Interview: J.WON

Rhiannon D’Averc grabbed some time in the LFW Designer Showrooms to chat with Jiwon Ree, the designer behind label J.won, before she returned to her home of South Korea.

Talk me through the current collection.
It’s about the circus, as you can see. Lots of animal print, trying to integrate a print into my collection. J.won is always focused on colours, and colours are my signature, as well as stripes. Stripes carry through every season for us in different ways. I also used metallics. For images of the circus, I tried to put it in a shiny effect. I also did quite a lot of t-shirts with an animal print. That’s pretty much about it!  

What made you settle for the circus theme?
That’s a theme I always wanted to do in my collection, but I couldn’t find the right moment. Now it’s kind of a trend with Gucci and all the flashy stuff. I thought maybe this is the time for me to do the circus theme! More fitting my inspiration into a trend, but sometimes that works.  

What is it about knitwear that you’re drawn to in particular?
I studied knitwear. It’s been 15, 16 years since I graduated. I like soft textures. I really like a soft touch and feel, so that’s why I like knitwear.

You’ve worked in South Korea, the US, and London as well, isn’t that right?
I graduated from school in San Francisco. When I graduated, I went to McQueen as a guest designer. He chose one intern for the graduate fashion show, so I won the Alexander McQueen scholarship prize. That’s how I came to London for the first time. After I graduated, I went back to New York, to work with Ports 1961. I worked as a knitwear designer for a few years. I went back to Seoul, then came back to London. I started to work for Jas MB. I launched my brand – it was a knitwear label, accessories normally. After I worked for Jas, I started to work for Roland Mouret. Then I launched my own label five years ago.  

Did you find it difficult to adapt to so many different brands and styles?
I think I’m quite flexible in terms of design. I tried to fit in their brands. I’m quite creative, I think. When I was working for Roland Mouret, I was all about the silhouette and the shape. But I always wanted to launch my label with all my signatures in it.  

What are the differences you noticed between the cities you’ve designed in?
London is definitely my favourite city. As a designer, there are so many sources and so many inspirations out there. Even in the street, I get so much inspiration. Sitting in a café, looking at what people are wearing outside, it really makes me do something in my collection. But now, looking back, I was really happy in San Francisco. The weather was perfect, good food, nice people. For me, New York is not really my city, I think. It’s a big city, but I like a city with a bit of quirkiness in it. That’s why I love London the most.  

What are your future plans at the moment?
Future plans… that’s a hard question! [laughs] Definitely I want to focus on my brand. I want to build it. I want to sell in major cities, major department stores – that’s my goal. But I get pretty good feedback from the customer. Actually, I do have a lot of traffic coming back to my website after they already bought previously. I think that’s quite a good sign. Also, I’m building up my audience in South Korea. I’m based in South Korea at the moment. I’m selling in many department stores and sales are growing, and I think that’s quite a good sign.  

Do you find the customers in Seoul and London buy the same pieces, or do they have different tastes?
It’s always a little bit different. The weather is different, the colours that they like are different. But there’s always the common stuff they like.

Shop the latest J.won collection at J.won lookbook images via Dyelog PR

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