YOUSER : Designer Interview

In Search of Authenticity

Story by: Dianne Pineda-Kim

Designer: YOUSER 

Photos by : Danny Kim

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How can one be authentic in this artificial world? We live in an age where everything is a reality construct: fake news, a 280-word limit on a person’s ruminations on life, and where the totality of a moment can be summed up in one small squared image. Everyday people thumb through listicles, guides, rankings, and viral videos that seemingly define the daily lives of people who try to escape real life. The world is made more fancy, distorted, exaggerated, or perhaps livable—depending on how you look at it—through the looking glass of advertising and promotions. Nowhere else is this more applicable than in fashion, and Seoul-based brand YOUSER takes these signs of the times head on by asking, “Are you really what you wear?”

A total package

For the brand’s last collection, Creative Director Lee Moo-yeol took inspiration from one of the most common methods of selling a product. In this case, however, the product is the person wearing the clothes. “Advertising is the main concept of last season’s show. In order to make the product stand out, I was inspired by the package and labels wrapped around it. Clothing has a message and that it is a means to advertise yourself,”  he explains. In the outlandish world of advertising, anything is possible: cars can fly, animals can talk, people with supernatural powers exist. This allows any message to make a big impact despite the suspension of reality. YOUSER dove into this world and embedded this concept into the fabric of each item of clothing, presenting a Spring/Summer collection that thrives in organized chaos. 

The opening look encapsulated this sartorial inspiration; the black, one-shouldered shift dress with a silver detail and the word “Merchandise” written below the waistline is reminiscent of a labeled tin can that can be found on store shelves. Another little detail that gave this pervading theme away are the words “tear off” on an oversized T-shirt held up by buttons. Clothing, is, after all, your own personal brand.

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A lesson in deconstruction

But unlike advertising, the high-end streetwear brand does not, in any way, aim to dictate ways of dressing and trends as in the cliche of the trickle-down effect of fashion houses. It simply does the opposite. From the name itself, YOUSER is a combination of "you" and "user," and the motive behind this is, as the designer explains, “from a philosophical ideal about the importance of the relationship between the designers and consumers.” Its official brand profile reads, “With the idea of addition and subtraction of clothes, the products have developed with interactive sensibility that are left to be combined by consumer’s own choice, delivering a new look and feel to the style.”

Lee further adds, “Our aim is free-styling graphics with wit, and design is the point. It is based on deconstructionism and emphasizes the process of disassembling and reassembling clothing.”

The process of tearing something down in order to create something entirely new is visible on the brand’s signature pieces that seem to have been put together from opposing textiles, updated sporty materials, and ripped denim. There’s also the unexpected long jacket with a rainbow-colored tie dye and the matching two-piece sequin athletic suit. It all seems random at first, but when the collection is seen in its entirety, it still conveys one definitive aesthetic: a modern look with timeless and genderless sensibilities. “It gives importance to fun. I think honesty is more important than seriousness,” Lee says.

Overseas expansion

The brand’s offbeat humor and witty designs has caught the attention of the European fashion market, which, ironically has a tendency to take itself too seriously. YOUSER participated in the International Woolmark Prize, a competition that celebrates and features outstanding fashion talent from around the globe. And its next destination? Paris Fashion Week. “We have been working abroad for three years in the Romeo Showroom in Paris and we are going to do an off-show there soon. After that, we will then officially debut at Paris Fashion Week.”

When most fashion designers seek to vie for the attention of onlookers, define one person’s status, style, or mood through adornment, or, with a more familiar purpose, “to make a statement”— YOUSER decides to go in the opposite direction. It lets the clothes speak for themselves.  

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Sean Choi