NE TOUCHE PAS MOI
- A conceptual queen’s journey of pushing back and striving forward.
(March 30, 2021)
Marchioness magazine talks TRAVEL, CATCALLS and SENTIMENTALITY with the unapologetically unstoppable designer, Jisoo Baik.
Words and Interview by Laura Wilcox
Imagine building your fashion infused career with no hold-backs. No restrictions. Sure, you’re not naive enough to not identify your limitations. But you refuse to let them hinder your journey. Trotting across the globe, one fashion capital to another, with one dream at the core. Cue Jisoo Baik: The designer smashing the boundaries that society has forced in front of her. Twisting them to her advantage, letting them spiral her own innovation. And Marchi-grrrls, if there’s one thing we preach it’s riding your own wave, regardless of society and its shoddy judgement. Baik puts it best when she says, “we really don’t care. We push our own style and that's what’s important”. This is a woman that knows what she wants and she’s sure as hell proving it.
When you think of modern ballet, what do you envision? Elegance, movement? Now, imagine that opulence thrown into a bustling street-style setting. The constructed documentary feels of Nan Golding ft layers of luxurious draping fabric. Sophistication on all levels. It’s Baik’s eclectic interests like these that come together to form an archive of inspiration, flying her designs to a fashion/culture fusion realm. Encapsulating an array of themes through a refined aesthetic is a true testament to this designer’s untarnished talent. Baik is a visionary that holds a poignant ability to highlight, as a good friend of mine once noted, the poetic potential of the everyday.
From Korea to London to a Parisian playground, Baik has never shied away from travel. In fact, her recent project ‘Safe Spaces’ delves into the concept in a fascinating light. Using shape and structural methods in her designs as a monologue for the issue of safety in fast-paced city settings, she reminds us all to check ourselves and our surroundings. We shouldn’t have to feel unsafe daily as we walk our lit-up city sidewalks. We shouldn’t have to keep guard of our own body and property like we’re in some twisted inverted prison. In Safe Spaces, Baik draws on her eye-opening experiences with street harassment to speak for us all by using garments as a form of femme armour. It’s more than a collection, it’s an exploration that can help us notice the social interaction around us; the contradictory morals and most of all, our privileges. Unsettling? Sure. But isn’t that what makes it so powerful. Perhaps Baik’s work could begin to demonstrate to the fashion haters, the “why do you care” or even worse, “why do you bother”-ers, the beauty of dress. (We can dream). I mean, the irony of judging a fashion enthusiast as dim when they clearly hold artistic depth, really. But Baik’s designs prove that depth. With her mind wide open, clothes become her art and the world her gallery. Her work highlight’s the true greatness of fashion like no other - symbolism, emotive power and an intrinsic representation of it’s creator’s roots. Our conceptual queen of design.
Laura: How was your personal experience in fashion school?
Jisoo: For me it was a big change in dynamic because I studied at St Martins in London before I studied here in Paris. Back then was my time to get creative with my identity and style. But Paris made me fly professionally, I started thinking about how to produce commercially.
Laura: What inspired your move?
Jisoo: I really didn't think about Paris but my tutor at the time, David, suggested this new program. I applied, I got it and that was it. It’s been great exposure to high fashion work and prepared me well to launch my own brand.
Laura: Would you say you're a spontaneous person?
Jisoo: Oh yeah, I think so. I'm not really afraid of trying new things or moving abroad but that doesn’t mean my safety isn’t a factor.
Laura: Was that the inspiration behind your ‘Safe Spaces’ project?
Jisoo: Yeah! So generally, Safe Spaces is stemmed from my own memory, my childhood, what brings me comfort. So in that sense, it’s mostly about nostalgia. But last year, when my phone and wallet got stolen on the street, it was a big turning point for the project. That was a really hard time for me in terms of street behaviour like pickpocketing. After that, I was so curious to how people carry their own stuff and make their own way. I took research photos and found out some really interesting things; like how some people carry their plants in plastic bags or just don’t care about their jackets or their earphones, throwing them anywhere. It’s actually quite funny…
Laura: Do you think that being a woman has impacted your experience with street safety?
