‘Concrete Utopia’, the Spring/Summer 2021 collection from Samun Lim, imagines a new society — one where fashion is democratised, collectivism and individualism are merged into a single idea and the world becomes a place of unity. Guiding this path to a new society is Lim Youngjun, a South Korean designer with a global perspective. Schön! spoke to the designer exclusively to hear more background about the label’s designs and what he has planned for the future.
You were previously in the military. How does that affect your approach to design today?
Born in South Korea, I had been serving in the Army for almost two years. While I was serving, I was confronting North Koreans at the border. I had been asking myself about the reason that I was standing there. Watching an ideology and a system dividing people was a hurtful experience. I knew I was living in a divided country, but I couldn’t feel it in my heart before. But when I stood between the borders, it was obvious — I could feel the pain and division. I didn’t want that to happen again. Rather than dividing, I pursue a society that is inclusive and cohesive. And that has influenced my approach to the design process.
Wearing a uniform every day also gave me an insight into how a garment interacts with the body. When you wear the same uniform for two years, it becomes a part of your body. I think it’s beautiful. I always think about the relationship and interaction between garment and wearer.
You also previously studied industrial design. How did you then transition to fashion, and how does that history influence your work?
The transition happened naturally. The industrial design process was already there, so I felt quite comfortable. For my Bachelor’s project, I designed a collection of bags. Then I briefly worked in the fashion industry after I graduated. It changed my thinking about fashion, and I just fell in love with it. I wanted to explore more, so I decided to come to the MFA program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. For the two years in the program, I built my own universe and made my final collection, which became the debut of the Samun Lim brand.
Studying industrial design has influenced my work in multiple ways. Whenever I design, I think about gravity first. Gravity affects garment construction, which is the key element of my collection. Also, I understand beyond the two-dimensional form. I deliver abstract ideas with precise technical three-dimensional handwriting and mechanics. The three-dimensional awareness I inherited while I was practising as an industrial designer has made my works multi-dimensional.
Introduce us to Concrete Utopia. What is the ideology of “Concrete Utopia”?
‘Concrete Utopia’ talks about collectivism and individualism — embracing individual differences in a collective society. The co-existence. When can we be united? How can we shape a united society that connects us all? A system that not only embraces diversity, but also constructs a concrete society as a collective? These questions have resonated in my heart for a long time, and the collection was part of my answer. So, I decided to name my collection Concrete Utopia. The word ‘Concrete’ comes for strong construction, ‘Utopia’ comes for the society for everyone.
Walk us through the material choices for this collection. How did you use these materials to strike a balance between concentration and diffusion?
I used latex, spandex and neoprene for most of the parts. These stretchable materials give freedom to embrace a wide range, which collaborates with my ideology of ‘Concrete Utopia’. Also, I love the sensual, sexual feelings and sound of these materials when I play with them. Concentration and diffusion came naturally through the process of combining tent structures and modular fragments made of these materials which represent the narrative of collection.
Can you tell us more about the ‘modular system’ that this collection has?
The modular system was a part of utilitarian thinking. At the beginning of the process, I referred back to architectural movements and made my own structures. Then I deconstructed the structures and made it into fragments. There were anchor points I focused on the body, so I started to make the modular structure with these fragments from those points. I made several prototypes with the idea and played around with it. Those structures are adjustable so they can sit on different body parts. It helped the garment fit the wearer and added a playful variation to the looks, too.
Why is fashion design important to you?
Fashion portrays where we are and who we are. I decided to pursue fashion because I felt fashion is more intimate and direct. Everything is just a medium, and I feel fashion design is an effective medium to convey my thinkings over agendas. We all are living monuments of our own propagation. Through fashion design, I deliver myself out there. And my favourite part is, with fashion, you don’t have to say it. You can feel it first.
What are your goals for the Samun Lim brand? As in, how do you want wearers to experience the brand?
Deepness, sensuality and sexuality gravitate one to another. I want my brand to give those feelings to my audiences. I want to gravitate others through my brand and lead my audience to question themselves with what I have been questioning. And eventually, I want my brand to be like a social club.
What are your other plans for the future of the brand?
I am planning to keep my brand conceptual. Hold an exhibition once a year with artwork and make collections from it.