Rejina Pyo’s designs feel like a trusty friend, one you can always depend on, as they choose style over fleeting fashion trends. They’re wardrobe staples with an architectural twist – a knotted, lightweight trench coat; a structured denim duo; a flash of floral print or a whiff of a cap sleeve. All of these items might sound commonplace in your wardrobes, but through the Rejina Pyo lens, the everyday is elevated. They’re clothes that revel in the juxtaposition – sophisticated but fun, clever but wearable. Rejina’s main focus for her namesake brand is to be, “about celebrating strong, confident, creative women. We are known for bold colours; strong but flattering silhouettes; unique prints and special buttons; we offer timeless designs with unexpected twists. My desire has always been to dress women of all backgrounds and ages who live busy full lives and I wanted to be able to add something special to their daily lives.”
Words by Charlie Newman. Portrait courtesy of Yoong Jang.
Lucan Gillespie at Select Models London shot by Ed Bourmier. Styled by Tasha Arguile.
Makeup by Christabel Draffin using NARS. Hair by Claire Healey at Eighteen Mgmt using Oribe.
Digital Operator, Simon Wellington. Stylist Assistant, Ella Li.
All clothes by Rejina Pyo.
A profound respect and fascination for women is at the core of Rejina’s brand, for it was her designer mother who first opened her eyes to the world of fashion. Rejina thanks her mother for encouraging her to, “be whoever I want to be. To know I can wear whatever I want, and in whatever colours I want. I don't need to conform. It was a gift really, so liberating.” As a result, Rejina had a strong sense of identity, “I think I was lucky in that I always had a very clear sense of self, even as a young adult I knew how I wanted to dress and what appealed to me.” What appealed was vintage, “which was absolutely not the norm amongst my peers, who like most children and teens would wear contemporary clothes, often covered in brand names. Of course as I got older and chose my own clothes, I conformed a bit more with my friends, but that sense of self, and the feeling of wearing vintage stayed with me, and I loved discovering vintage pieces and still do.” Reconstructed vintage is evident in her current collections that emanate sophistication via relaxed suiting and puff ball party dresses.
"I wanted to create pieces my friends and I would wear, pieces that are special but timeless, that are great quality but more accessible."
Aside from her mother’s guidance and quick glimpses of ’80s Yves Saint Laurent shows on the television, Rejina’s upbringing in Seoul was relatively sheltered, which could explain why her designs feel so authentic – there’s an innate sense of ease in her designs when compared to her contemporaries. It was whilst studying at Hongik University, and later working for a large South Korean tailor, that Rejina discovered, “a gap in the market. Mega-designer brands were too expensive, my friends and I could not afford to buy from them and the high street was driven by quick trends and the quality was lacking as well. I wanted to create pieces my friends and I would wear, pieces that are special but timeless, that are great quality but more accessible.”
The next stop was moving to London at 25 to study for a prestigious Masters in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins, where she was under the watchful eye of the formidable, now late Louise Wilson. Rejina found Louise’s company, “extremely difficult to please, but Louise helped me to find out what my real strengths were as a designer, and then pushed me to become the best I could at them. Her advice was, ‘Do what you do, and do it well! If you do that, then there will always be a place for it.’” Indeed Rejina found her place for her final collection won the Han Nefkens award which gave her the opportunity to work on a six month residency at the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam. Weekday (part of the high street juggernaut H&M group) then invited Rejina to collaborate on a capsule collection after seeing her graduate collection. This proved to be an important relationship, for in 2021 Rejina collaborated with & Other Stories, another member of the H&M family, to rave reviews. In 2019, Rejina’s sharp eye and graceful taste was recognised and celebrated after receiving the British Emerging Talent award in Womenswear at the British Fashion Awards.
Part of the brands success lies in Rejina’s savvy business acumen, a skill she accumulated gradually before launching her own brand in 2014. Post-studies, Rejina worked at Christopher Raeburn for a short while where she first grasped the importance of how “businesses operate… Interestingly, it was only after I started my own brand that I fully understood the complexities of what a founder and designer does on a day-to-day basis, and it was only then, in hindsight, that I could fully appreciate how challenging it was for the owners of the brands I had worked for.” Post-Raeburn she worked as Roksanda Ilinčić’s first-ever Design Assistant where she gathered her, “first insight into what it was like for a London-based private fashion label. I got to see firsthand just how important all the other non-design elements of running a business are.”
“always flattered and honoured to see well-known women wearing my designs, I am even more excited to see my clothes casually worn regular woman on the street.”
When it comes to design, Rejina begins, “each season by considering the concept, thinking about what I want to communicate, how I am feeling and what I am inspired by. I delve into research and create a folder of mood images, photographs we have taken, artwork, etc. I discuss with the team the direction that I want to take for the season, and we discuss feedback from previous seasons and any new ideas we want to bring in. Feedback from my team and customers is really important to me, but I always need to push myself to do something new, I move on to new ideas quickly.” It is this consistent dialogue with her team and customers that keeps Rejina’s designs so fresh and desirable, worn by the most remarkable women from Michelle Obama to Meghan Markle and Leandra Medine. And yet whilst Rejina is, “always flattered and honoured to see well-known women wearing my designs, I am even more excited to see my clothes casually worn regular woman on the street.” She explains how she would love to see her grandmother in her designs, “That would be the ultimate thrill.”
You can find the full piece in the Fall Winter 2022 Issue 9: Purchase your copy here.