Rising star and Royal College of Arts graduate Hwan Heo has come a long way fast since establishing his brand Heohwan Simulation in 2010. The London-based Korean born designer is now firmly bedded in at London Fashion Week, even winning the prestigious Fashion Scout Merit Award in 2012, which has been the launch pad for the careers of highly respected designers such as David Koma and William Tempest.
Hwan Heo is currently undertaking the intruiguing decade-long Critique Collection, of which he has just completed the fourth installment of twenty. The project aims to examine and document various points throughout history, inspired by Heo’s own experimental artwork, and blurring the often-malleable boundaries between fashion and art. The 1968 protests in France provided the theme for the recently shown AW13 collection and, from the use of images of the unrest printed onto silks, to the inspiration taken from fashion magazines from the same year, ‘Editorials in 68’ successfully walked the thin line between social comment and commercial, covetable fashion that is notoriously difficult to achieve.
AW13 Editorials in 68. Image from fashion156.com
Heohwan Simulation is well known for a structured minimalistic style and androgynous undertones, influenced by Hwan Heo’s background in menswear design. These themes are encapsulated in his trademark fluid lines, block colours, monochrome, bold patterns and leather detailing. The Heohwan Simulation label has also become well known for its reinterpretations of classic silhouettes, creating a bridge between classic and contemporary aesthetics – for example, with the AW13 line, Hwan Heo reinterpreted a 1960s Pierre Cardin cocoon silhouette for the collection’s outerwear pieces. And then there is the love of zips – both functional and decorative – that we at The Glass Pineapple can never get enough of.
SS13 Images from thestylecolumn.com
Apart from being unfazed by the kinds of challenges others could stumble over, what we love most about the brains behind Heohwan Simulation is that, in addition to a thick vein of talent that might encourage some to rest on their laurels, there is also the drive to fulfill a decade long vision. In the fickle world of fashion that kind of committment is an admirable thing. We spoke to the somewhat elusive Hwan Heo to find out what he loves about fashion and how he has stuck to his vision so far.
Last season you were awarded the prestigious Fashion Scout Merit Award. How has this influenced your work this season?
Through Fashion Scout’s Merit Award we got the opportunity for our first solo show during London Fashion Week. We had experienced several collections during Seoul Fashion Week and a group show for Fashion Scout’s Ones to Watch. However, preparing for a solo show during LFW was a totally new experience on a different scale. After preparing for LFW I realised how much more work we have to do.
With the success of previous Merit Award winners, such as David Koma, William Tempest and Hermione de Paula, how much pressure do you feel to live up to these big names and how do you handle it?
All of them have very unique positions in the industry. I do feel lot of pressure from their current success and continuous growth, but I am focused on my future and my vision. I hope one day I will achieve the same success via my own unique path.
You’ve said that each of your collections is inspired by a different point in fashion history, which period are you focusing on for your AW13 collection and why did that appeal?
1968 – Find out the rest from the show! [Read The Glass Pineapple show review here]
Your experience in menswear design has clearly influenced your designs today, do you consider the fusion of femininity and masculinity to be your signature look?
I do not try to portray masculinity in my designs, it is something that comes out naturally, and femininity is something I am aware of as a womenswear designer.
What made you choose to study fashion? Who were your main influences whilst getting started?
When I was young I watched fashion shows on television and I was so fascinated by them it got to the point where I would ask my mom to record them for me. My influences were every designer that was on television when I was young.
You attended the Royal College of Arts, what was that experience like and how has it shaped your work?
RCA provided me with a free and independent environment. I was able to communicate with tutors and colleagues about fashion and obtain useful advice and tips as a new designer. The teaching method at RCA allowed me to really think about my own ideas and how to carry them out rather than giving me straightforward answers.
Which contemporary designers do you most admire?
Ann-Sofie Back and Hussein Chalayan.
Which celebrity would you most love to see wearing your clothes?
Describe your label for us in 3 words:
Modern. Contemporary. Sharp.
Where would you like Heohwan Simulation to be in five years time?
Selling bespoke suits in fashionable cities all around the world.
Interview by Nikki McMullen
Edited by GP