Forme D'Expression, by Koeun Park

Interview by Kevin Y.

H.Lorenzo was glad to interview Koeun Park, the Haute Couture-trained designer of the emerging Italian men's and women's label Forme 3'3204322896 (Forme D'Expression).  Koeun Park discusses her approach towards the complex relationships between contrasting elements in design.  H.Lorenzo introduced the debut Forme D'Expression collection in 2005, and is proud to offer it for both men and women this season.

For you personally, what constitutes beauty in relation to clothing?

It would be difficult to define in one succinct way how I see beauty in relation to clothing.  I am attracted to the notion of a "severe aristocrat," as well as a soft and fragile feeling.  But whatever elements make such clothing beautiful, they must be in play with the wearer, and in either perfect harmony or a complementing contrast with their personality.  Clothes that appear to have been worn with history, all one's life - that is beautiful - so that the pieces become him, not the other way around.

How does your approach to ready-to-wear differ than your approach to Haute Couture?

Haute Couture is a pure spontaneous obsession of minute and painstaking individual efforts applied to every angle of making a single garment for a specific client.  A true luxury of all.  I admire the patience of artisan coutrieres, and their single aim of suiting the client's requirements.  I'm not really attracted to the shapes or products of modern Parisian Haute Couture scenes, but I do admire the spirit of couture, that is, the feel of hand and soul in the garment.  My clothes are ready-to-wear, nothing compared to the Haute Couture standards.  They are necessarily compromised by the demands of the commercial sphere.  But I hand cut all my productions and fuse, mark, and prep each garment one-by-one before the sewing process.  My staff and I hand treat all the pieces individually in the post production, putting an immense amount of time and effort into the collection.  It adds to the final character of the garment before they get packaged and delivered to the stores with whom I partner.  I see every single piece off - it's like sending off a child out into the world.  Whenever I get tired, I think of my customer who will be wearing the pice.  Then I come back to the place where I started. 

How does your approach to womenswear differ than your approach to menswear?
The origin may differ, but there is always a huge synergy between my designs for both genders.  I always start my season with menswear.  Not only because menswear is ahead on the calendar but also because I like to explore new tailored structures and the new developments in fabrics each season.  Designing men's and women's eventually becomes the same in essence, but since I am very interested in tailoring I see more possibility to do what I like with  the men's collection. 

My dominant theme, which never changes (especially in men's clothing) is "essence."  By that I mean simplicity.  I like men's clothes because they retain a simple integrity when compared to most of the women's clothing out there that's often merely visually entertaining.  My next focus is "comfort" - both mental and physical.  In order to achieve this you must understand how the jersey should hang on your skin.  You must create something comfortable in which someone can be both amused and confident.  But most importantly, it should not look too serious.  That's where the masculine element becomes significant  to bring in a balance.  The mood of men's design permeates the process of designing womenswear, since I personally try on the men's prototypes.  The softness in womenswear breaks the severity of the men's tailoring.  There's some amazing feedback in the conversation between menswear and womenswear.  I've been working for a while now creating soft tailoredware, structured garments from jersey and sweat fabrics.  Exploring this interplay between the sharp tailoring and soft fabrics, there are no limits.  I think this has become a signature of Forme D'Expression - blending tailoring and softness together.

How do you perceive the ideas of structure and fluidity in your clothing?

I perceive them with the help of some cues from physics, mathematics, and the human body - these make it all happen.  And while it may sound traditional, designs are often the fruits of trial and error.  Everything starts happening when you dislocate a significant part of a basic garment and start shifting the weight of the garment.  Each time, you try to achieve a good balance  that complements the human body, while trying them on yourself.  You don't want to feel trapped in a bulk of fabric even when it may look gorgeous in the mirror. 

For some, your line projects an aesthetic reminiscent of historic eras, perhaps the Victorian age.  Does the notion of time or history enter into your design process at all? 

I am not anchoring myself to a specific era, but certainly I am still looking back towards the 19th Century to see the traditional methods of constructing seams and inner details on those huge garments!  Regarding a shared silhouette, I think this may be a coincidence stemming from the area of the body on which we focus our designs.  For instance, I am very fascinated by the curve of a woman's back, moreso than the front, but I think that a Victorian label would be too proscriptive.  I do, however, like to think about today and tomorrow with elements of the past.  I like revisiting the classical bodies because older generations had a lot of wisdom in certain things, and perhaps a sense of technical ingenuity precisely because they were not privileged to have all the materials, technology, and resources that we now have.

Forme D'Expression is an intriguing line as it presents complex silhouettes while experimenting with proportion.  How is the play between volume and fit important in your collections?  

I'm not fixated on a particular silhouette, or "the" silhouette, nor do I aim to project a particular sentiment through it.  I think that silhouette evolves from my thoughts when considering how I build a collection moving from one style to the next.  The collection as a whole helps make sense of each piece.  Sometimes I ask myself "what's missing here?" and then the next path happens quite instinctively.  You always need to have something grounding you when you dress, and that's when I feel gravitated to design something quite fitted, or at least with a defined and constructed shape.  Yet at the same time, stemming from my theory of contrasts (which I mentioned earlier), I cannot feel free if my body is wrapped in only fitted pieces.  In the end, I want to ultimately achieve absolute freedom from any particular strictures of form.  Hence, when I'm testing the balance between volume and shape I'm constantly seeking to create a piece that is both versatile and timeless.  

I explore this relationship by starting with something very simple and functional, an every-day piece that will work with any other constructed pieces.  Then I feel the urge to propose to people how to complement a fit with voluminous shapes, knowing that they inject the elements of comfort, elegance, and nonchalance.  While speaking of volume and drapery, they're concepts not necessarily reserved only for women, mature, or rounder shaped people.

What kind of emotions do you associate with your collections? 

At a personal level, it's something close to "angst," but in a positive way.  I am so deeply connected to the work itself, that I take even the smallest things very personally and very seriously.  When one cares too much, the disappointment is tantamount to that experienced with that in relationships.  Those instances of creative pathos compel me to always be perfecting my work or revolting against the negativity.  All of these emotions and the brooding of that moment in creation become infused in my work.  From an objective view, I see my collection project quite the opposite aura, which is one of "peace."  I guess peace is the only way to overwrite the angst after all.

               Pictures courtesy of Forme 3'3204322896 / Factoryofaith

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