Explaining his mildly obsessive love affair with the unisex trench coat, 42-year-old Korean designer Juun.J muses, “I have a big interest in applying women’s images and silhouettes to menswear. When I put on a trench coat, I try not to use any other accessories. The look is fabulous. It’s perfect as it is.” Creating an all-purpose utilitarian coat in a more traditional cut might have been fine, but that didn’t stop the Seoul-based designer from slicing off the sleeves and radically reworking the lines—even going as far as converting the coat into a belted man-dress, worn draped over slacks—for his Fall/Winter 2007/2008 collection, his debut on the Paris runway. In keeping with the tough cloak-and-dagger vibe that has defined his aesthetic since he first started designing in Korea in 1992, Juun’s collections have continued to feature sharp silhouettes and hard-edged tailoring that would not look out of place in a 21st-century update of Blade Runner. In fact, it’s partly Juun’s moody retro-futurism that has made him one of the most watched designers working today. “I start my collection with a mood,” he says. “The design comes last. The most important point is that all the designs have to get along together and have something in common.” For his Fall/Winter 2009/2010 collection, Juun incorporates a softer, more playful tone that promises to be a bit more accessible to consumers (including women, who will undoubtedly be borrowing their boyfriends’ origami-like jackets). And latching onto the more feminine slim silhouette, he pays homage to his heroes Helmut Lang and Karl Lagerfeld with a collection of shimmery sweaters, shiny short blazers, and fur-fringed crop tops, finished in what is now Juun’s trademark: exaggerated shoulders and cinched-tight belting. When Lagerfeld recently purchased several pieces for his personal collection, Juun was thrilled that one of his heroes was now a fan.
Juun launched his career in fashion aftercompleting his military service—which is compulsory for all South Korean men—and it is sometimes tempting to see a uniform’s rugged exterior in his elaborate, often ceremonial designs. But Juun’s most radical new creation for Fall is also his most approachable: a large, billowing, plaid outer-garment that crosses over from jacket to poncho. Amid Juun’s sheer materials and precisely tailored leather and fur, the soft draping of the piece stands out. After all of his aggressive cool, it’s as if he’s asking us to remember that there’s still a human being hiding out somewhere underneath all of thoselayers.
Photo above: Juun.J in New York, January 2009. Trench coat: Juun.J. Hair products: Aveda. Styling: Karl Templer. Hair: Esther Langham/Art + Commerce. Makeup: Mark Carrasquillo/Art + Commerce. Special Thanks: Pier 59 Studios. Digital imaging and retouching: dtouch.