“Fashion follows the trends. Unlike what happened in the arts, there have been few schools of thought in fashion.” This strong statement by recent Atelier Chardon Savard (ACS) graduate Séro Oh carries heavy implications.
It would be an oversight to describe Séro graduate collection: La rêve-olution – a pun on revolution, rêve meaning dream – simply as a gender bending exercise. Séro does dress men as he would “Parisian bourgeoises;” drag queens however is not what he has in mind.
Playfully Séro introduces much confusion into the masculine wardrobe: heels go up while jackets become shorts and clothes dangerous to wear … As paradoxes collide, a unique atmosphere emerges and a single conviction remains: Séro’s work is compelling.
Séro, what do you mean when you say that “unlike what happened in the arts, there has been no school of thought in fashion?”
Following the industrial revolution, the 20th century was a time of technical development and liberation which saw the rapid growth of Europe urban populations. This fast changing world caused many thinkers and artists to reconsider their environment. I see the invention of the camera as a key moment in this evolution; it completely changed the artists’ perspectives. Before the camera the work of the artists was constraint by reality as they tried on the whole; to find ways to represent it. The camera freed artists of the need to “re-present” and allowed them to focus fully on the meaning, on the implicit, on the essence of things. For me this new focus is the root of the 20th century art revolutions.
Throughout this period fashion has been influenced by aesthetics’ evolution but the finality of garments, their essence as object, has not really been questioned.
Is this, questioning of the essence of garments, what your graduating collection tries to achieve?
Yes in my own fashion so to speak! I have tried to revisit menswear in the light of the different art movements of the 20th century.
Surrealism, for example, René Magritte in particular, led me to introduce a sense of mystery and strangeness. The concept of abstract art drove me to destroy the purpose of garments, their wearability and to remove gender distinctions. In the end my designs ask the questions: What should we make of skirts & heels worn by boys, of garments that cannot possibly be worn because they are inlaid with broken glass…?
The confusion created is meant to help us question the meaning and the essence of the garments. It is a provocation, a mirror reflecting an image of our time. I am trying to slow fashion down and ask if we are going in the right direction.
What kick-started your thinking and the design of this collection?
I would like to believe that fashion is changing. So far fashion has meant new, superfluous, commerce, luxury… Is this right? By distorting the meaning of clothing, destroying the purpose of the garment, I wanted to revisit general beliefs about fashion. What do we achieve when we dress? Do we dress to protect, to cover, to decorate or to signify? We cannot ignore a simple fact: there’s a body inside the garment.
Does your collection relate to your personal story?
Yes. I am Korean and my home is in France. Growing up with this multicultural background was confusing; in France I was a little Asian; in Korea I was this guy who was necessarily different because raised in the West. This led me to question the world around me and think about the meaning of things.
Do you think you are influenced by what is happening currently in Fashion?
I’m not sensitive to market trends. I’d prefer be the one who gives direction rather than follow along. My customers are those at the forefront of fashion; young rebellious people who refuse to obey. Their gender is mysterious; they are thin and wild…
How does the public react to your work?
The reaction has been good. I was lucky enough to be selected amongst a handful of designers to show during the Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week in July 2012. The comments were generally positive. Of course it made me happy but also weary.I think it is difficult as a designer to hear what is said and remain true to your vision. By commenting, by putting their words on what you have created, people take it away from you. I make an effort to overcome this to remain focused.
What aspect of creating your collection did you find the most difficult?
The development process was quite complicated. I wanted my outfits to clearly reference each of four art movement of the 20th century. But it has been difficult to make this reference clear visually.
What is a key stage in the way you design?
My development work focus mainly on volume rather than texture and colour. So this is what I initially focused on, volume and also production techniques. I find research on structure and forms help me generate a lot of ideas and I often start my research cutting and moulding. With this collection I was interested in playing with the inside and the outside as a mean to convey my idea. I wanted to make the inside also the outside.
Everything fell in place once I found ways to turn my pattern into Möbius strips. The Möbius strip has no inside and no outside, it is a surface with only one side; it has “the mathematical property of being non-orientable.”
Were there other key moments in the design of your collection?
Like abstract paintings have lost the obvious purpose of representing, I wanted to confuse the public and make my garments apparently un-wearable.There is a paradox here because traditional fashion is presented on the catwalk and in any case I want my garments to be worn. What I had to achieve was an illusion: make my garment seem impossible to wear, shock the public so they start questioning what is happening.
I achieved this by adding onto the fabric of my garments things that are not, that cannot be on them: broken glass, screws, cement and broken bricks … This was difficult to achieve but it really was worth it.
What advice would you give to those about to start designing their graduate collection?
I believe it is vital to start by creating your own world, even if only in your head. If this world does not exist you will lose your way, your style and end up copying what other designers have created.
Do not think too far ahead but start from this solid basis. During the design process you will face dead-ends and find yourself completely stuck. If what you have imagined is strong enough you’ll find way to overcome these difficulties and achieve something truly unique.
Have you done any internship?
I did a long internship at the couture house Yiqing Yin. This was a great opportunity which has allowed me to deepen my knowledge of the operation of a professional house. It has also confirmed my taste for the world of high-end couture.
How do you see your career unfold?
I would like to start my own label. To get backing I am planning to take part in a few international fashion competitions: Hyères Festival, ITS etc…
Artistic Director: Alice Sauvage
Photography: Steven Frebourg
Models: Eymeric Loiseau & Charles Marius Thélu
Cameraman: Antoine Onimus
Film Editor: Arnaud Martin
Thanks Séro for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you the best for your future.