Jisoo: Even now, it's at least once a week… The specific catcalls… yeah, it happens to me a lot. Not only because I'm Korean or a foreigner but because I'm a woman too. It feels like they think I’m an easier target.
Laura: How does that offensive language make you feel?
Jisoo: First time I was confused, like, what’s he's talking about? Then I realised how common it was. Now I’m more afraid they're going to steal from me. Every day I need to really take care of myself.
Laura: Do you often use your personal experiences to spark ideas?
Jisoo: Yes, it’s usually always my own background or childhood. ‘Suitcase’ was a kind of feminist project where I got a lot of inspiration from my mom. My family would always move around because of my father's job and my mom had this great career but after she married she gave up everything for my father, his job, my family. So for my mother, moving would mean getting her own life. In the end, I made a dress coming out from a suitcase with the dress completely swallowing the case. Think of it as the dress representing a woman and the suitcase a man.
Laura: What houses do you look to for inspiration?
Jisoo: I really like the Balenciaga sculpture coat, it felt to me like a form of protection with the space between body and fabric. I also love Saint Laurent, he gives women this freedom and empowerment through his garments.
Laura: How do you feel about shape and movement, is that a focus in your designs?
Jisoo: Yes! I really like to do draping and make silhouettes with textile development. Silhouette is really important, I tend to work with very floaty fabrics.
Laura: Can you tell us about your work with shoe design?
Jisoo: So it started with my suitcase project, I just wanted everything to be original. I made sketches, showed them to a Korean shoemaker and he really liked my designs. The inspiration was very 70’s mural style and I just saw colour. For the final collection I made them with really sharp toes to protect the shoes and allow more space.
Laura: How would you describe your work ethic?
Jisoo: I really like to collaborate and I work well with others but definitely have my own independent style. So with launching my own brand for example, I’d want to work alone for the design aspect then with others with for different areas.
Laura: How important is sustainability to you?
Jisoo: It's really important. In my recent collection I used this paper bag that’s completely washable and reusable. People use so many grocery bags, especially in this lockdown period with the amount of food being ordered. So I really wanted to make sure I incorporate reusable materials. In the industry now, there’s so many campaigns about sustainability, especially with retailers like H&M. It seems to be going well for a lot of them but in reality there’s still so many people, like factory workers in Asia, that are seriously suffering. They produce a lot, it’s a real problem. So I don't think change is happening fast enough but I’m hopeful that the industry will figure it out and things will be much better.
Laura: What is it about your work that you think appeals to people?
Jisoo: Well I think it’s relatable, it’s about the people we see every day on the street. And maybe the sculpture aspect is interesting to see. Actually, when I first came to Paris, a lot of people didn’t quite understand the Central Saint Martins style because it's so unique. But that’s the point, we don't really care, we push our own style and that's what’s important for a designer.
Laura: What’s your aim when capturing your designs?
Jisoo: For my final collection I wanted to really convey the feeling of being on the street, which had to have layers. So in the final images, you’ll see loads of people in the background. I wanted to create a more natural, unpolished, unintentional feel.
Laura: Have you always been creative?
Jisoo: Yeah, I think maybe because of my mom. She did product design and would draw at home a lot so I’d always draw something beside her... I think I definitely got inspiration from her.
Laura: Why fashion?
Jisoo: Ever since I was really young, I loved garments, coordinating me and my friends. Then when I saw catwalk shows on YouTube when I was in like elementary school, I fell in love. I saw it as art not fashion. I was just like, wow, it's so creative and attention grabbing… I started making things and styling them on the people I love and then fashion just happened.
Laura: So what’s the goal, what’s next?
Jisoo: I’m in the interview stage for internships right now, I’m really keen for Balenciaga but have several houses lined-up. I want to work here in Paris and get as much experience as I can before I launch my own brand in a few years - that's the goal!
We can’t wait for the launch and will be keeping a close eye over at @jisoo_baik_ for updates but until then… Balenciaga, I hope you’re ready.
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