Korean Fashion Designer Interview: BIG PARK

Interview by Brittany Wacher for Fluxus agency Asia

Park Youn Soo established Park Youn Soon in 1985 and Big Park in 2012 and has been active in the fashion industry for over 25 years. He has achieved countless awards and sits among many boards and councils, here are a few starting with awards: the Prime Minister Award given by the Korean Fashion Association, Best Fashion Designer Award by Korea Model Association, First Prize in Textile Design by International Textile News 1999, he is a Chair Professor of Design at Don-Yang University in Seoul, and once president of Seoul Fashion Week. After many seasons of success with his signature line, self-taught fashion star, decided to venture out into launching a fresh new label called Big Park in 2012. His goal with Big Park was to create something spirited and playful, but bringing forth signature elements of precision and tailoring from Park Youn Soo, and juxtaposed with his early military and utilitarian nuances from early on in his career. Giving us an undisputable edgy, head-turning new collection. The overall look is effortless but fearlessly bold. We enter his classy office pouring with books, furs, and peaceful energy to learn more about Korea’s fashion legend.

B: Park, how did you first becoming interested in fashion creation, what brought you into it? Tell me about the beginning.

P: I majored in drawing at University and was constantly creating clothes for my friends and family growing up. I loved to wear special pieces and to see my friends wear them too. Naturally, it became very clear to pursue a career in fashion design and garment creation.

B: What was the first garment you ever made?

P: A denim jacket! When I was in high school the American military base was in Korea. We were surrounded by military wear. It was the 70’s, it was fun! I would go to the market were they would sell used military uniforms and I would find all the good ones. I would go home, dissect them, chop them up and recreate outfits with this fabric and structure.  At that time there was not a lot of fabric in Korea and the American military uniform provided something so exotic to create with.

B: Overall, where does your creative force lie within you?

P: Through traveling, and simply put, perspectives of myself and those around me.

B: What about manufacturing and production, where does this happen?

P: We have in-house manufacturing in our design house. After the fashion show, some buyers will request specific detail changes and once we finish the samples we will produce some products in factories in Korea. Most of the garments are produced in house.

Everything is produced in house. And the team he has been working with since the beginning. And it is exciting because a lot of creativity is has been being passed around for many years and it keeps on getting better. SO it is important to produce everything in house, although some more repetitive products we have produced in factories.

B: How many years did it take from the beginning for it to become a sustainable company?

P: In the late 70s and 80s were very happy memories for me because he was able to create whatever he wanted and his network of people loved it. All of my friends and friends of friends would buy the chopped military uniform pieces. These pieces became popular from within my circle of friends and so the succession was organic from there on it. I never had expectations, just to be present, “ BE HERE NOW”. I was able to work like that for ten years, focusing only on today. During this time I was able to make good friends, seniors; the ones that pulled him to where I am today. Appealing to the audience was less important than appealing to his colleges. From then I was able to build something really big.

B: What felt like the big turning point for you from an independent creator into feeling like a fashion brand?

P: My 1st turning point in the early years was receiving a grand prize by a newspaper company, and that was when society first approved that he was a good designer. Which is rare for a self-taught designer and educated exclusively in Korea, majoring in drawing rather than fashion. So it was a big accomplishment to receive this grand award. I took it as a sign that I was on the right path.

B: This is also the point where you began to create full collections rather than individual pieces?

P: In the 80s Korea had fashion shows but not designer collections. In the 90s, a council was formed called SFAA.  This was my 2nd turning point, creating full collections. It was a good place to cultivate all of the creativity that I could harbor. It became about developing a lifestyle, saying something further than I could express with individual pieces. There was the full collection, the shows, the models…everything involved. Designing became a very emotional and artistic experience at this point and never just about selling clothes. And still to this day, it is just as important; I have never missed a collection, 54 collections, 26 years. I am one of the only designers who had collections non-stop in Korea.  

B: Two collections per year no matter what. Wow, impressive. Was there ever a time that it felt impossible to keep going?

P: ( laughing) Yes!

B: Okay, and by sounds, if it, things really started to heat up for you in the 90s…

P: Yes, and in these years appealing to the audience became more and more important rather than just to my peers.  Every year since the 90s has been a struggle because of the responsibilities of the house. It’s becoming a way of how the public will react to the creations. Every year it becomes harder as the brand becomes bigger and bigger. It requires so much attention that I don’t have time to just be myself. It becomes more and more lonely as the brand becomes more

B: At the beginning, were there difficult times when there were no buyers or a lot of money coming in but he kept going anyways?

P: There was always business coming in but when there was a big surge of distribution into department stores. The more difficult stage was from 2011 to 2013 when we tested Big Park in London for two years. But the market wasn’t hospitable enough. I discovered my customers are mainly Asian based and brought Big Park back to Seoul last year.

B: The one thing you really truly desire?

P: (laughing) Handsome, youth, and English speaking fluently.

Photos & Production by Vincent Sung (www.vincentsung.com)