South Korean born, London based designer, Peter Donghun Han, aims to define the floating identities of diaspora and the stories of this generation in his stylised menswear.
Spending most of his life in his native South Korea, Peter Donghun Han moved to London to pursue a career in fashion. Now a Royal College of Art MA alumnus, Peter followed his graduate collection “Where are you from?”, which encapsulated a sense of belonging in each garment, by founding his eponymous label in 2020.
Through his works, Peter seeks to open up a conversation about this undeniable product of globalisation by representing people in his community. This philosophy spans across the whole development of each collection, with Peter inviting and involving people he stands for to help out throughout the creative process. Peter has also recently teamed up with London based collective, Baesianz, to offer a grant scheme to support UK-based Asian artists and creative practitioners, further showing Peter’s passion for uplifting and supporting the present generation of Asian creatives.
The majority of all Peter Donghun Han garments are made using recovered deadstock fabrics sourced mostly from the UK, South Korea and Japan, helping to limit the production of new fabrics. With a limitation on deadstock fabrics and to avoid overproduction, Peter’s pieces offer an ensured quality that help towards creating a more sustainable future for fashion.
“MINNESOTA 21” is his latest collection, which is a retrospective collection inspired by his childhood memories of living in Minnesota. Through functionality, colour palette, silhouette, and self-developed print details, Peter strives to make clothes that people will be willing to wear for everyday life. Every piece should be easy to wear whilst holding a rich personal story.
Solly Warner caught up with Peter to discuss why personal identity and cultural landscapes are important in his work, how diversity and inclusivity can be taken even further in the industry, and what sustainability actually means to him.
Where does your interest in fashion stem from? When did you realise you wanted to pursue it as a career?
I think I’ve been interested in the idea of one’s clothes and wardrobe all my life. It just really implies so many things about the person. However, I’ve never really thought I would be a “FASHION DESIGNER”, and I’m still. For me, it’s more about having a voice through people wearing my clothes.
Can you remember the first piece of clothing you ever made? Did it look like anything you make now, and do you still have it?
I can’t really remember the first piece, but I can say that the style of my work has changed a lot. I’d had difficulty with deciding where to stand and what to speak out in this fashion industry which is already very much oversaturated.
Having lived most of your life in South Korea, what made you decide to come to study in London?
Even though I’ve lived most of my life back in South Korea, I’ve been quite used to moving places. I used to live in Minnesota when I was small. Not very long but really impacted my perspective and even to my new collection. In addition, I was lucky that I’ve traveled to many countries. I think from those experiences, I just naturally got drawn to the idea of newness and diversity. For me, London seemed to be the perfect place.
How has the last year changed your design process? What were you able to learn about yourself and what do you hope to take forward?
I graduated from Royal College of Art last year during the middle of Corona Pandemic. I would say it was full of trial and error. However, thanks to the situation, I was able to look at things in a bigger perspective. On one side, London was in lockdown which made me helpless, on the other hand, I could reach out to all the factories and friends not only in Korea but also all over the world to help things to keep moving forward. The last year really upgraded me to post-student life in a way.
You explore themes such as personal identity and cultural landscapes. Why are these topics significant to you and how are they explored through your work?
Like I said, from my personal life journey, I really got drawn to the idea of diversity, multifaceted identities. Luckily, I found this city, London, it is a perfect place to explore the ideas. Because it’s unmatched in terms of acceptance compared to any other places in the world.
I try to involve friends and people in the community I stand for in the process of my work. From model casting to fitting and design process. I make clothes because I want the people to wear my clothes and feel a sense of belonging.
You have said that you want your work to be more than just garments. Can you elaborate further on what you mean by this?
I want my garments to be a tool or symbol to feel a sense of belonging in the end. It’s for the people who have multifaceted identities in this world which are difficult to say in a word.
There’s been a lot of progress with diversity and inclusivity in the industry recently, but how do you think this can be taken even further?
Yes. Definitely during the last 5 years, the industry has progressed a lot in terms of diversity through casting, design, and marketing. However, I think we really need to push it further. We live in the world of Instagram, which means everything has to be in a second. Things should be catching people’s eyes in a few seconds without any time to consider. I think the only way to take it further is by bringing diversity into the core of the business not just on campaign.
Are there any particular designers or creatives that you would love to work with? Is collaboration something you’re open to?
Currently I’m doing a collaboration project with ‘Baesianz’, which is a platform presenting asian-heritage artists and designers, to raise creative funds for artists. I think I’m more interested in collaborating with non-fashion platforms.
Are there any new materials, techniques or silhouettes that you’re excited to bring into your work in the near future?
During the last couple of collections, I’ve been working with fabric companies in South Korea. They’ve been sourcing me some dead stocks for my collection. I’m not sure I will be developing any brand new materials in the future, but I’m more interested in finding existing materials with stories we missed.
Is a more sustainable future of fashion important to you, and why should people support small, independent brands?
For me, ‘sustainability’ means more just making less or using all-biodegradable materials. It’s more about asking ourselves if what I am doing right now is relevant and whether we can take responsibility for those, and I think that’s why we need to support more small, independent brands and creatives. When it comes to business, it’s always so difficult to be fully responsible when they are bigger as there are too many interests. I believe that by empowering more small brands, both customers and brands will be able to take control of what they are doing.
WORDS BY SOLLY WARNER