with recently.