LONDON — This season Rejina Pyo skipped showing a collection at London Fashion Week and instead took her energy to host an intimate Korean dinner with international press and buyers at her Upper James Street store.
Pyo wasn’t the only designer who opted out of London Fashion Week — she was joined by the likes of Michael Halpern, Supriya Lele, Daniel W. Fletcher, Charlotte Knowles and more.
The business of staging a fashion show for many young labels has become an expensive and unsustainable practice that doesn’t produce results.
“You realize over the years that so many young brands have been pushed into doing a runway show before they have a solid business. When the sponsorships run out, what happens? They just close down and I just never really understood or wanted to be like that,” said Pyo at her store before the storm of London Fashion Week was about to kick off.
Pyo waited three years after establishing her label to stage a runway show.
“It’s a bit backwards because when you graduate from Central Saint Martins you’re really pushed into working towards a show. You never really understand what women are buying or how you need to survive the business side of it all,” she added.
The Korean-born Pyo isn’t going to stop designing, though — she’s experimenting with different avenues that bring her closer to her community of women.
Her London store has become a hub of more than just selling clothes. Pyo has decorated the space with rails and mirrors that she designed herself featuring artwork that she painted.
“When you are opening a store, you work with people who are so used to doing this and when they present the designs, it was just a carbon copy of a retail store that didn’t feel special,” said Pyo, who took things into her own hands by working with a workshop in south London and scouring vintage markets when visiting Italy.
The store shelves contain footwear next to an art book and small boxy bag. The front table by the entrance features zines, purses, a clay vase that Pyo made and a painting from Royal College of Art graduate Catherine Repko.
Pyo wants her store to be the antidote of the big traditional retail stores where the staff are dressed in clean, crisp uniforms. She took inspiration from the independent stores she visited when in Copenhagen, New York or Paris.
“I’m creating a home because I’m looking into every single detail,” she said.
“I really wanted to create a place where you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a little bit of the culture of the people who work there and you don’t need to buy anything, but if you do it’s a small souvenir that you can tell all your friends about,” she added.
The expansion of the Rejina Pyo label is heading into lifestyle and events. The designer has been in talks with other brands about homeware and cosmetic collaborations, keeping names close to her chest. She wants to enlist the women she’s met over the years to host talks and creative classes.
“The people who like our brand are not very fashion victims. It’s not only about fashion; they’re interested in exhibitions, books and all other parts of life. I really want to nurture that,” said Pyo.
In February, Pyo was invited to Buckingham Palace by King Charles and the Queen Consort for a reception celebrating the British East and South-East Asian communities. She was joined by industry colleagues including Huishan Zhang and Alexa Chung.
Pyo wore a custom-designed peach pink hanbok from Korean brand Silosilk.
“I wore it and I really felt surrounded by love from Korea. It’s almost like saying thank you to my country because I don’t have any literal Korean inspirations in my collections,” said Pyo.