Avant-Garde |ˌavänt ˈgärd, ˌaväN|

Noun (usu. the avant-garde): new and unusual or experimental ideas particularly with respect to art and culture

Martin Margiela, Thierry Mugler, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo.

You guessed it right, these are just a few of the names that come to mind when I think of the term Avant Garde. But what would happen if we added a bit of glamour, glitz, or “bling-bling” to what’s generally known as “avant-garde”?

Korean designer Jae Keun Hwang does just that. When asked how he would describe his collection, he shyly yet proudly said none other than “Bling Bling Avant-Garde,” while tricky for sure, all it takes is to take a look at few of his accessories and designs.

After completing his Bachelor of Ceramics degree from Hong-Ik University, Hwang decided to pursue fashion at the world famous Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium which is famous for its distinguished alumni such as Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, and Haider Ackermann. As an elite design school, Antwerp is known for producing all-star designers who are experimental and innovative which is virtually a definition for “avant-garde.”

Right about now, one could easily guess what Hwang’s specialty would be, as a first Korean to ever obtain a Master’s degree from a school known to produce designers that push the boundaries- those who create, who refuse to conform to the norm.

All it really takes is to peek at a few of his pieces to see the difference, a difference that distinguishes his designs from the rest.

(On me: Tailored vertical striped blazer for men with button detail and acrylic necklace with chain and spike details. On Hwang: matching top and bottom with “face” print that’s personally drawn)

Hwang is always finding a way to push the limits, not only thinking outside of the box, but as if there is none to begin with. For this jacket he designed for a rock star, he used the material used in a wet suit as a basis and the shells used in traditional Korean furnitures as decorative accessories. Not one piece is ordinary, as his creativity can be found literally everywhere which is where his strength lies.

Sneakers made exclusively for his 2013 Spring/Summer show at Seoul Fashion Week, note the use of mini CDs and spikes that make them look like jaws and teeth. Designer’s sense of humor can be found throughout his collection both directly and indirectly.

This jacket is what I first saw him in that made our first encounter truly memorable. He said the print was initially a drawing by a famous artist, regenerated and printed onto silk to be made into this bomber jacket. I found it ironic that despite how serious and warlike the print looked, design of the article itself was extremely casual- I mean, it’s just a simple bomber jacket after all. I felt like he was telling the world not to take life so seriously, once time passes, it will just all be fun and games.

On that note, I feel that ZE QUUN HOMME and TOMIMITO share a common ground, because paradigm shift is what we stand for, which is closely related to innovation. For instance, why should accessories be restricted to purses, necklaces and bracelets? Why can’t it be something that you wear on your shoulder that doesn’t necessarily have a functional purpose? What if it’s made with acrylic rather than silver or gold or silver plated or whatever? Why can’t a ring be something else too, let’s say a clip, or a decoration for home? Where do we draw the line… Or is there a such to begin with?

While there is no concrete answer, one thing I know for sure is that one is free to experiment while having fun when doing the job of “Creating,” and nobody is here to judge or determine whether the creation is right or wrong, but what we are entitled to, is to either “Like” or “Dislike” it.

Hwang is slightly worried that he may not be producing pieces that are attractive to the general public, in other words, “sellable”, so he added extremely “normal” plaid shirts to his collection last season but instead of receiving praise, many criticized by saying that none of it said “ZE QUUN.”

A person is most beautiful when he’s himself. A designer is most influential when he confidently embraces his strengths, no matter what the world may say. That’s how “NEW” is born, when a designer does his job- a job of creation, a process of making something new, something that did not exist before. We do not know when being creative started being equivalent to weird, but without weird, the world is a boring place- there wouldn’t have been an iPhone, fusion cuisine, or even electricity.

Cheers to all those who are in the business of creating.


© 2012 – 2014, Tomi. All rights reserved.

  1 comment for “ZE QUUN HOMME

  1. Karen Salvi Faustino
    October 28, 2013 at 2:41 am

    Can I have a brochure of your latest designs

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