Much like sound, beauty belongs to no gender in particular, at least, not until people ascribe gender to these abstract concepts. That is the belief that underpins the work of Seoul-based designers KyuYong Shin and JiSun Park, who launched BLINDNESS with a vision to upend traditional male and female wardrobes. A LVMH Prize semi-finalist and Woolmark Prize finalist, the brand showcases experimental genderless collections, presenting elements with social messages that question the border between menswear and womenswear. BLINDNESS challenges gender stereotypes and sees fashion as a medium to express cultural and social ideas.
Celebrated for their ethos on annihilating gender and touching on avant-garde culture through their designs, BLINDNESS has become a darling with magazines such as i-D, Vogue, DAZED and HYPEBEAST—it’s easy to see why, with the young brand exhibiting no qualms when it comes to experimenting with emblazoned slogans like “Blind Gender Roles” and “F*ck Gender”, deconstructed garments, pearls and fishnets.
Beyond gender, BLINDNESS also understands well the power of music in exploring and questioning dichotomies—citing Daft Punk as a major sonic inspiration, the designer duo often alternates between powerful and intense tunes with soft and dreamy melodies to break any norms surrounding the way we perceive music.
Ahead of their showcase at the 10 Asian Designers To Watch exhibition taking place in Shanghai, read on to find out more about the unlikely sounds that inspire Shin and Park, how their best work comes from the push and pull of partnership, and what their brand would sound like as a mythical creature.
Q: Why fashion? What made you want to be a designer?
Fashion is in sort of a popular art category. It is an art that can be enjoyed close to life, can express character, and is easy to access. I felt attractive because it was not just a part of commerce , but a field to create and share art. Music is a similar art like that, but unfortunately, I didn't have musical talent, so I couldn't try the musical field.
Q: If your teenage self could see you now as a fashion designer, what would he/she think?
I would tell myself to think more boldly! Don't worry too much and do it first. I know there are more things to consider than now, but just do it!
Q: Sometimes, inspiration strikes in the most unlikely place/time. Please share your experience of finding inspiration for your designs.
The sound of fallen leaves stepping on the ground on the walk, layers of fallen leaves overlapping several layers, and color. Sometimes I take inspiration from the nature of the park, such as the leaves, wind blowing in the park. I like to reorganize by substituting elements of nature into clothes.
Q: Genderless fashion is the core of BLINDNESS. Why is this important to you, and how do you aim to change the fashion scene in Korea?
There are gender distinctions and stereotypes of gender roles in front of the personal nature. BLINDNESS presents a type of genderless fashion because it wants to freely express the nature of human beings without gender boundaries.
Even in beauty, gender stereotypes are socially created. Our genderless designs for BLINDNESS aim to create fashion that can create beauty regardless of gender.
Q: Your designs often feature pearls, worn by men and women – what is the special meaning behind the choice of pearls?
Depending on the times, unlike in the past, pearls in the present era are almost exclusively for women. Not only pearls, but colorful jewellery, precious metals, and accessories.
In particular, pearls are a material that show femininity, elegance and beauty. Through BLINDNESS, we showed that anyone can use pearls without gender boundaries.
Pearls therefore become a motif to visualise genderlessness.
Q: On working together – how do you complement each other in terms of strengths and skills?
Two personalities couldn't always have the same opinion. We usually come up with different ideas, and take a long time to discuss and develop them.
When the voices of two people become a harmony rather than one voice they
can make better results in the process of developing and criticizing ideas with each other.
Q: Music is a large part of the runway experience. How does sound/music influence the way you view fashion?
The sound in the collection is so important, it can drive the overall mood.
Since the same clothes also feel differently depending on the atmosphere of the sound, the music used in the runway needs to empower the mood of the collection.
In the process of preparing the collection, I often listen to music in a slow, dreamy, and comfortable mood. I need a relaxing atmosphere where I can work comfortably and can freely create.
In the collection, the atmosphere is enhanced by matching powerful and intense music, and soft and dreamy music according to the mood of the season.
Q: From the punk-inspired revolution of Vivienne Westwood to the Indie-rock androgyny of Hedi Slimane, the world of fashion is filled with music references. Why do you think that is?
As I said before, the mood of music has a lot of power. What makes the same clothes feel different is the environment and atmosphere of seeing them. Also, there are many fashions that are expressed by being inspired by music. So I think the music and fashion world shows that the interaction between the hearing and the visual takes place actively.
Q: What is your all-time favourite track that inspires you?
Daft Punk’s Get Lucky.
Daft Punk's music is great, and I’m inspired by the way they try new things like videos, graphics, and stage design.
Their music demonstrates their style well—firm, and at the same time, fresh. That is the essence of an artist.
Q: Total silence when you design, yes or no? Why?
I like white noise. When design work is blocked or progress needs to be made in a different way, it is helpful to refresh the ideas by switching the mood using music. But silence is necessary when meditating. I organize my ideas and meditate in silence at the end of the day.
Q: If your designs could sing, speak, call out to you or make any sort of sound, what would you be hearing and why?
Wouldn't it be similar to the sound made by sirens (creatures in Greek mythology that dazzle sailors with singing)? It would be a soft, strong sound that neither gender can understand. I hope my designs makes a sound that is beautiful and attracts people's attention.
Held in collaboration between KEF and Lane Crawford, the 10 Asian Designers To Watch exhibition will be held in Shanghai from March 31 to April 11 in an effort to spotlight the most promising young talents in fashion across Asia. Highlighting the role of sound and music both to inspire and bolster the power of fashion, the KEF Experience Zone will allow attendees to engage with the latest cutting-edge audio technology to transport the mind within the headspace of the designers. Find out more online here.
Cover Image: KyuYong Shin and JiSun Park / BLINDNESS