South Korean-born and London-based founder Miss Sohee explains why the future of haute couture lies in young talent and how her latest collection pays tribute to her grandmother.
“Sustainability is a responsibility for budding designers,” says Sohee Park. “This is why I am attracted to haute couture – there is no mass production and only the essentials are used.” Since the founding of her Miss Sohee brand, the 25-year-old creative director has not only practiced ecological standards by using fabrics that remain in stocks and recycled fabrics, but has also gathered stars such as Cardi B, Miley Cyrus and Bella Hadid around her.
A graduate of Central Saint Martins, raised in Seoul and currently living in West London, she combines inspiration from the past with her characteristic, ultra-feminine flair. “I’ve always been intrigued by old things like vintage clothes and antique furniture,” says Park. “I see potential in what is classic and timeless, because many of these things are forgotten.”
Her couture collection for Fall / Winter 2021 is an intimate ode to a seaside holiday with her beloved grandma who sadly passed away last year. “She loved to embroider, she was a very talented seamstress and my great inspiration,” she says. “I lived in the city, but going to her house by the sea was a total escapism. She lived in her own world. “
Vogue talks to the designer about the inspiration behind her latest collection and why sustainable practices are key and why the future of haute couture lies in emerging talent.
Hi Sohee! What was the moment that made you interested in fashion?
Initially, I wanted to become an illustrator because my mother is an illustrator of children’s books and I grew up playing in her studio. The turning point came when I was 14 and saw the Chanel Spring / Summer 2012 couture show on TV at my grandmother’s house. Then I started skipping class to watch fashion shows and buy magazines.
You studied at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College in London. What has this experience instilled in you as a designer?
I grew up in Korea in a very conservative culture, and at the same time I was that weird kid drawing all the time. But when I went to CSM, the teachers pushed me to be the most extreme version of myself.
Haute couture is quite niche, especially for a young designer. What attracted you to him and how do you see his future?
I appreciate the fine embroidery, hand sewing and all the hard work that goes into each garment because you can feel it when you wear them. It is also a relaxing, almost meditative activity. For me, sewing thousands of crystals is soothing.
Couture shouldn’t be just for great fashion houses with ateliers in Paris, it’s about craftsmanship and artistry. We live in a world where there are so many mass-produced clothes that create unnecessary waste, so hopefully we will see more young designers in the future to oppose it.
You graduated during the lockdown, which must have been difficult. This is your first collection outside of university. But the pandemic is still affecting your job. How do you feel with it?
It can be stressful. If someone gets sick, we’ll have to close the studio. In addition, there are many delays in receiving materials. Shoppers now seem to be looking for more wearable everyday clothes as well, but I still want to create things that I believe in and hope things get better soon.
Tell us about the new collection. What were your inspirations and references?
My grandmother died when I started creating the collection, so it was a difficult time, but it made me relive the memories of spending time with her at her seaside house in South Korea. It is located near Jeju Island, the home of Haenyeo women divers. These women dive to a depth of 15 meters, without any equipment, to collect shellfish and seaweed by hand, which also inspired me. I like that their practices are harmonious and show respect to the ocean.
There are several important, sustainable elements to your design. Tell us about the most important points.
I obtained recycled crystals sponsored by the glass manufacturer Preciosa. I also found an interesting fabric made from the abaca plant, a species of banana tree that looks beautiful and shimmers. I have used a lot of fabrics from Nona Source, a brand run by LVMH that sources fabrics that stay in designers’ warehouses, directly from their factories.
Everything looks amazingly beautiful. Which look is your favorite? Tell us how it was made.
Definitely white – inspired by the volume and curvature of sea shells. Work on it lasted three months, and five people were involved in it. It is made of abacá fabric, which has been formed into a beautiful shape that fits the figure. This process took a very long time, and then we handcrafted everything with recycled crystals.
Since your brand was founded, you have dressed many modern icons, from Cardi B and Miley Cyrus to Bella Hadid. Who would you like to see in your clothes?
I would love to dress Cardi B again, I think she is the mother of couture. I’m obsessed with her.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
I just got a second dose of the vaccine so I hope to be able to come back to Korea soon and see my family. I haven’t been there for two and a half years.