Chicago-transplant, Justine Hwang breathes fresh life into the New York City fashion scene. The young designer channeled a love of art and travel into her time at Parsons and Central St. Martins, developing collections that are bold and breathtaking. Don’t be surprised if you’re taken aback by her thoughtfulness around inspiration and want to wear everything in her collection. This week we talk to Justine about the true meaning of “new” and Julian Assange as a fashion muse.
How and why did you start designing?
I was always interested in art ever since I was little. Fashion design just seemed like another medium almost to practice my art. Around high school I realized it could be more than just a platform, but really a way of communication.
What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?
The biggest hurdle is probably the financial aspect. It’s difficult to come up with the funds, especially right after graduating, to build my own company. Even if someone gave me a million dollars tomorrow, I’d need way more on the business side of things to be successful.
What do you think about fashion today?
I think fashion today is fast and repetitive. It truly takes a lot of work to make something meaningful and “new”. But when that does happen, it’s not only brilliant and intelligent, but it becomes legendary.
What is your fashion philosophy?
I don’t think fashion can be bullshitted, and that goes for any creative field really. Unless something is truly inspired and believed in, it’ll fall short. I really admire Azzedine Alaia for coming out with collections when he feels inspired to do so, rather than every 6 months (plus resort, pre-fall, etc).
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
The initial inspiration for a concept can come from anywhere, and I’ve found a lot of my collections tend to revolve around human connections. My most recent collection was based off discussing Julian Assange and the ideas of privacy. The actual designs are developed through first-hand research, usually through my own photography or collaging, digital manipulation, anything that makes me feel like I’ve really developed something myself into a final product.
Any tips and tricks of the trade?
Be patient and work quickly. There have been so many times when I’ve tried to force creativity or work to happen, and it usually ends up looking terrible and I hate it the next day. But when I stay patient, and inspiration does strike, I work quickly (and often for a really long time) to make sure I’ve got it all recorded, or sewn, or drawn.
What is your brand aesthetic?
I’d say my aesthetic is pretty masculine, as if I started designing a collection for men and turned it into a womenswear collection halfway through. I often surprise myself when I end up with something feminine. I love playing around with prints that add more personality to my otherwise strict color palette.
Intrigued? Visit Justine’s Virtual Studio.