Asia Spotlight: Korean Designer Munsoo Kwon
Interview by Paula Renee
Born in Seoul, Korea, Munsoo Kwon's move to the Far West seems like the right one. Kwon received his B.F.A from an acclaimed fashion school, Academy of Art University. He then proceeded to New York and took on internships for some of the most prestigious designers. Then he landed his dream job designing menswear sold worldwide. Kwon was in the right direction, but when life hit him with a curve ball, Kwon had to make a decision to swing for a home run or strike out.
When your father is a first generation importer of European luxury goods to Korea, it would seem rather odd for Munsoo Kwon not to be influenced by fashion. "I could experience various clothes in unique design through my life, and even now I strongly believe that my father is one of those who can show what is fashion," Kwon said. After completion of mandatory service in the military, he realized his passion was in menswear designer. He decided to leave Korea to attend the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California. There he received a B.A in Fashion Design where he developed his skills as a designer and prepared him for the next big move to New York City.
One week after landing, Kwon received an internship with New York fashion company Yigal Azrouël. While running errands at a store, his distinctive eye for details wandered to a fellow customer garbed in a menswear designer he admired greatly. He recollects the desire to approach him with confirmation, “Is that a Thom Browne suit you’re wearing?” When the gentleman confirmed that it was, Kwon did not hesitate to continue the conversation. "Do you work for the brand?" When the guy expressed that he indeed did, Kwon played the open field. "I introduced myself right then and there and explained how I wanted to work for him, and that I had sent an email to a guy named Sam who was supposedly in charge of design." The answer was like sweet music to his ears, in which the gentleman responded, “Well, I am Sam. I was very busy with the collection and am sorry about it. But if you send me another email tonight again, I would like to take a look for you.” The emails landed him an internship working at Thom Browne and allowed him to achieve a goal along the way. “Although it wasn’t a full time job, I was very happy interning for Thom Browne as I could cross one item off of my to-do list by working for him." Kwon explained. Other internships at Helmut Lang and Robert Geller followed suit, which allowed him to get hired as a full time assistant designer for Andrew Buckler.
However, an unforeseen family loss occurred last year which changed the direction of his career. The passing of his grandmother made him realize that gaining success in the United States was not as important as gaining it with your family around. After her ceremony he made a conscious decision. After only five seasons he left Andrew Buckler to return to Korea. But not empty handed. Munsoo Kwon, the brand, was created. A decision that came without recognition. "Now that I think about it, I believe my grandmother gave me a chance to start my own collection sooner. I really hope she rests in peace and knows what she would have been so proud of me,” Kwon said.
The blog world has already been buzzing about the Fall/Winter 2012 Collection made up of deep crotch pants, high collared jackets, and fitted shirts tagged with subtle brand representation in signature split-open details. The modest color palette of black, white, gray, and navy conveys the complexity and emptiness he experienced as he arrived to New York City. “My very first impression of New York City associates with Times Square at the 42nd Street filled with lots of lights, billboards and atmosphere of a busy commercial city. The city is packed with busy New Yorkers and visitors, but ironically I often felt alone which made New York a lonely place. I wanted to really tell my personal stories for the first collection so I chose to incorporate my first impression of New York as an inspiration,” Kwon said. However, don't expect bleak pieces. The audacious prints of the Italian yarn sweaters and unequivocal proportions of the wool suits are bold statement pieces that could simply stand alone.
Within the past months the collection has made its way around the U.S in trade shows such as Capsule in New York and Workroom in Las Vegas. In the near future his plans consist of invading the European market as well. Kwon is proving his talents, and hopes other country mates that have the same aspirations will follow suit. "I do believe that a lot of Korean fashion designers possess strong personality that will work as competitiveness in a global world. Our generation especially has a great advantage because of advanced technology such as the Internet and social network services. I hope young Korean designers including myself could take advantage of these privileges and let people around the world know about Korean fashion by constantly knocking on global doors," Kwon said.