Who is Rejina Pyo? Meet the South Korean Designer Favoured by the Fashion World
Born and raised in South Korea and now based in London, designer Rejina Pyo cut her teeth at Central Saint Martins under famous professor Louise Wilson before launching her eponymous label in 2014 to great critical success.
After showing at London Fashion Week for the first time in 2018, her brand received the British Emerging Talent award for womenswear in 2019 and was shortlisted for the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund this year.
How did you first realise you wanted to work in fashion?
Rejina Pyo (RP) When I was young, my mother worked as a fashion designer, so I spent hours playing in her studio surrounded by fabrics, sketches and creativity. From a young age I learned how to sew and began designing my own creations.
After school I worked at a big apparel company in Korea, but looking through magazines and fashion shows I realised that most of the big designers of the time had come from Central Saint Martins in London, so I applied to get my master’s degree there and then moved to London.
What was the first roadblock you had to overcome?
RP Fairly soon after graduating from CSM, I won the Hans Nefkan award, which included a cash prize. I was encouraged to start my own line after the response from my graduation collection, and it had always been my dream to have my own brand.
However, school doesn’t teach you the business side of running your own brand, so I was not aware of how certain aspects worked, such as buying appointments, production management, shipping costs and logistics, press and PR. I was working 24 hours a day doing all these other jobs on top of designing collections, which was expensive and exhausting.
At the time it felt like it was all too much to manage on my own, but then our spring-summer 2017 collection was purchased by major stockists like Net-a-Porter and Shopbop and picked up by major fashion influencers and editors. That season was a real turning point for the brand.
Who was the first designer you worked for?
RP My first design role after graduating from CSM was at Roksanda, where I was the womenswear designer. The brand was quite small at the time, almost ten years ago now, so you got to see the workings of each department, far more than you would in a large luxury house, and this was an invaluable experience for me when I came to set up my own company.
When did you first realise your brand was getting a lot of buzz?
RP The Marigold Jamie dress from spring-summer 2017 went viral on social media—it was all over fashion week and was worn by major influencers like Kate Foley and Pandora Sykes. The collection was mostly sold out at the time.
(Related: Is Korean Designer Minju Kim the Next Big Thing in Fashion?)
Tell us about your first collection—what was it like to produce?
RP Our first collection was a huge learning curve. We spent a lot of money on the fabrics and materials, which we had learned the hard way was not the only place a budget needs to be allocated. I also had no experience with sales, and found myself at a trade fair with no appointments, as I thought buyers would just walk by and approach you.
Which celebrities have you dressed?
RP Many talented women have supported the brand, including Meghan Markle, Scarlet Johansson, Emma Thompson, Jorja Smith, the Haim sisters and Katy Perry.