Drapers meets the designer Rejina Pyo, whose eponymous womenswear brand is making waves with its wearable, desirable “art couture” stylings.
There is a sculptural, almost architectural quality to the designs of Rejina Pyo. With their kaleidoscope of voluminous accents, subtle femininity and daring silhouettes, the brand is already a darling of street-stylers and Instagrammers, and is rapidly gaining traction. Browns, Net-a-Porter, The Modist and Harvey Nichols are among more than 80 retailers to stock Pyo’s designs, as are high-profile independents such as London’s Modern Society.
South Korean-born Pyo, gained a masters degree in womenswear fashion from Central Saint Martins in 2011. Her graduate collection caught the eye of H&M group brand Weekday, for which she designed a range inspired by her MA finale that was sold in 30 stores across Europe from April 2012. On graduation, she joined fellow alumna Roksanda Ilincic at her eponymous label.
Pyo’s break came the following year, when she won the prestigious Han Nefkens Fashion Award in the Netherlands, which led her to create an exhibition collection at the renowned Bojimans Van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam.
“It was quite different to working in a fashion company,” recalls Pyo. “But I enjoyed so much of that creative process and the freedom, and actually almost problem solving.” As well as the exhibition, the prize money was the fuel she needed to kickstart her own brand.
It is this artistic grounding that makes her work so recognisable: bold outlines combine with a careful use of colour and focus on detail – the bestselling egg yolk-yellow Jamie dress and colour-block Kate coat are perfect examples. Wholesale prices for the autumn 17 collection range from £118 for a blouse and £155 for trousers to £325 for the statements coats.
“I’m very inspired by the combination of shape and form,” Pyo explains. “A lot of my garments have a sculptural silhouette but I want to make items that are wearable and desirable, and not like a costume.”
Rejina Pyo Autumn 17
This fusion of the sculptural and wearable has led her creations to be described as “wearable art” – a formula that has proved irresistible for buyers and consumers alike.
“She successfully blurs the lines between art, fashion and wearability and each new season sees her confidence and capability grow,” says Debra Hepburn, founder of Young British Designers, which has stocked Rejina Pyo since her first collection for autumn 14. “Her attention to detail is second to none. Detail that makes you very aware there is a true and original creator behind this piece and that it is very special indeed. ‘Art couture’ if you like.”
Alongside this artistry, there is a sense of pragmatism and practicality in Pyo’s designs: softly defined waists, flattering long lengths and relaxed, modest outlines that give the intense desirability Pyo aims for.
“I design thinking what I would wear and then when I’m doing fittings I’ll change things to a way that I’ll feel comfortable,” explains Pyo. “For example, if it’s too tight and I’d want to wear it to an evening event, then I would change it so I could still eat something or sit down.”
Rejina Pyo Autumn 16
“What I wanted to create was unique pieces, but then also things that are a bit more affordable and still great quality, so you don’t want to throw them away after one season,” explains Pyo. “I like to have a classic, almost timeless feeling to my garments, so they can survive in the wardrobe after trends change – something that can be passed down to your daughter. I would hate to create something that was wasted.”
The brand took a break from the London Fashion Week last season, as Pyo was on maternity leave – her daughter is now three months old. Nevertheless, she has grand ambitions for the September event, and for the future of the business. The label has already expanded from a small capsule collection in 2012 to more than 100 pieces for autumn 17.
Pyo wants to drive the brand forward both creatively and as a business, and plans to further develop the footwear offer – her simple, triangle-heeled shoes are already popular. She is looking into creating handbags, and also has ambitions for jewellery, menswear and – now that she has a child of her own – kidswear.
“We’ve created this persona and it would be wonderful to think what our person would wear for shoes, for bracelets, for everything,” she says.
Despite her relatively swift ascension to cult brand status, Pyo has no interest of being a flash in the pan: “I’m not interested in having a moment and then being gone two years later. I want to be a slow burner – there whenever people want great pieces to wear.” And with her grand designs and grander plans to grow her range, Pyo’s trajectory looks set to soar.