Seoul Fashion Week | F/W 2011 – Interview: Steve J & Yoni P

Steve J & Yoni P, the eponymous label of designer couple Steve Jung and Yoni Pai, is known for its quirky and whimsical nature. Animal and geometric prints, bright colors and a spectacular show have been on the menu for the brand’s previous collections. Steve J & Yoni P began in London after the couple moved there, and a collaboration with UK retailer Topshop catapulted their brilliant designs to fame. I spoke to Steve and Yoni about their latest collection and their working relationship. The designer duo was relaxed when I sat down with them, an hour before the show. Amidst the pandemonium of models at hair and makeup backstage, Steve and Yoni were excited to talk about the label.

Your label is known for a young and fun style but this collection is supposed to be darker with a brooding kind of mood. How is this collection different?
Yoni: People know us as colorful designers, we normally use bright colors, but this time we only used black.
Steve: Not only black, there are also cool prints in black and white and there’s blue as the accent color.
Yoni: Normally people think that black is a very simple and basic color but we wanted to make it really playful for this collection. With graphic prints mixed in, people can see a kind of new black that is still fun.

So why is it different this time?
Steve: It’s grown up now [laughs].
Yoni: I think it depends on the concept. Last season the concept was “Jungle Camp” so there were a lot of animal prints and bright colors. This time, with the concept “Arrested Adolescence”, we wanted to express a different aspect of young girls’ personality, the dark and brooding side.
Steve: Actually I drew this [points to the bear-print on Yoni’s T-shirt].
Yoni: Right okay, so Steve drew this. He thinks this is me because I’m still stuck in adolescence apparently, I don’t want to be an adult [laughs].

From left: Yoni and Steve backstage. The T-shirt Yoni is wearing at the interview, seen on a runway model

Who is the Steve J & Yoni P girl?
Steve: First of all, she’s humorous. Maybe a little bit punk too.
Yoni: She’s definitely not conservative; she’s the kind of girl who wants to try everything, very open-minded.
Steve: You can imagine it’s a girl who looks like Yoni. Yoni’s always dreaming about a girl like herself [laughs].

You’ve been together for a long time – you met at college, moved to London together then started your brand. What is the design process like as a couple?
Steve: Actually I didn’t design at the beginning. I was a dancer, crazy about dancing, and Yoni did a lot of the work. She even did our homework for us in school [laughs].
Yoni: At the beginning, Steve focused on menswear and I focused on womenswear, but a few years later our brand concentrated more on womenswear. Now, we share the whole process, from brainstorming, designing and making the garments. Like, we’ll just naturally go to the museums and libraries together, and we’re always discussing the fashion concepts, so it’s hard to say what [part of the collection] is Steve and what is Yoni.

When did you have the idea of starting a label together?
Steve: Everything came to us really naturally. I actually don’t remember when we started designing.
Yoni: Probably… we dreamt about our label around the time we moved to London, which was about seven to eight years ago.

Did you already have a vision for the brand back then?
Yoni: Oh no. When we look at our first collection now, sometimes I almost feel embarrassed! I mean, now I see how we’ve developed and matured with every season. There’s still a lot to work on though.

What’s your favorite look in this collection?
Steve: The bear; it’s our signature.
Yoni: For me – this time we added some knitwear and you’ll see a long knit dress with some graphic detail inside. I think it’s really easy to wear, it’s really cool and I really like it.
Steve: And some leather items as well.

I would have loved to ask Steve and Yoni about the makeup choice as well; the wet look and bright red lips definitely exude “brooding” but I’m not so sure about the “adolescent” idea. Take a look at some more backstage photos below!

From left: Models at hair and makeup backstage with NARS makeup professionals. Front-row celebrities at the show.

This article is part of the The YesStylist Seoul Fashion Week F/W 2011 Coverage.