Eight months after winning the runner-up Special Prize at the LVMH Prize for Young Designers, Rok Hwang snagged the opening slot of Paris Fashion Week on Monday with his fall collection for his London-based Rokh label.
Held in the basement of what used to be a Monoprix supermarket, the collection was titled “Teenage Nightmare” in reference to the South Korean-born designer’s adolescence.
“I grew up in the States in Austin, in the forest, wasteland. So it was really quiet, and I kind of wanted to give this experience of growing up in the dark, when you have a light torch, and kind of going around as a teenager having a night wander,” he said backstage.
It made for a strong narrative hook to a collection that oscillated between markers of teenage rebellion — think a sweatshirt with a dripping varsity letter logo — and sophisticated elegance, via expertly deconstructed outerwear.
To the strains of Bernard Herrmann’s “Psycho” soundtrack, the first model emerged onto a narrow runway drenched in red light wearing a suit jacket fastened with metallic hooks, which was tucked into a pencil skirt studded with silver grommets. A printed floral bodysuit, worn as an underlayer, added to the outfit’s fetishistic edge.
It was part of a strain of subverted domesticity running through the show, inspired by hazy memories of the decor of his family’s trailer — think spliced paisley, floral and chain-link prints.
With a director’s eye, Hwang pulled back from his personal story to the broader aesthetic of the era. A caramel patent leather trenchcoat, worn over a butterscotch print gown, channeled the louche Seventies chic of Gus Van Sant’s “Drugstore Cowboy,” while a crochet blanket, worn as a cape, had the comforting familiarity of a Spielberg movie.
But he gave top billing to his signature trenchcoats, including a hulking multilayered version with extra-long sleeves. Oversize suit jackets nodded to Martin Margiela’s plays with extreme volume, but Hwang counterbalanced the bulky silhouettes with ultrarefined tailoring, some of which had a Hitchcockian polish.
“I tried to cut it to perfection. We spent probably about six months to understand the fit of each garment,” said the designer, who cut his teeth at Celine, Chloé and Louis Vuitton. The result was a confident collection that should delight the retailers who have snapped up the line, and professional women in the market for power dressing with an intellectual edge.