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Exclusive interview with womenswear designer Goen J


Goen Jong’s eponymous label is one of the most popular brands to come out of South Korea and we can certainly see why. We caught up with the designer to find out more about her feminine designs and what inspires her

Sufiyeh Hadian-Clarke
Sufiyeh Hadian-Clarke,

After receiving a degree in fashion design from the prestigious Studio Berçot fashion school in Paris, Goen Jong returned to Korea to launch her eponymous label in 2012, based on the experience she had gained during her seven years in the French capital. She originally studied lingerie design and her collections present a juxtaposition of architectural silhouettes and refined romanticism, reinterpreted with her own feminine touch.

Goen J immediately made an impact on the international fashion scene and was recognised by prestigious retailers such as Opening Ceremony and Harvey Nichols Hong Kong. In 2014, the emerging designer brand featured in all branches of Barneys New York and its reputation has continued to grow across Europe and the US. All of these extraordinary achievements have been made without any marketing or catwalk shows, and her success is testimony to the quality of her designs and aesthetic.

The winner of a 2017 Samsung Fashion and Design Fund award, Goen Jong has secured her brand’s position as one of Korea’s leading international labels. We caught up with the designer to find out more about her and her brand.

You began your career by studying lingerie design and then fashion design. What made you want to move into creating ready-to-wear clothing?
For lingerie design, I had to think about specific functionality and textiles. Since there are many limits to silhouettes and patterns, there was not much space for design creativity. Moving to ready-to-wear with the experience in lingerie, I had a greater understanding of the female body and could apply different fabrics and be more creative. You can find lingerie and lace elements beautifully applied on many of Goen J’s signature items.

What did you enjoy most about living and studying in Paris?
I loved to shop at vintage markets in Paris and actually went all around France to find other great ones. I collected vintage clothing, vintage laces and jewellery, and made my very own collection. I also loved to sketch and wrote down my thoughts everywhere I went. Paris is a special place for me where I made many sentimental memories, and a place where I found a design identity.

How is the fashion scene in Paris different from Seoul?
The Paris fashion scene is more about originality and there is a higher respect for the actual designs and the designers. It seems like the highest value is placed on individuality, which leads to varieties of originality. Parisians seem to know how to express the most natural and effortless style.

Seoul is a place where trends move really fast and people know how to react to this. Everyone is very fashion forward and the media plays a big role in the changes on the fashion scene. It is a place with lots of potential and keeps moving forward every day. However, it is still very difficult for a new designer brand to grow and survive independently.

Which signature features does your brand bring to the Seoul fashion scene?
We wanted to bring the idea of capturing movement in structural silhouettes. I believe that a garment should look more beautiful when someone moves in it. Our signature touches, such as ruffles and double-face hard jersey fabrics, reflect the idea. We are constantly focusing on developing new fabrics and silhouettes with our core design values.

How has growing up in Korea inspired your work?
Korea is one of the most dynamic and fast-paced countries in the world, which makes it highly sensitive to trends and open to new technologies. Goen J, as a young emerging designer brand, is beautifully placed to absorb everything that surrounds us.

Where are your favourite places to shop in Seoul?
I usually shop for vintage products in Dongmyo and Hwanghak-dong in Seoul. We have great concept stores in Korea, such as Corso Como, Boon the Shop, Mui and Rare Market.

Which Korean fashion designers do you like?
Jin Teok is a Korean designer that I like. I remember seeing her designs very closely when I assisted her during a show when I was a student. Her designs captured a poetic elegance, with a touch of an Eastern aesthetic. There were flowers spread on the catwalk and I still remember the scent and the models walking gracefully over them at the show. She is in her 80s and is still designing beautiful collections.

How would you describe the Goen J woman?
The Goen J woman loves herself. She knows her inner beauty and knows how to express herself freely with her very own style. She is confident and fully enjoys everyday life, and we hope that our designs become part of this.

Goen J reflects the designer – myself – the most. I believe my designs speak for all of my experiences, my personality, thoughts and values. This is also the reason we do not have specific muse.

How would you describe your collection for AW17?
For those women who live in the concrete jungle known as the city, this collection provides new guidelines for elegant dressing. This season, Goen J has added a creative aesthetic to architecturally structured modern silhouettes, made with fine selected fabrics.

At the recently relocated Goen J store, the first thing you encounter is a series of handcrafted art objects, produced by the brand’s collaboration with Kwangho Lee, a world-renowned artist based in Seoul. This partnership inspired the new season collection.

Lee’s work is in alignment with what defines the brand: unexpected contrast. Tough materials, such as synthetic tubes, thick ropes and metal plates, have been transformed as new decorations for Goen J, which celebrates a feminine aesthetic. Featuring these two contrasting aspects in one space makes perfect sense.

The inspiration for AW17 is directly derived from the project. The collection’s clear emphasis on texture is influenced by Lee’s handcrafted pieces, as seen in roughly woven fabrics, uneven fringing and long-haired fur, as well as the brushstroke-like prints. On these pieces, the structure is simplified to make the textiles stand out. This approach is inverted elsewhere in the range, to offer asymmetric and irregular enhanced designs where attention is not focused on the actual materials used in the piece, but instead on creating movement. Bright colours contribute a youthful aesthetic to this stylish offering, and the collection as a whole embraces a sophisticated, balanced and thoughtful approach.

The newly presented Goen J jewellery collection approaches the essence of the main collection in a simpler yet intense way. The unique line captures the brand’s architectural and minimalist aesthetic with a perfect sense of balance. Created from the same source of inspiration, the shapes here focus on details such as the beauty of the link between loops and how they are connected. Each piece is handcrafted and divided into separate parts to complete the delicate structures. Made in platinum-plated silver, all of the styles are finished with high-shine polish.

What’s next for the Goen J brand?
Goen J just started its first pre-collection with Resort 2018. We will be able to show more of our designs with four collections every year. We have a beautifully designed flagship store in Seoul’s Gangnam district, which will open very soon. Also, we are preparing special collaborations with artists for display in our store so that our customers can experience the design identity and direction of Goen J.

Goen J, 6-3 Dosan-daero 49-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 06019, +82 (0)70 4408 1754 

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