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Posted : 2009-11-25 17:37
Updated : 2009-11-25 17:37

Steve J & Yoni P Makes Waves in London


Steve Jung and Yoni Pai, the couple behind Steve J & Yoni P label, are one of the ``designers-to-watch'' on the British fashion scene.
/ Courtesy of Pret-a-Porter Busan

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Staff Reporter

Rising designers Steve Jung and Yoni Pai are making a name for themselves on the British fashion scene with their chic, impeccable designs with quirky details.

The couple, also known as Steve J and Yoni P, only started their label in 2007, but now their designs are available not just in London, but New York, Paris, Tokyo and Moscow.

The Korea Times met with Jung and Pai on the sidelines of the Pret-a-Porter Busan 2010 Spring & Summer Collection, Friday, as they were preparing for their fashion show.

Unlike other Korean designers who usually establish themselves in Korea first, Jung and Pai started their collection in London, one of the world's fashion capitals.

They met as students at Hansung University, where they already dreamed of creating their own fashion collection. They later moved to the U.K. to study at the London College of Fashion and Central St. Martins. At the Central St. Martins graduation show in 2006, they received the Best Menswear Award.

``In the beginning, we were already thinking of starting our own label, but we knew it was difficult to make it. … Then when we moved to London, we became braver. We didn't know anything about London. I think it's because we didn't know anything, we were braver when we launched our own label,'' Jung said.

Pai thinks it was just a natural progression for them to start a clothing line. ``We didn't really think about it. We just knew we wanted to be in the fashion world, and suddenly now we are,'' she said.

After starting their business, they went to their first trade show, where a buyer from British high street retailer Topshop noticed their collection. They were invited to do a capsule collection ``steveyonistudio for Topshop,'' which was sold in the flagship store in Oxford CircuBy Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Staff Reporter

Rising designers Steve Jung and Yoni Pai are making a name for themselves on the British fashion scene with their chic, impeccable designs with quirky details.

The couple, also known as Steve J and Yoni P, only started their label in 2007, but now their designs are available not just in London, but New York, Paris, Tokyo and Moscow.

The Korea Times met with Jung and Pai on the sidelines of the Pret-a-Porter Busan 2010 Spring & Summer Collection, Friday, as they were preparing for their fashion show.

Unlike other Korean designers who usually establish themselves in Korea first, Jung and Pai started their collection in London, one of the world's fashion capitals.

They met as students at Hansung University, where they already dreamed of creating their own fashion collection. They later moved to the U.K. to study at the London College of Fashion and Central St. Martins. At the Central St. Martins graduation show in 2006, they received the Best Menswear Award.

``In the beginning, we were already thinking of starting our own label, but we knew it was difficult to make it. … Then when we moved to London, we became braver. We didn't know anything about London. I think it's because we didn't know anything, we were braver when we launched our own label,'' Jung said.

Pai thinks it was just a natural progression for them to start a clothing line. ``We didn't really think about it. We just knew we wanted to be in the fashion world, and suddenly now we are,'' she said.

After starting their business, they went to their first trade show, where a buyer from British high street retailer Topshop noticed their collection. They were invited to do a capsule collection ``steveyonistudio for Topshop,'' which was sold in the flagship store in Oxford Circus, London in 2007.

``We dreamt of having our clothes in Topshop, and then it actually happened. We were shocked at that time. … But it was also a nightmare since we were not ready,'' Jung said.

``Topshop is a big company and it had a lot of different processes. It was just the two of us, our company was so small,'' Pai added.

But the sleepless nights and hard work paid off, since it gave them the much-needed experience, not to mention publicity for the brand. Soon after, they were given the Samsung Fashion Design Fund Award for two years, which helped sustain their fledging company. They also participated in London Fashion Week, where their well-received collections earned them the reputation as one of the ``designers-to-watch.''

Back in Busan

In Korea, Jung and Pai made their debut through a fashion show at the 2007 Pret-a-Porter Busan. At that time, this reporter interviewed the then fresh-faced couple, who appeared nervous but excited to be finally showing their collection in their home country.

Now, interviewing them again in Busan, Jung and Pai still looked youthful for a pair of 33-year-olds, but they seemed more confident and relaxed.

Asked how much they changed in two years, Jung and Pai thinks they've both become more mature.

``Two years ago, if we wanted to make a collection with a concept, we followed the concept completely. Everyone can see the concept from the garment, like `oh, this is from Tibet.' This time, we want to show the concept in a subtle way. We've become mature in that way,'' Pai said.

This maturity was shown in the collection they presented at Pret-a-Porter Busan Friday. The collection's theme ``Puppet Theater'' was inspired by the puppets they saw during a trip to Berlin earlier this year.

Instead of a conventional catwalk, models walked barefoot across the floor covered with white sheets. Huge flesh-colored dolls (which were handmade by Pai and Jung themselves), chairs, clothing racks and puppet heads on sticks also littered the area. At the end of the show, Jung and Pai came out holding puppets of their own likeness.

While the show had an avant garde, performance art-like atmosphere, Steve J and Yoni P's collection was surprisingly minimalist and understated.

``The garments themselves are pretty normal and wearable, but the way of showing them is very conceptual. It's a very artistic way of showing them. We wanted to keep things interesting,'' Pai said.

Black and white dominated the romantic but chic collection, but there were a few silk and jersey dresses in soft pastel tones. Jung said they tried to show extremes by introducing both tailored and draped garments.

When they're designing the collection, they head to museums or libraries in London to find inspiration. ``When we get inspiration by chance, we start to talk about it and make it happen,'' Pai said.

Being together for 13 years (with plans of getting married in the near future), Jung says they seem to be in sync with their ideas. ``If I see something I like, she also likes it too,'' he added.

While designers usually pick a celebrity as a muse for their collection, Pai says she prefers designing for her friends and even herself. ``I'm happy when people say, 'when I see you, I can see your collection.' I always wear my designs,'' she said.
``I think half of the collection is in your closet,'' Jung teased her.

The design duo has been in demand this season, having staged fashion shows in London, Paris, Seoul and Busan in the last few months.

Despite the economic downturn, their business has not been affected drastically. Jung attributed their survival to the simple fact that their business is not yet too big, saying ``we're a much smaller label and we don't have anything to lose.''

The bubbly, blonde-haired Pai offered a different perspective. ``It has been a difficult economic situation and people don't want to be too serious. Our garments are not that serious. We are always showing our wit and humorous side. I think that's why people love our collection,'' she said.

Collaborations in Korea

While usually based in London, Jung and Pai have been back in Seoul in the last months to work with Korean companies on some projects. For CJ Mall's Celeb Shop (available on home shopping TV and the Web site celebshop.co.kr), they designed men's wear collections endorsed by top Korean actors Kwon Sang-woo and Kim Sung-soo.

``We want to have collaborations with companies since it helps us broaden our ideas. Our collaborations do not have to be only fashion, but it can be anything like cosmetics or design. It's always very interesting for us,'' Pai said.

In the future, the couple hopes to move to New York so they can expand their business. ``Last year, we started selling our garments in some shops in New York, and they became pretty popular. We heard they sold out pretty quickly. New York can be our next step,'' Pai said.

Jung, who seems to be the more pragmatic one, is cautiously optimistic. ``Surviving is the most important part for fashion designers like us. (In the next few years) we also want to show our strong identity to our customers and other fashion people. What else? A happy, happy life,'' he said, with a smile.

cathy@koreatimes.co.kr

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