XXV. GRACE KOO
Stylist ___ Vogue Japan. The Contributing Editor. The Block.
“ I wanted him to feel expansive, free from any form of constraint. ”
IN HER WORDS:
'I always begin by working with the photographer to find a concept that we are both super excited and inspired by. This consists of finding visual references and inspirations to specify the character in the story and the environment. The next step is researching and requesting the main looks and accessories that are key to the story, then building on those key looks with more personal unique pieces. Usually I find these special pieces on appointments to showrooms and vintage stores. On set, I always try and bring the team together to get everyone’s input, as every single person on set (hair, makeup, photographer and assistants) are fundamental to any photo shoot. It is important for a stylist to be able to convey the original inspiration, so everyone collaborating has a clear picture of the story we want to tell'
ElysiumEditorial: You were an assistant for George Cortina, a creative whom jokes about falling into the industry when infact it was all he ever dreamed of doing. Were you always fixated on the industry or were you a late fashion convert?
GraceKoo: I remember watching STYLE with Elsa Klensch on CNN when I was a child and wanting desperately to be a part of that world. I always had a love for clothes and beautiful things, but never knew how to make that into a career. I actually studied Biology when I was at University, but fashion was always in the back of my mind. After completing my degree, I decided to pursue what I felt was my passion. So, I packed up and moved to New York at 25 to pursue a fashion career
EE: A sterling sense of style is typically an innate quality, is styling a trade only viable to these naturally fashionable beings?
GK: I really believe that an innate visual sensibility gives those who are pursuing fashion an advantage. Though without hard work and determination, a sterling sense of style can only take you so far. On the other hand, one’s sense of style is something nobody can take away, so long as you stay true to yourself and what you want to create
EE: Speaking of your personal style, what do you find yourself wearing on a daily basis and on reflection do you feel your own appearance consciously or subconsciously affects the aesthetic you create?
GK: My personal look at the moment is a bit 70’s retro, loud colour with lots of print and texture. I’m very inspired by Missoni knits and animal prints at the moment. A lot of what influences my personal fashion is what I see on the runways. The inspiration that dictates my personal style always affects the aesthetic in my editorials. But of course in editorials I take an idea to its extreme. Occasionally I need to try on the key looks for my shoot in order to fully understand the clothes I am working with. My editorials are often an extension of my personal style
EE: New York is currently the city in which you reside, do you feel on a creative level this is the best place for you to dwell?
GK: In some ways, I think it is important artistically for me to be in New York because I’m constantly surrounded by creativity and new ideas. Alternatively being in the same place for a long time can give you a one-sided view of the world, which can be a distraction to the creative process. For me it is important to explore other places in the world to gain new perspectives and bring this into my work
EE: Speaking of, anything particularly exciting occurring on the fashion scene across the pond that we should know about?
GK: Pajama Jeans, based on a Jegging but made out of Sweatpants. I wouldn’t say its necessarily a big thing occurring on the fashion scene, but most people are intrigued and horrified. On the fashion front in NYC, I am seeing a lot of 90’s grunge coming back to the street style scene, flannels around the waist, midriff baring tops and baby doll dresses
EE: Your Menswear styling seems equally as adventurous as its female counterpart, is it a conscious decision not to discriminate in this way?
GK: My approach to men’s styling is not much different from female styling. It’s all about pushing the fashion to the extreme in any case, whether I am styling a man or a woman. With menswear, it can be a bit more restricting, because there is much less variety in silhouettes and fabrics compared to women’s fashion. But, I always try and push the limits of traditional menswear to create something new and modern
EE: ‘Young Guns’ seems to highlight the emotional qualities of fabric, be it an air of rebellion with a leather jacket or a feeling of vulnerability transmitted through an over proportioned knit. Would you agree that clothes hold a huge emotional charge & do you consider this when selecting fabrics for a shoot?
GK: I totally agree that clothes hold a huge emotional charge and this influences my choice of textures and fabrics selected for each shoot. Textures in the clothes are the tools I use to really express what I want to say about the subject in each story. Chiffons and tulle can achieve a soft quality, and using unforgiving fabrics and leathers evokes a much tougher quality. I also love using clothing textures to challenge perceptions of what is traditionally considered ‘tough’ or ‘soft’ and ‘pretty’ or ‘ugly’
EE:Your recent work for ‘The Block F/W 2011’ is a complete editorial home run - taking colour, texture, print, proportion and posture into consideration. Is there some kind of creative equation that allows you to formulate the perfect set of visuals?
GK: My creative equation always consists of one simple idea. So, for the block, I wanted it to be about modern suiting. I then build on this very basic idea to make the styling my own, whether this is adding a wacky accessory, or playing around with proportions. But, it is always important for me to start with a very strong base look or idea that I can build upon and develop
EE: On the subject, what editorial from your portfolio, do you feel best represents your styling aesthetic? Where did the concept for the shoot germinate and how did it progress to the visuals?
GK: My styling aesthetic is effortless and non-traditional. At the same time, the goal is to create a character that I would want to be. It’s like when you are walking down the street and you see someone with amazing style whom you instantly want to get to know, you are instantly curious, this is the character I always aim to create. I think the editorial that best represents my style is The Painter. The concept was influenced by ‘Basquiat’ and New York in the early 80s. I wanted the clothes to almost mimic an abstract painting using print, colour and layering. I wanted him to feel effortless & expansive, free from any form of constraint
EE: The only constant feature of the industry is the yearning for change, how does this disposable quality of fashion effect what you do?
GK: I believe the yearning for change in the industry keeps me searching and exploring for something new. Not only in regards to a new silhouette or fabric, but also a different perspective on how to see things. It’s all about how you use this new perspective to alter what is deemed as in ‘fashion’
EE:When contributing to such a prolific publication as Vogue Japan, do you ever feel pressured into diluting a creative vision in order to conform to the stereotypical ‘Vogue’ approach?
GK: When I shot for Vogue Japan, I did feel some pressure to conform to the ‘Vogue’ approach. Although I always try and stay true to my vision, otherwise I know I won’t be completely happy with a story, if I felt I held back that is. I think the pressure I feel when shooting for a publication like Vogue can be a distraction because I am constantly thinking about what ‘they’ would like or want. I try and cater to whatever publication I am working for, but I always try maintain my style signature – its all about striking a healthy balance
EE: A vision of the future - Where do you see the industry developing?
GK: I believe online publications and blogs are creating a vision for the future of fashion. Everything is much more immediate. Blogs have developed to become such an important facet in regards to fashion editorial. I believe the future of the industry is going online, now all the fashion print magazines are also putting articles and editorials on the web. I also feel that film is now the new frontier for fashion editorial
EE: With previous experience of working alongside influential Fashion Editors / Directors, we assume you have a determined view on what you wish to achieve with your career?
GK: I’ve been super lucky to have worked with some amazing influences in fashion. I assisted George Cortina and Marie-Amelie Sauve, two amazing stylists that work in totally different ways. George’s style of working is much more spontaneous, while Marie-Amelie is much more planned and calculated. From my experiences, I would like to always work from a place of inspiration and stay true to myself. What I learned from both George and Marie-Amelie is that it is important to live your life with balance and not only be living for work. I always want to be able to maintain a life outside of fashion
EE: Elysium (E): A place or state of perfect happiness - When are you at your happiest?
GK: I am at my happiest when I am with the people I love and when I am able to explore creative outlets without limits