Fashion & Grooming Editor, Ross Pollard reviews Johan Ku, autumn/winter 2019.
Sometimes you want a fun party aesthetic from fashion and that is what Taiwanese designer Johan Ku delivered by the bag full and his multi-coloured looks certainly brought the feel of cool night out to Fashion Scout.
Mixing a men’s and women’s collection with elements of unisex knits and coating, we were presented the new wave of nightwear. After the show I rushed backstage to meet with Johan Ku and talk about the collection. Even though he launched his label in 2011, this was his first catwalk in the UK so where better to start than why London, and why now.
“I think it’s good to have a change. I’ve been showing in Tokyo for eight years and we know what we want to know already. The Western market is a big and different world to us. I’m also familiar with London as I introduced Fu Jen University* to Fashion Scout to let them know they could have a proper show here. That reminded me that perhaps I needed a different change to let the Western world know who Johan Ku is and what I’m good at”.
As I sat and watched the looks go past I was struck by the heavily graphic prints, the rainbow colours, and amongst the softness of the knits and some of the prints was not only a rigid check, but throughout the entire collection triangles appeared. The frequency of the triangles and their prominence as the thread binding the collection into a whole intrigued me.
“The triangles were inspired by a movie. It’s a movie about a group called Act Up (a 1990s group of advocates for people with HIV/AIDs), the pink triangle is a symbol of LGBTQ+ and that movie is all about how to find a life for people with HIV. I think it’s interesting because I can bring part of what I’m interested in. All my past collections are inspired by movies including this one. We went with the movie first and developed all the graphics and then pulled them all together for the collection. Also, you can use the graphic feature as a statement to tell people what we saw”.
Johan Ku collections have often been masterpieces in form and shape; his use of heavy knits lending themselves towards a more rigid structural look. This season he took that theme and pared it back into a much lighter and floating look that had a different dynamic, the aesthetic had definitely shifted.
“In my previous collections I’ve done many chunky knits as sculpture, but most of them are hard to wear in real life so I just wanted to prove that those could trickle down to something real and people could wear in their daily life, something that looks like chunky knit and is actually jacquard so you can still wear it daily”.
And as regular readers will know, I’m hopelessly in love with the fashion culture of Johan Ku’s native Taiwan, so it seemed like a great opportunity to ask one of the original break-out stars of the island’s style explosion more about what he thinks is driving the boom there, and why we’re seeing so many designers from a small nation of just twenty-three million is starting to become a dominant power in the industry.
“In the past maybe people didn’t think Taiwanese designers could go abroad but maybe our generation proved that we can go abroad and that we can be there and show our talents. So, I think we influenced the new generation of Taiwanese designers so they don’t just stay in Taiwan to show their collection; they go abroad, they go to show people what we can do. On the other hand, Taiwan is a small market and we all wanted to broaden our horizon and our market vision, so now many designers show in New York, London and Paris. It’s a sign that Taiwanese designers have gradually become a power”.
Thank you to Johan for the time.
I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes next with his collections as much as I’m looking forward to getting some more food in Ningxia Night Market.
*For the last two years Fu Jen University in Taipei have brought three students to London to show their collections as part of the program. Johan Ku has worked with the students offering advice on building the looks and putting together their shows.
Photographs by Chris Yates.