Park's work with textiles and garment construction and her body sculpture and body architecture projects were the main feature of her recent exhibition.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I have spent most of my life in Korea. I majored in fine art and studied design as my second major. I was exposed to all spheres of art, including painting, sculpture and oriental painting.
This may be the reason behind the interest I still have in developing textiles and the motive for striving to exploit materials in order to find a new design method suitable for the shapes and forms I work with.
I received my masters degree from Ewha Womans University and my PhD from Kookmin University, both in Korea. I majored in fashion design for my masters and design aesthetics for my doctorate.
I found design aesthetics challenging. However, I realise now how many valuable assets it gave me. I have lectured in fashion theory and practice-based design in universities throughout Korea.
Over the past eight years I’ve been the director of Michiko Koshino London, chief stylist for the sportswear brand Fila (Korea) and style editor of various fashion magazines.
When I was a style editor, I travelled the world to create images for brands and magazines and to attend fashion collections. Thinking of it now, this was definitely a good experience for me; it was exciting to explore different cultures and look for a new approach to design.
I believe this is the major influence on my work – the collaboration of western and eastern cultures.
I am currently undertaking research on the topic of ‘Changeability: the Fashion Trace’ at the University of Technology Sydney, in Australia.
Why did you choose to explore fashion design?
There’s nothing closer to us than fashion. The human body is fashion, and fashion is the body itself. Fashion is the medium for representing a human being’s style, and we express ourselves through this medium.
Every one of us is an artist who creates their style every day to enhance their individuality. I believe as a designer that all individuals ‘performing’ fashion are ‘performance artists’.
Why is fashion – the artwork that moves along with human activity – excluded as a sphere of art, solely due to the notion that fashion is an activity of commerce?
Many fine artists find their rationale by investigating the body and their new understandings of it. Fashion is more of a kinetic and embodied art than perhaps any other realm of design.
I am not a commercial designer but a researcher who investigates new design methods. I always carry out my design work accompanied by my research. Design without research on new design methods is meaningless to me.
I hope these methods will open new possibilities for commercial design in the future.
Why have you chosen to investigate ‘changeability’ with your work?
I established my theory of ‘changeability’ in my doctoral thesis, which studied the French philosopher Jacques Derrida’s neologism, différance.
Many postmodernists interpret Derrida as denying and deconstructing new things. However, if we investigate his ideas more deeply, deconstruction can be identified as the key to opening another creative opportunity.
I defined this as ‘changeability’, not deconstruction, and created a language of my own. The word ‘changeability’ is about the possibility of creating a new aesthetic order. In other words, changeability implies the method of newly interpreting the design tradition, the intrinsic attribute of change that pursues the reconstruction of a substance’s new aesthetic order.
This will keep transforming, like the condition of fashion itself. I think we all practise changeability every day of our life. Just as we are exposed to external conditions and then change accordingly, my work always includes the possibility of change.
Can you tell us about the forms of your garments?
The works displayed in Sydney are developments of my earlier series entitled Changeability (2003 to 2005), created in Seoul, which inserted architectural concepts into the work’s method of existence and change.
This body of work is based on the same concept but works with three different styles of garments shaped by their materials. Each garment is independent.
However, by considering the ‘structural’ method, they can become several new works, which I would like to call ‘transformation cloth(e)s’, ‘architectural soft sculpture’, ‘flat art’ and ‘visual pun/fun play’.
All of my work is about this notion of changeability. My works are distinctive compared to other designers’ works in the sense that the complete work itself is a recombination of independent units, and these units or independent parts possess artistic value in and of themselves, or they create a new piece of work through addition or separation.
My fashion designs change with wearing, and also change through an individual process of selection. A long baroque sleeve becomes a short modernist form. A sheath dress of zips transforms into an enveloping cocoon.
Neck pieces like ruffs transfer to the base of a gown. The dress and the body are changed at will through my design. This I entitle ‘visual pun/fun play’.
Can you explain how your garments are shaped by their materials?
I have introduced three garments – fashion sculpture, body sculpture and body architecture – which were formed with identical patterns but different materials. Each basic garment is formed with eight modules, and twelve modules were later added. These can be separated and reconstructed via zippers.
Each individual module possesses a unique mass, volume, support, rhythm and line. Hence, the sense of the work depends on the way each module is combined together.
I chose the zipper as a material that gives support or permits dissolution. The zipper, the basis of surrealist fashion play, is used as a mediator here, not for semantic jokes but as a straightforward gesture that makes my works capable of reversible changeability between very ‘commercial’ design and more difficult or challenging ‘artwork’.
How do you like to work when you are actually making and creating garments?
My work studio is based in Seoul. I always work together with two makers. We have worked together for more than ten years. When a new design method is developed, I draw the shape that can be the basis. Then I convert the drawing into muslin and put it over a dummy to continuously revise the shape.
I like draping. Once a project is under way, we spend most of our time at the studio for around four to six months. In the case of this project, with the exception of fashion sculpture, the design of the completed work was not determined from the beginning. During the project, we developed material for the shape and unrolled the new design.
Do you think there are cultural influences on your work, Korean or other?
Yes. When I design, I think of an object to express body and space, not a garment for the body. This is because for me, body is garment, and garment is body. I always think of formative shape and space as a priority and try to find a method to develop it.
Many western designers approach the human body to come up with garments suitable for the body. This is clearly opposite to how I approach the body. I firstly think of formative shape and then deliberate on the way to make it. In other words, I open up all possibilities of creation without any limitations at the idea stage.
I consider blank space, temperance, zero functionality and unlimitedness when seeking a new design method. Or maybe this controls my mind in unconsciousness. I believe this is qi (ch’i), the artistic energy of the east.
How would you like to see your work evolve?
As previously mentioned, when I design I always think of the design method, not just the design. Prior to being a designer, I was an installation artist who created space and a researcher who studied new methods of creation.
All of my research is a build-up of previous projects. One rule exists, which is that my work must always carry the possibility of creating a new design method.
What do you think of the Korean design scene? What trends do you see emerging there?
Korea is very sensitive in terms of trends. There are design faculties in all universities and fashion design especially is one of the most popular majors. Luxury brands are in common demand and there are a lot of local brands too.
Along with science, design is one of the government-supported businesses. After the introduction of Balenciaga’s bell coat in 2006, the emerging trend in Korea is the dress with volume. Mass and volume is a big trend. Compared to last year, this year’s volume in silhouette is becoming more unconventional.
Bell/balloon dresses and jackets, shirts and blouses with shirring and sleeves cut closely to the neckline are big trends. Bow accessories and flat shoes are also popular.
Is there a large fashion industry in Korea?
Being a country sensitive to trends, the Korean fashion industry is rapidly transforming. From the rising designer market in Dong Dae Moon to company-operated fashion brands and professional designers, Korea has a diverse and broad fashion industry.
Corporations such as LG and Samsung also have fashion businesses. We hold one Young Designers’ Collection and two Seoul Collections per year.
Where in the world are the most opportunities for designers now?
In England young designers can express their creativity without any boundaries. John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, for instance, are based in England, but their talents gain exposure across the world.
The barrier in France is too high for young designers to approach. America is too commercial and has a political environment where non-local designers find it hard to gain a reputation, though Giorgio Armani achieved success there. Italy has many skilled entrepreneurs who transform couture into suits.