After launching his eponymous brand in 2009, Eudon Choi has taken the London fashion scene by storm. His meticulous tailoring and expert juxtaposition of menswear and vintage elements have won him the Fashion Scout Merit Award, the British Fashion Council/Elle Talent Launch Pad, and the personal invitations of both Anna Wintour and Franca Sozzani to present in the Vogue Fashion Fund.
On a rainy Friday afternoon, we sit down with Eudon Choi in his North London home and discuss his evolution as a designer, the spirit of the London Fashion Scene, and how he redefines femininity each and every season, ironically with the perfectly placed menswear detail.
Growing up in the bustling city of Seoul, where did your interest in fashion begin? What inspired you to start a career in fashion?
I feel like a broken record, but I always say that my grandma was the first one who introduced me to fashion. She is 89 years old and is just so stylish! Just before I was born, she had a small boutique, where I discovered everything about fashion. Both her and my mother have such a unique sense of style! I loved going through my mom’s wardrobe as she was so into designer labels.
To be honest with you, I was probably going to become a dentist. My father and grandfather are both dentists. My cousin went into art school and fashion and design. Both his parents were professors and they really gave me the courage to pursue fashion by supporting my cousin with his goals. Korea is very similar to Japan in this way. Students work endlessly hard before they go to university, and a boy wanting to pursue a career in fashion design was a bit of a scandal. A lot of things have changed since then though; my mom has always been very into fashion, and my father came around to it really quickly and is really supportive.
Before even completing your degree at the Royal College of Art, you were already hired as a Senior Designer at All Saints and then at Twenty8Twelve. What inspired you to start your own brand?
The Royal College of Art is a place that really embraces the individuality of every student. Before attending the Royal College of Art, I had already been a menswear designer in Korea for four years; so I knew the standard of how clothes should look. I was able to present a really polished final project with the support of the university and immediately joined All Saints soon after. At All Saints, I was thrown straight into the middle of the madness working with factories and such - I had so many responsibilities! Sometimes in Britain, your previous work experiences abroad aren’t recognised, but they just trusted me and were 100% behind my work.
Twenty6Twelve was an eye-opener for me. Sadly, the label discontinued, but back then it was the hottest ticket of the season. We had an amazing casting director and stylist working on the show; Jordan Dunn and Karlie Kloss walked the Twenty6Twelve runway wearing my pieces! It was all very challenging working with the factory and pattern cutters. I am super hands on, and I make things myself to such a high standard and I wasn’t perfectly happy with the quality of things that I didn’t make myself. I launched my own brand because I wanted to create something that I could be proud of.
Throughout my career, I’ve been very lucky. When I launched my own collection, a PR Agency came onboard and offered a lot of support. The British Fashion Council were so amazing with regard to embracing new talent. I guess everything is a learning curve with both All Saints and Twenty6Twelve. It’s not just about designing, it’s also about learning about fabrics and lead time.
You began your career as a menswear designer in Seoul, then moved to London to pursue an MA in womenswear at the Royal College of Art. What caused this shift from menswear to womenswear?
Back in Seoul, I was a menswear designer and had been working for four years in a very successful company in Korea. In this time, I just wanted to study abroad and see the world. When I was doing menswear, it was so easy as I simply designed what I wanted to wear. I felt like I needed to step out of my comfort zone, distance myself, and learn to be objective. I realised that womenswear was the way to do it. Eudon Choi is not an androgynous brand as we work within womenswear. I want a balance of both masculine and feminine elements in my work, reworking the femininity in a garment.
What was it like being a young creative in London during the days when you were just beginning your label?
It was definitely not easy, and was filled with long and hard hours. I’ve now developed a system where we follow strict working hours just to keep us sane! London is an amazing city to incubate young talent, of course with the great support of the British Fashion Council. If I had started my business in any other city, I wouldn’t be where I am today. This is only possible with the support and openness of the environment and the people in the industry. London is open to new talent have the ability to adapt to new ideas; especially with platforms like Fashion Scout in the scene.
What do you think are the main challenges of being an independent brand?
You know what, I don’t think there is one particular challenge. I think being independent is having the freedom to do what you want. I always see hip brands getting investments and then the creatives leave the brand after the sale. While I’m open to investment, I think it’s important to have someone who is passionate about the brand and embraces it’s values — not just focus solely on profit.
At the moment we are a small team and my company has a very lean structure, which I am comfortable with, as I want to see it grow gradually. I’m not the type of person who easily gets hyped and moves on to the next cool thing, I’m in it for the long run. I guess the difficulty is that you have to do everything yourself, but I guess that suits me as I am a control freak!
Having said that, I would like to spend more time on the design process. This is a bit difficult to manage with everything going on, so I simply listen to my heart and follow my intuition — and this is one of the best pieces of advice that I was given. While being an independent brand allows me the complete freedom to create everything on my own, it’s also equally important to keep an eye on the margins. We always do a crazy show piece, but it always comes out as wearable. Having the balance of creativity and wearability is key in my designs.
How would you describe Eudon Choi? How do you think your aesthetic has evolved throughout the years?
I began Eudon Choi with a focus on masculine inspirations, menswear elements, and vintage clothing — and reworking these to create something feminine. Even if everything is covered up, our pieces are still feminine and sexy. To this day, we still strive to redefine femininity.
In recent years, I’ve been inspired by the work of several female artists. I get a whole new perspective of femininity through their work. A lot of people think that my clothes are designed by a woman instead of a man — and I think this is a great compliment. It just means that I understand how women want to feel in clothes.
In what ways do you think your background in menswear influences the way you design your collections?
Menswear influence is part of our brand DNA. How our coat has internal coin pocket details, lining details are things that naturally happen. Tailoring comes so easy for me, its like second nature.
What is next for you? What can we expect from Eudon Choi in 2017?
I’ve got a lot of crazy projects and collaborations for 2017! We will carry on showing for London Fashion Week, and for next season we kind of want to go back to our roots and explore more menswear elements.
Finally, how do you think young creators like yourself are changing the face of London Fashion?
I guess 2017 is a very exciting time for London Fashion as there is so much talent coming out. This isn’t even a new phenomenon as it has been happening for the last decade. London is all about incubating young talent, and everything has changed in so many levels. Today people are so open-minded to try new things, and not just focus on big-name brands. With the rise of social media, there are so many new channels for young designers to just get on an international stage.
Portraits by Chris Baker
Words by Hannah Tan