Ten Meets Rejina Pyo As She Launches Her Spring/Summer 2021 Collection
My call with Rejina Pyo came in the thick of the UK’s second lockdown. In between spending quality time with her husband – Irish chef Jordan Bourke – and their son Luka, alongside running her global brand from her North London home, she’s been re-thinking her business.
“Before the pandemic, we were in this cycle and had no time to question things,” she says. Commonly dubbed as a favourite name amongst editors, Pyo has spent the last seven years crafting an elegant wardrobe to take women through their everyday. Her designs aren’t steeped in complex ideals, nor overbearing concepts. To put it plainly, she makes beautiful clothes. Pyo is an expert when it comes to a puffy-shouldered dress, she’s a pro at sharp pantsuits, wipe-clean leather jackets and strong square necklines, too. Oh, and she loves a strange looking button (you’ll often find a varied selection on her blouses, coats and skirts).
Since founding her eponymous brand in 2014, Pyo has been a common victim of high street copying, which she says is down to the gruelling six month wait from when a collection is shown at fashion week to when it actually arrives in stores. The disruption of the fashion calendar has pushed the designer to make a change in direction. Skipping digital fashion weeks, today she presents her SS21 collection, true to season, which is available to shop right now from her e-store.
Designed to transport us to somewhere hot with sand beneath our feet, the playful collection disperses through a concoction of contrasting volumes, colours and textures. Think sensual pink flares paired with lime green bralettes; flouncy dresses with oversized double sleeves; plastic-looking skirts and work shirts stamped with a family of cartoon crabs.
There’s a pureness to these clothes that goes much beyond the sorbet-inspired hues. Designing to make women feel at ease is a pillar to Pyo’s creative vision. Growing up in Seoul, South Korea, Pyo recalls begging her mum to teach her to sew after spending days upon days watching her make curtains – “I used to wrap the fabrics around me and walk up and down the living room as if they were a couture dress,” she laughs. By the time she was eight, she was making her own checked dresses (“I was even matching the seams!”) and quickly became obsessed with fashion magazines when she reached her teens.
Wanting to follow in the footsteps of Stella McCartney and Lee Alexander McQueen, Pyo made the move to London in 2008 to study a diploma course at Central Saint Martins, before going on to complete an MA at the esteemed school in 2011. She was trained under the formidable teaching of the legendary Louise Wilson: “[Louise] gave me this priceless piece of advice that I still think of, she said, ‘If you do what you do but do it well, then there will be a place for it in the world,'” explains Pyo. “I didn’t fully understand at the time but after graduating and having seen what was going on at London Fashion Week at the time, my aesthetic was completely different. I thought I would never make it, I thought I had no chance. But then you stick with it long enough and your time comes around.”
Working under Roksanda after leaving CSM for good, in 2014 Pyo decided to go it alone. At first, she admits to being a like a deer in headlights. “Why doesn’t anyone teach you what to do when you launch your own brand? I just had to learn the hard way, making mistakes every season, it was a slow learning process,” she says. It took just over two years for things to properly pick up, with Pyo’s SS17 presentation – held inside the New York boutique Maryam Nassir Zadeh in September 2016 – marking a turning point for the brand. “There were only about 60 people there but I could feel the excitement. It was completely strange but I’m very grateful.”
Since, Pyo has gone from strength to triumph. Alongside bagging a British Fashion Award for best-emerging womenswear designer in 2019, she has held some of the most memorable fashion shows London has had to offer in recent memory – taking place everywhere from a library in Holborn to a hidden railway arch a stone’s throw away from the Tate Modern. Pyo has also been slowly expanding into unisex wear, with her husband becoming somewhat of an adviser for the more masculine-leaning garments. “He has been wearing a lot of the pieces,” she says. “We listen to [his advice] with a pinch of salt because he’s only one person but generally it’s good to understand how men shop.”
And she’s not stopping there. The Rejina Pyo team have also been working on kidswear and the designer says she would love to go into interiors. “I’m interested in people’s lives and what they wear, what do they eat, where do they go out, what are they looking at,” she says. “I’ve realised that my interests aren’t just in fashion.” Who knows, your humble abode could be decked out in Rejina Pyo goodies in five years time. Rejina Pyo lamps? Rejina Pyo chairs? Maybe even Rejina Pyo Tupperware? The possibilities are limitless. What we do know is that when she does get round to building her empire, it will be bloody glorious.
Lookbook photography by Benedict Brink. Rejina’s portrait photographed by Yoong Jang. You can shop Rejina Pyo’s SS21 collection here.