The nascent fashion label Rokh has behind it a designer with a creative pedigree that leaves no doubt that big things are in store for the brand. Rok Hwang, trained with the legendary tutor Louise Wilson at Central Saint Martins, learned the ropes working at Louis Vuitton, Chloé and Céline and he landed a Special Prize at the 5th edition of the LVMH Prize with his start-up house: ROKH.
A version of this exclusive interview first apperead in the pages of the 15th issue of ODDA Magazine
You recently received a Special Prize in the 5th edition of the LVMH Prize. Can you draw an overview of your experience as a candidate?
Full of excitement and interaction. The experience was less of a competition but more of celebration of designers and pure focus on highlighting the talents individually. There were certain moments of intensity, but the most amazing experience.
What was the hardest part of having your cubicle at the Louis Vuitton Foundation for the biggest names in the industry to evaluate your vision?
The hardest part was the first initial moment when you face all of the industry’s biggest names in one room. But, after a while, you realise they are purely interested in your work and to support the vision.
For the young designers out there, what would be your advice in case they want to be part of the next edition of the LVMH Prize?
It is a platform that purely highlighting creativity and talent and, therefore, each person has their own way of going through this process.
Do you follow a certain formula to share your vision but with your team? How does this process work?
We have a full structure and organisation in the Rokh atelier. There isn’t a certain formula, but I like to keep all the ideas in order but no limitation on experiments. My team and I have a very open relationship and we share the vision di- rectly and daily.
What things can you learn by yourself, by your own experiences, and what others can you learn by being mentored?
It is not an easy question to answer without experience. I don’t know what could be achieved. To have the education is part of the experience, but to do the work itself is another kind of experience.
What is the most life-shaking experience you have lived until today?
When I realised you could download episodes from Netflix!
In your opinion, to what extent is the talent of a designer what makes him achieve success and not the buzz around him that leads him to be in the head of a big fashion house?
For me, buzz is also a strong talent. Fashion is not only a form of art and craft, it is also about strong communication.
In the middle of this spring, and while working on your pre-collection, you said that “it’s a natural course of the business. It makes commercial sense to widen the audience. It’s something that is actually needed in the industry; it’s kind of boring otherwise. If you’re only doing main collections, by the time the customers receive the goods, they’re expo- sed to it differently from the way you want.” However, there is another group of people that differs from this idea. Can you explain a little more on what ideas are you based on to make this statement?
This statement has been perhaps misunderstood. I was commenting on the commercial and business side of the fashion cycle. If you are doing four collections per year, by the time the audience encounters the previous season, the brand will be releasing a new collection. It does make sense commercially for a brand to expand but, for the audience, to encounter the collection at a different time could be less exciting. So, from the start of the brand, I am focusing on a strong production and development to have more of a fluid delivery timing to reach out the audience.
Can you share with us your biggest dream at this very moment?
I want to make sure the vision of Rokh could be carefully communicated to the audience without a loss of storytelling. Constant direct gaze of my point of view is my dream.
What’s the importance and the connection between feeling and function?
I think the feeling and function are one in the same in this current age of fashion. The idea of luxury or the idea of cool streetwear is at the end form of communication and feeling. These days, streetwear style is made with some of the most luxurious savoir faire. For me, I want to give my emotion and brand identity to clothing so you are engaging into the story of Rokh.
I have a friend who attended junt the summer courses at Central Saint Martins, he was always highlighting how deep they [tutors] encourage students to go in order to create a moodboard, a storyline for whatever your project may be. What’s your relationship with references and how do you work with them?
I try to reference my own collections and engage actively with the fitting process. For me, it is the only way to be true to yourself. Many things have been done in the industry, but it is the way you engage during the process that could be the form of originality.
How is your relationship with muses? Are they always from the past, from the present, from the future or non-existing at all?
My women and vision have always been very clear from the beginning. I try focusing on the more fragile and raw side of women. Real, genuine women are my muses and have no link to a timeline.
Before getting in touch with muses, how did you discover yourself?
I don’t know. Still not sure of who I am.
What’s your favorite color right now (and why)?
My obsession is the colour nude. Matte, dry nude and a variety of skin tones. Just pure obsession.
Do you have a theory regarding the use of color?
Not at all, I just love to use colour, print and textures. Isn’t it more fun to have more mediums?
Can you tell us a story of something imperfect where you have found perfection?
The whole process of the collection is defined during the fitting and I often love to stop when it is not complete as I find it absolutely beautiful. For example, when part of the piece is half cut or has a raw edge and is pinned perfectly with a French-seamed sleeve. I could see the beauty of the imperfect moment and from that moment I will try to construct perfectly.