DESIGN PROCESS INTERVIEW BY ROXANNE OULLET-BERNIER
There is this odd thing about the language of nature,
this unpredictability in seemingly geometrical motifs.
Yet, JuHee Park catches their essence with exact
calculations, rendering biodiversity in transcendent
In the back of this Paris-rented room, JuHee flips through her sketchbook, sharing in a quiet, yet passionate voice, her extensive process. What brought her to pursue fashion education, she explains, was a certain sense of frustration that she felt throughout her adolescence in her native South Korea. She felt like there were certain social expectations that were put onto women, which often led to very specific roles in families. “Because of these expectations, I dug more about how I could be free from society and family values in women’s roles.”—She specifies.
This desire of emancipation steered JuHee into researching figures of underground mouvements and avant-garde, which eventually brought her to discover both Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. This led her to realise that there was a large diversity of roles that she could take in the world, besides the ones that felt predetermined. While listening to their story, she felt a greater sense of connection, which stirred her interest for fashion.
JuHee began her fashion education at the Kookje Fashion Design Occupational Training College, in Seoul, where she completed her undergraduate diploma. Driven by the idea of continuing her studies in London, a city that harbored many of her most revered fashion figures and artists, she found work in a fashion trading company that specialized in knitwear, where she began saving money. After four years, she finally enrolled in the Fashion Graduate Diploma at Central Saint-Martins.
In London, she immersed herself in this entirely new scene, where punks and avant-gardes met. She came to describe the city as grotesque— far from a pejorative term in her eyes, but what came to be a constant source of inspiration. Her graduate collection, Women in Fur, is a compelling convergence of both the influence of this new environment, and her desire to defend women’s condition. Inspired by Luncheon in Fur, by Méret Oppenheim, she challenges sexual objectification by discerning erotiscm from sexism. When the piece was released in 1936, it created a general uneasiness, where it was debated that the cup was vaginal, the spoon phallic and the hair pubic, while others reeled by the idea of having fur on their tongues. To recreate the sense of discomfort that brought the Oppenheim artwork, JuHee created surrealist pieces, where fur and dinner plates are draped into the garments, to create intricate shapes, volume and relief. Some of her pieces feature elements of circular knitting, where she explored the idea of a bird nest, encompassing the women in fur that become metaphorical birds.
For her master’s degree, JuHee decided on leaving her cherished London, joining l’Institut Français de la Mode in their Knitwear Design program. This move allowed her to immerse herself in Paris’s relationship to savoir-faire, and their immeasurable pride towards their artists and fashion creators. If she left the punks and the grotesque behind, they still act as an important inspiration in her designs.
“Eventually I have to work on something wearable and practical. I like to inspire myself from all the sources from London, and then I make it from here.”
While JuHee had started delving into knitwear when she was at Central Saint-Martins, she expresses that the course she chose in Paris was quite the radical change. From now on, every fabric must be made from scratch, mostly through machine knitting. For her, this is a way to actually live fashion, to experience it at every stage of creating. This organicity in the process led her to make links to nature—another constant source of inspiration for JuHee.
Her first project at IFM, inspired by the idea of a wandering dandelion, refers to her own wanders since leaving South Korea. It also acts as a metaphor between the hairy seeds of the plants, which are forced to leave the flower head, just like humans who are born to eventually set sail. The look features a loosely knitted off-white dress, on which JuHee has attached black mono film yarn, that if one looks too rapidly, they could mistake it for human hair. The yarn hangs in long treads from the sleeves, while in the back, it forms a linear motif, all of which is creating the illusion of motion or, in this case, displacement. Then, in the front, she uses artificial hair winded around circular shapes and laser cuttings, forming an intricate organic motif that shows glimpses of the body underneath.
Her second master’s project, assigned by IFM, gave her the opportunity to design for the renowned Alexander McQueen fashion house. The theme was around biodiversity and sustainability, which JuHee is already strongly familiar with. She was inspired by the concept of metaphormosis, or the concept of an almost grotesque one, in conjunction with the McQueen 2018 Plato’s Atlantis collection.
“I like the idea that in the evening nature is not really a peaceful thing. There can be grotesque scenes.”
She started her research around the idea of the pupa, and how it eventually unfolds to reveal the butterfly. These remains left by its previous state form intricate pleats, which JuHee connected to the idea of origami. This led her to create paper toile, which she assembled to discover potential shapes for her
From these toiles, JuHee explains her knitting process. At IFM, they are taught an essential program, called Stoll, in which they can, with very precise calculations, create their fabric samples. Used to designing with her emotions, the machine forced her to rethink her process, where her usual intuitiveness had to take a pragmatic shape. In her sketchbook, she laid pictures of the computer renderings from the program, which to an outsider, looks like an incredibly mysterious code, left to decipher. JuHee describes it as an almost medical process. “The machine is really bitchy. When I make one single mistake, it doesn’t work at all. Such drama! Sometimes it takes much longer than knitting by hand.”
JuHee worked hours on creating these origami shapes on the knitting machine, which she then assembled together. Her final garment transcends this surreal organicity in a beautiful symmetry, one that is often only found in the haphazard work of nature. The elaborate shapes are generated with a partial knitting technique, where a single black line will come out as wavy. On the yellow background, these lines created the butterfly motif, while the knitted origami pieces formed the intricate three-dimensionality.
In retrospect to her fashion education, JuHee expresses that, the more she studies, the more she realises that there is a multitude of stories that she would like to tell in her fashion trajectory. In Paris, she felt like her visions aligned with others, which eventually brought her to love the city and the prospect of creating there. If displacing herself created challenges, she expressed that it brought a necessary tension. “It’s all about tension where, just like in knitwear, if you lose the tension, you lose everything.”
Images: JuHee Park and Guillaume Roujas
Originally published in LIGNES DE FUITE VOL.3