Munsoo Kwon | Armani's New Protégé

For most fellow fashion editors and industry professionals, there's nothing as exciting as discovering a new, up-and-coming fashion talent, and to assist to one of his first major outings. Today was such a day, as Mr. Armani invited the Korean designer Munsoo Kwon to showcase at his Teatro on via Bergognone –a first for Kwon who staged his very first runway show in Europe during an official fashion week. We caught up with the lucky one backstage before his show in order to talk about what it means to be Armani's new rising star.

Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION

Congratulations! How do you feel about being invited by Mr. Armani to showcase your collection in Milan?

It is such a special and unique opportunity! I'm the first Korean designer to showcase during Milan's menswear shows, the first one to be selected by Mr. Armani, and I'm also celebrating my 10th runway show. I'm am very grateful and very excited to say the least!

Tell me more about your background. What were you doing before you launched your own menswear brand in 2011?

It all started in San Francisco back in 2003. I studied at the School of Fashion of the Academy of Art University and decided to specialize in menswear. When I graduated, I moved to New York and started working for Thom Browne and then Helmut Lang. When I finished my work experience, I worked as an Associate Designer for Buckler for five seasons before moving back to Korea.

Why did you decide to move back to Korea after a successful start as a fashion designer in New York?

To be honest, it was family related. My grandmother passed away and I decided to spend more time with my family. So when I came back to Korea, it became clear that I would have to take a risk and launch my own brand, as I couldn't see myself working for other brands anymore. It was very tough at the beginning – I wasn't familiar with the Korean fashion industry and had to work on my own for two entire years before building up a small team and atelier. Today, I strongly believe that I owe everything to my grandmother, that’s why this collection is dedicated to her.

Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION

That's a beautiful story! Can you please tell me more about your new Spring/Summer 2018 collection that is about to hit the runway?

This collection's theme is YOLO (you only live once). Today's society is obviously obsessed with individualism, we're constantly on our iPhones taking selfies, broadcasting our lives or watching other peoples, all with a certain living-for-the-moment kind of attitude. It's a big issue and I decided to explore it by analyzing the various stages of individualism, from the ‘80s till now. I started with the Yuppies, moved on to Hobos and eventually ended with today's crowd, interpreting them all through a Korean perspective.

How did you express this concept in your Spring/Summer 2018 men's collection?

The theme might be a bit conceptual, but the clothes aren't – my designs are made for people who can and will actually wear them. I'm very practical and functional when it comes to clothing. Sure, the styling dimension is always important, but at the end of the day, I want to see people wearing my clothes. So the collection basically starts with very sleek, elegant pieces and evolves into easy-to-wear camouflage printed garments. The military style of this collection has a very strong Korean connotation as every Korean man needs to do his military service, it's mandatory. A lot of Korean men keep wearing their uniforms even when they are at home – let's say it's sort of our local version of the comfy tracksuit that you could wear at home. Then the collection continues with a lot of eclectic patterns and colors, and eventually finishes in a calm, kind of "self-centered" way with a touch of blue.

What about the decisive Korean identity of your collection? How important is this Korean element to you?

It is very important to me – not in a political or patriotic kind of way, but in a creative and cultural one. I am the first Korean designer to showcase here at the Teatro Armani and I'm extremely grateful. As a designer, I think that it is important that you produce your collections locally, to support and contribute to the growth of your local fashion sector, which is why my collections are entirely sourced and produced in Korea. I really hope that my exposure in Milan will be beneficial to other Korean designers, that it will raise awareness of Korean fashion. I'd like to once again to thank Mr. Armani for his support.