Ethically Chic: Designer Ji Won Choi Gets Deep About Sustainable Fashion

Fashion

May 31, 2018 | BY Isabel Wong

The Parsons' grad explains the inspiration behind her latest collection

Born in Seoul and raised in the Midwest, Ji Won Choi first swept the fashion industry off its feet in 2017, when she was named one of the winners at the Parsons x Kering Empowering Imagination competition.

Choi also snatched the YOOXYGEN award by YOOX for Excessivism, her thesis collection at Parsons. This was followed by a six-month internship at the YOOX headquarters in Milan, where she completed her capsule collection for the e-commerce site.

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Choi’s work revolves around investigating human cultures and using design to promote positive change within societies. For Excessivism, she studied the closets of friends and acquaintances, using stripes to highlight excess consumerism through graphic symbolism and construction.

We spoke to the fashion designer herself about her environmentally friendly collection and how one can make the switch to a more sustainable wardrobe:

How do you make your designs eco-conscious?

I prefer working with elaborate concepts when creating a collection, and the entire concept of this collection was built on the need to be more conscious about what we wear. All materials used in this collection are natural fibres, and the construction of the garments suggests eco-consciousness.

They were also made in a way that they could be easily worn in a myriad of ways to ensure that they would not be disposable “trendy” items that a consumer might wear once and throw away.

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What inspired the use of bold stripes in your collection?

The stripes actually came from when I was doing the primary research for my first collection. I was trying to find new silhouettes and during the process, I experimented with putting all the clothing I have on myself in different ways.

I would layer them on Photoshop and play around with the shapes. I own a lot of striped clothing so the layering created these bold stripes all over. I also liked the symbolism of having one stripe representing an item and repeating it over and over to represent this idea of excess.

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What did your experience at YOOX's headquarters in Milan teach you?

I loved living in Milan, gaining new perspective and experiencing a new culture. An unforgettable moment was visiting the supplier in Padova.

I’d never worked with a supplier before and had always sewed everything myself, so it was really special to see the collection coming to life from my sketches.

In your opinion, how can one maintain a multifunctional closet?

I think the key thing is to not buy into trends that you know will only last a few short months. I think the key thing is to only purchase clothing that you know you will love forever and wear forever. The best pieces in my closet, I have had for years and will never part with.

Is being a fashion designer a lifelong career you would like to pursue? What do you hope to achieve as a fashion designer? 

I love all categories of design. I think it's is such an interchangeable concept—design sensibility applies to more than one category of objects or ideas. I would love to design fashion along with furniture, spaces, experiences...literally everything.

As a fashion designer, however, the cultural influences that you can create are more direct. That’s what I love about what I do. I really hope I can create some kind of impact and not just create useless, wasteful things.

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What is the future of sustainable fashion?

I just came across an article that claimed that circular fashion, or recycling, is not enough to really make an environmental impact and that the fundamental issues lie in coal-powered plants and synthetic materials that are made with fossil fuels.

To me, the future of sustainable fashion is not limited to just fashion, but our technology in general—like finding cleaner energy and materials to prevent pollution.

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