It’s no secret that London’s Savile Row is the pinnacle of a very long and British tradition of men’s tailoring. It was there, while studying menswear at the esteemed Central Saint Martins, that Jinwoo Choi and YeonJoo Kim hatched the idea to create their own brand incorporating traditional tailoring techniques inspired by Savile Row and translating them for women. Founded in April 2012, J KOO has since won plaudits for their unique womenswear looks that combine both classic and contemporary influences.
In 2015, J KOO was awarded Emerging Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of Korea, while their Spring/Summer 2016 collection was selected by Sara Maino and exhibited at Vogue Talent Italy. That same year, the brand was also an International Woolmark Prize Womenswear finalist.
Today, the different aesthetics of both designers continue to inform the unique J KOO style, which includes tailored feminism and street culture. Ahead of their showcase at the 10 Asian Designers To Watch exhibition taking place this month in Shanghai, read on to find out more about what advice Choi and Kim have for their teenage selves, what they prioritise when choosing music, and their perception of the inextricable bond between fashion and sound.
Q: Why fashion? What made you want to be a designer?
Becoming a fashion designer is a kind of instinctive decision. My parents have always been interested in art, especially my mother, who loves fashion. She would often buy fabric and make clothing by and for herself. My mother influenced me a lot to be a fashion designer.
Q: If your teenage self could see you now as a fashion designer, what would he think?
Well, I think he may be happy and understand what I am doing, because my enthusiasm for fashion arose at a very young age.
Q: In fashion, a muse not only serves as an inspiration for designers but also urges them to continue creating. Who is your muse, and how does he/she continues to drive your ambition?
We do not have a particular muse—we could get inspiration from people around us like friends, or even strangers we see on the street.
Q: From menswear to womenswear, how would you describe the transition and journey?
It was challenging in the beginning because womenswear was not familiar for us as a business. But we found that we could take the aesthetics of menswear and translate that for women. So that gradually became our brand identity.
Q: Name a song that suits your aesthetic and style. Explain your choice.
Starry Night by Peggy Gou. This song makes me happy, which is a priority for me when selecting music. It feels like the song takes inspiration from old Korean music and translates that sound for an international audience.
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?
Music and fashion are like skin and bone—they can not exist separately. Both sound and visuals play an important role in influencing each other.
Q: Total silence when you design, yes or no? Why?
Yes and no. It depends on my daily mood.
Q: If your designs could sing, speak, call out to you or make any sort of sound, what would you be hearing and why?
They would just tell me to‘do it better’. This is how I feel every day that I’m in the studio.
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: Jinwoo Choi and YeonJoo Kim / JKOO