With the digital nature of this seasons London Fashion Week, it’s allowed the most creative designers to play with presentation in ways that aren’t normally available to them. The representation of their perspective is able to be delivered in the most connected sense of their vision rather than the enforced structures of a runway or presentation. It was with this in mind that I started to pen my interview questions for Johan Ku, a designer that has always crossed the lines between art and fashion and I thought the merging nature of art and fashion was the perfect thread to explore with the Taiwanese designer.
The prints feature painted references to the world around us, how do you decide on the reference points you’ll bring to the creation of the prints?
After I visited Taiwanese painter Po-Hsun Peng’s studio, I found some interesting objects besides his “dense abstract style” of art work that I could apply to fashion prints such as a used cutting map covered with colourful lines, strokes, used brushes, some new or used paint tubes and crayons. I think those are great objects to develop a collection based on the theme of “Painters”.
This season the structure you’ve made a trademark is presented within tailoring, did you feel this was a conscious break from your recent collections or a product of natural development?
Many people know me for my sculpture-like knitwear, but as a graphic designer since I was 17 I’m also confident creating graphics for prints. In “The Painters” collection therefore, I wanted to introduce another strength of mine with structured tailoring. But don’t worry, structured knitwear will be back next season for sure.
Why do you think people talk of art and fashion combining rather than referencing fashion as art in itself?
Hmmm, interesting question. Fashion is not in the traditional art categories as I know. But if designers can do artistic fashion more than functional clothing with a bit of a sense of art, fashion can be considered as a form of art. My Emotional Sculpture collection has actually been considered as a sort of soft sculpture and exhibited in art museums in the past. So it all depends on what sort of “fashion” the designers create designed its more “art and fashion combining” or ” fashion as art in itself”.
Have you found the confines the current pandemic has created have impacted on your work?
We are living in the pandemic era and it definitely impacted my life and work significantly. The obvious impact is we have launched the “Johan Ku Mask” line to create a collection of high quality masks and mask covers, a 2 in 1 item with signature prints from our previous 19 collections. The design should somehow reflect the era we are living now and the Johan Ku Mask is a clear evidence of that. The pandemic has also made everything happen online including art exhibitions. I actually met Po-Hsun Peng at an online art event and became his friend and a collector too. “The Painters” collection is inspired by the whole experience after the pandemic to be honest.
You’ve always had strong links to education and supporting young people, in these times what advice would you give the designers that are graduating?
Use your young mind and thoughts to think of fashion outside of the box. The old ways might not work at all in / after the pandemic. I believe only the people who are creative enough can be the final survivors. At the very least, you need to wear a good mask in the pandemic when you are going out.
Dear graduating designers, are you ready for a new fashion industry which everybody is still defining in and after the pandemic?
Interview By Ross Pollard – Emerging Designers Editor