Cover Miss Sohee autumn-winter 2022 Suppoted By Dolce & Gabbana

Meet Sohee Park, the young Korean designer behind her celebrity-approved label, whose work has also attracted the attention of industry heavyweights

The haute couture world is shaking up. A new wave of couturiers is debuting stunning, otherworldly designs that are available only in limited quantities. In a three-part series, Couture Youthquake, Tatler speaks to demi-couture masterminds about their journeys.


Sohee Park is living the dream. After graduating from Central Saint Martins online, without even the customary final-year show, the South Korea-born, London-based designer spent the next two years in lockdown, but this didn’t stop her from launching her eponymous label Miss Sohee and dressing the likes of Gemma Chan, Miley Cyrus and Cardi B in her uber-glamourous gowns. Park hosted her first runway show during Milan Fashion Week in February with the support of none other than Italian fashion royals Dolce & Gabbana.

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Park stayed in London in 2020 despite the difficulties presented by Covid-19, even when her Korean friends all flew home and she had to work from her tiny apartment instead of a proper studio. She desperately wanted to finish her graduate collection and present it to the world—and it paid off. Her hard work resulted in a dazzling series of images of her demi-couture, floral-themed collection The Girl in Full Bloom, which turned the heads of industry heavyweights and young fashion lovers alike. “Her creative vision and very strong identity struck us and we decided to meet her,” designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana tell Tatler in an email.

 

The duo were particularly taken by the 25-year-old talent’s balloon dresses on Instagram, and have since supported every stage of the new Miss Sohee collection, by not only providing guidance from different Dolce & Gabbana departments but also allowing her access to the Italian brand’s archive of its prestigious Alta Moda pieces. “Their Alta Moda has always enthralled me and I was aware of their collaborations with young designers in the past, so I felt very lucky and grateful to be given this support and opportunity,” Park says.

 

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When we speak to her less than two weeks before her Milan Fashion Week show, Park shows none of the expected pre-debut jitters. “I was very surprised at the amount of work needed to organise a presentation but, with everyone’s hard work, I’m very confident it will be amazing. It still feels like a dream to me.” Dreams and escapism are common themes in Park’s work. Her mother was an illustrator, and Park grew up spending much of her time in her mother’s studio, where she would practise drawing surrounded by children’s books and fantasy worlds. Her grandmother’s expertise in embroidery was also a key influence that led to Park’s interest in artisanship.

While London has been her home for the past six years, Park’s designs tell stories that can be traced back to her childhood in South Korea. Her fall 2021 couture collection, for example, features pearl-embroidered, ocean-coloured gowns that perfectly hug women’s bodies, an ode to childhood holidays spent by the sea with her late grandmother and older women known as Haenyeo, who use traditional diving methods to collect shellfish.

 

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For her autumn-winter 2022 collection, Park was “inspired by the traditional Korean folk art Minhwa, which translates to “painting of the people”. These real-life stories painted by non-professionals include nature-inspired elements such as tigers, magpies, butterflies, waves, mountains, the sun and the moon, which Park translated into motifs for her signature voluminous designs. She continues to explore the use of intricate embroidery—or, as Park describes it, “painting on clothing”— incorporating a variety of Swarovski stones, as well as pearls and beads of all shades.

Like many designers of her generation, Park has her own take on the commitment to sustainability. Free from the need to mass-produce and to rush for quick turnover, couture and demi-couture designers are at the opposite end of the spectrum from fast fashion. Park is among the many couturiers, such as Schiaparelli’s Daniel Roseberry, Viktor & Rolf and Ronald van der Kemp, who
have sought ways to use plant-based, deadstock and upcycled fabrics for their creations, and she is combining this eco-friendly approach with her love for Korea in her work.

“While in Korea, I visited the region of Hansan to source Hansan Mosi fabric [part of the Unesco intangible cultural heritage list], which is a very special hemp fabric that is created by local artisans using old traditional methods of weaving,” she says. She even uses abacá banana tree fabric and old fabrics from previous Alta Moda collections in her new designs, not to mention a beautiful pair of boots made of pineapple leather.

 

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“Hopefully, I’ll be able to hire a bigger team so that I get to have some weekends off. I really need to catch up on sleep as well,” she says. Unlike a well-established couture house with an atelier of at least 15 petites mains, or skilled artisans, a couturier on the rise has a lot on her shoulders. But staying outside of the system also means there are no strict rules to follow, and owning a demi-couture brand that produces only a handful of beautiful pieces has allowed Park to acquire an impressive fanbase. As Italian design kings Dolce and Gabbana say: “You need an authentic and passionate story to enhance what you have in your hands: it’s not enough to present a dress on the catwalk; the dress itself must be a wonderful story.” Miss Sohee dresses are only the first chapter in Park’s story, which promises to be an inspiring one.

 

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