When Phoebe Philo, the matriarch of discreet-chic luxurious, introduced her departure from Céline, howls of grief may very well be heard from well-heeled workplaces and cheeseplant-filled residences all around the world. Fortunately for these Philo-philes in mourning, Rok Hwang — a protégée of the British designer — is filling the void left by his former employer.
Having launched his label Rokh in 2016, the Korea-born designer has already caught the attention of 120 of the world’s finest retailers (Internet-a-Porter is his greatest British supporter) in addition to the titans of LVMH. As a finalist on this yr’s LVMH Prize, Hwang was shortlisted by 40 of the world’s most illustrious vogue figures — he describes it as “pace courting with vogue icons” — and can quickly be pitching his label to an intimidating panel together with Karl Lagerfeld, Nicolas Ghesquière, Marc Jacobs and Delphine Arnault. No imply feat for a designer who is just in his third season.
“From the very starting, we needed to mission the ladies who we consider in — somebody who doesn’t really feel assured and is younger and fragile,” says Hwang, who described himself, too, as shy and introverted. His work, nevertheless, is something however. The designer confidently explores deconstruction and adaptableness, with lots of the clothes designed to look damaged and re-pieced collectively. His studio, which is situated above a avenue filled with dressmaking retailers in North London, is the size of an Olympic swimming pool — or, extra fittingly, a catwalk — which permits him to concentrate to the way in which his garments transfer as his match fashions stroll up and down it.
“We attempt to anticipate each motion and take into consideration how the clothes can break in a sure method,” says the designer. Consequently, every part is made with adaptation in thoughts, from twisted trousers that may be unbuttoned on the seam and worn flared open, to the exaggerated silk blouses with lengthy sleeves that may be tied on the cuff and an open again that floats behind the wearer as she walks. There’s additionally an insouciance that’s imbued inside the building of his garments — a double sleeve with a layer that may be pushed up with the impact of nonchalance, however with out compromising heat.
A temper board within the nook of his minimal studio is stuffed with photos of materials and prints, slightly than the standard collage of pictures and journal clippings, which shines a light-weight on his artistic course of. “I attempt to keep away from photos and reference my very own work,” he explains. Common journeys to less-trodden flea markets and automobile boot gross sales outdoors of London and in Belgium (the fruitful flea markets there impressed lots of the Antwerp Six) present the designer with the chance to take aside second-hand garments and re-think the way in which he makes his personal.
Hwang was born in South Korea and loved a peripatetic upbringing courtesy of his economist father, who moved the Hwang household from Seoul to Austin, Texas. As an adolescent, the designer moved to Nottingham, absorbing the native music scene, earlier than decamping to London to review menswear design at Central Saint Martins. After that, he studied womenswear on the MA below the late, legendary Professor Louise Wilson herself.
It was after graduating that he was plucked from his class to affix Phoebe Philo’s inaugural workforce at Céline, the place he assisted Philo in ushering in a brand new wardrobe of subtle silhouettes and modernist equipment that modified the way in which that girls of all ages dressed. After three years with Philo, he went to Chloé after which to Louis Vuitton, earlier than beginning his personal label with a view to match the craftsmanship and slick manufacturing of the style homes he minimize his enamel at.
“We attempt to make as a lot as potential within the UK, however as we develop, we’re working with factories in Italy, Spain and Portugal,” he says. Uncommon for an rising designer, Hwang already makes its personal purses, that are produced in Spain on the similar manufacturing unit as Loewe. The signature model is an oblong shoulder bag with 4 compartments and envelope pouches that may be neatly slid in or taken out and worn individually. The branding is the trendy, minimal kind: a small gold embossing of the designer’s Garamond brand, which was impressed by conventional couture labels that state the season the merchandise belongs to. “I needed it to be seasonless, although, in order that’s why it’s 0000,” he factors out.
For now, the designer is completely happy with out the strain of staging a vogue present twice a yr, however is contemplating a debut present in Paris subsequent yr. “We need to discover the appropriate second to ship the message strongly to our prospects,” says Hwang, who has been intimately presenting his collections in showrooms to press and consumers up to now. He’s additionally produced artfully moody lookbooks, such because the one pictured right here and photographed by Robi Rodriguez, that resonate with the present urge for food for Instagram-friendly imagery.
“Hopefully the clothes will entice prospects, however the pictures are a great way to talk to a wider viewers who might not be capable to purchase into the model.” It’s a genius method, particularly provided that quickly sufficient, Rokh might be a model that everybody will desire a piece of.