“I wanted to be a fashion designer from as early as I remember,” says South Korean designer Eudon Choi. As with so many of those with exceptional talent whose chosen path is evident from an early age when their imagination is sparked by a fleeting moment or a prominent individual. “Growing up, I have such a strong memory of how stylish my mother and grandmother were; this had a lasting impact on me.” Though initially, his family set their sights on Choi becoming a doctor or dentist like his father, they accepted and fully supported his choice to pursue a more creative craft in fashion design. Today, with his own eponymous brand, tickets to Choi’s shows are some of the most coveted, and his clothes are sold internationally to a loyal community who appreciate the brand’s fusion of timeless yet contemporary design.
Words by Leigh Maynard.
It was his time spent in his hometown of Seoul, working as a menswear designer for a Korean fashion label, that informed the singular masculine-meets-feminine aesthetic that underpins Eudon Choi. His success there spurred him to push his craft further and change direction to womenswear as he looked to London, where rising stars like John Galliano, Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo were taking prominent positions at big houses like Dior and Chloé. He left Seoul in 2004 to take an MA in womenswear at the Royal College of Art and founded the Eudon Choi label shortly after. “Back then, there were big names coming through from London. It was an exciting time; they had all studied for Master’s degrees, so I was interested in the UK education system, specifically Master’s, so that was the starting point. I had friends who desperately wanted to come to London, and I just tagged along!” That move has become permanent as Choi continues to live in Hoxton, east London. With a studio down the road in Haggerston, it’s a short commute. “I get to walk to work which is totally priceless!” he says. His clients would be inclined to describe Choi’s designs similarly. They appreciate his choice of quality fabrics and detailing, repeatedly returning to buy pieces hand-crafted with care with the clever referencing of traditional tailoring elements from menswear, the attention to detail, and the considered approach to design, the cornerstones of the label.
Choi explains that the decision to design for women came from the sense of latitude it offered. He says he has always wanted to create masculine/feminine looks as, from day one, his work has had a duality based on his upbringing and past design experience. “I just wanted to distance myself from the design process and wanted to see design as an object, and so that’s why I switched to womenswear. In menswear, you need to follow certain rules, but in womenswear, there’s no such thing, and you can be free and explore your ideas, which really attracted me.” Unsurprisingly, he is often asked when he’ll create a menswear collection. While it’s not something the designer is contemplating, he enjoys the current oversized look explaining, “Extreme oversized has become quite trendy and acceptable, so it’s a good time to play around. It’s not necessarily menswear, but I can see that some of my items can be worn by both genders.”
“I like that, four times a year, I have a blank sheet and get to create a whole new universe populated with beautiful clothes. Fashion is a very hard career in many ways, but there is nothing quite like that feeling on show day when you watch the models take to the catwalk in the new collection.”
It’s this adaptable, open approach that ensures that Choi’s loyal customers continue to covet and wear his clothes. Though his process is unique and dynamic, the result offers a wardrobe full of enduring pieces that the designer hopes will become timeless additions worn for years. When asked how he wants women to feel in his clothes, he says, “I want them to feel really comfortable and not overpowered by the clothing yet offered attention in the quietest way. One of the editors I work with has a few pieces, and she said it perfectly, ‘Eudon makes a woman the chicest woman in the room without shouting anything.”
Fall Winter 2023 sees the designer stepping away from the bold shades of previous collections, choosing a more muted palette borrowed from Lucas Cranach’s portraiture (c. the 1540s) as Choi references Tudor detailing with wintry cashmere, wools and tweeds. However, he explains that he has focused less on narrative and more on individual pieces this season to reflect the pre-fall collection and to avoid gimmicky designs because fashion must be fun without being crude or obvious. “I enjoyed designing the products rather than building a collection from a sole inspiration as this freed the design process, not just personally but for the whole team.”
For Choi, there has always been a deep consideration for his customers and his team, even at the beginning of his career when the ‘team’ extended beyond those in the fashion sphere. “In the early days, things were a little crazy with friends helping me in any way they could. My early LFW shows were definitely a family affair!” And those formative moments now standout as some of the designer’s favourites, including his MA show, where he explored his love of outerwear inspired by Ernest Shackleton’s doomed Antarctic expedition, “I felt that inspiration just really spoke to me, and we also had a great presentation debut with Dr Jules Wright who also ran the Wapping Project. She was a force of nature, and she staged my show. In the end, we created this really exciting show by projecting all these Antarctic images. The models sat on these white-painted chairs and used binoculars, creating this expedition feel. It remains one of my favourite shows. Alas, Jules is no longer with us, and the Wapping Project is no more.”
For other young designers at the genesis of their brands, Choi offers this advice, “For longevity, just believe in yourself and just keep going, and you will make it.” Though he says he sometimes must give himself this same counsel. Like so many great talents, constant questioning is what drives them to excel, and Choi is no exception. The passion with which he speaks when discussing his work is indicative of an artist who immensely enjoys his craft and hopes for an extensive career. Though his label masterfully delivers its contemporary look, he prefers a considered approach, not wanting to be constrained by trends and artifice, which may be the key to his success now and in the future. In a recent interview with Forbes, he explained, “I would rather move slowly and be here in 30 years. I want to work right until the end like Karl Lagerfeld.” With his Fall Winter 2023 collection another resounding success and continued collaboration with French leather goods designers Louis Quatorze, life is busy for Eudon Choi; life indeed seems good.
You can find Eudon Choi interview inside the Spring Summer 2023 Issue 10
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