“It’s been such a dream… I feel incredibly lucky,” says Sohee Park. At the age of just 26, the Seoul-born, London-based womenswear designer – and founder of Miss Sohee – is still on cloud nine after her otherworldly creations have catapulted her to a fashion stardom far beyond the realms of her imagination. “It will hit me when I’m lying on the beach on my summer vacation and I’ll think, ‘Wow, that all really happened.’”
It’s unsurprising that Park is having a hard time processing it all. Since graduating from London’s esteemed Central Saint Martins last summer, the designer has dressed Gemma Chan, Miley Cyrus, Cardi B and Ariana Grande, to name but a few. In February, she debuted her collection on-schedule at Milan Fashion Week with support from Dolce & Gabbana.
“Our initial meeting was in Milan, at their couture studio, and I had access to all their archival pieces,” says Park, with a palpable sense of awe. “They told me stories behind each piece, and being able to see and touch it and meet the couture artisans… it’s not the type of clothing you can see every day,” she says. “It inspired me a lot.”
It’s understandable that Park caught the eyes of the Italian designers, as there is a natural symbiosis between their aesthetics: all-out glamor and dedication to craft. Park’s dresses – decadent and dreamlike, replete with sweeping trains, oft-crafted from velvet and splashed with crystals – are a refreshing antidote from modern minimalism and the increased casualization of the everyday closet. In fact, even stepping into one of her dresses would feel like an occasion in itself. That they’re all handmade using deadstock fabrics in the UK is a further plus. “Each piece is unique… that’s the nature of embroidery.”
Park grew up wanting to be an illustrator, and today wants Miss Sohee to “offer my women the feeling of being in a whole new world”. Her mother created artful imagery within children’s books; spending time with her in her studio, as a creative child, she envisioned she’d do the same. Today, she illustrates the fantastical embroideries on her gowns, which are sketched by Park before being hand-stitched. “It’s like my drawings coming to life,” she says.
It was seeing a Chanel show on television at her grandmother’s house when she was 14 that changed her career trajectory. “Karl Lagerfeld had turned Le Grand Palais into this under-the-sea theme,” she says. “It was like building a new world but in 3D. I realized fashion could offer something more than just clothes.” Studying in London pushed her to become the most creative version of herself; growing up in South Korea was quite conservative, she says, so she thrives off London’s “fun and diverse energy”. But she is also inspired by her upbringing: her delicate flora and fauna decorations are a whimsical exploration of her Korean heritage.
I love volume and curves and taking an idea to the next level”Sohee Park, founder of Miss Sohee
“The collection I showed in Milan was inspired by a Korean folk-art movement called minhwa,” she says. “I used its motifs of butterflies, peonies, mountains, sea waves, pine trees… but I translate them in my own unique way.” Many of them are 3D: “A lot of my silhouettes resemble a woman being inside a big flower, or a big shell,” she says, of her skillful placement – a shell might sit like a sculpture on the shoulder. “I love volume and curves and taking an idea to the next level.”
It’s a demonstration of the transformative power of fashion. And she’s particularly excited about exclusively debuting her ready-to-wear offering as part of NET-A-PORTER’s The Vanguard. “It’s a dream come true for me,” she says. “For me to be able to make my clothing more accessible is just so exciting. I’ve always wished to see lots of women wearing my designs, and to enable them to purchase them very easily too – ordinarily, we work only in bespoke and couture as everything is handmade,” she continues. “I really can’t wait to see women wearing them to go dancing in!” Pieces include a peacock-hued bra top and embellished mini skirt, which Ariana Grande chose to wear for an appearance on The Voice. There’s also a crystal-embellished velvet crop top and maxi-skirt set, redolent of the version Gemma Chan chose to wear on the red carpet at the Rome Film Festival last October.
Sohee’s designs are undeniably escapist, but today, living in the ‘real-life’ moment is as dreamlike as an alternate reality. “It’s a special time. And I hope my clothes make my women feel extra-special.”