Miss Sohee Finds Beauty in a Special Korean Diving Tradition

Miss Sohee Finds Beauty in a Special Korean Diving Tradition

A lot has changed for Sohee Park since her first collection — a fantastical feat of floral opulence and sculptural works of art — broke Instagram last summer. For one, she has her own team and studio now, a welcome development after she had to labor through quarantine alone from her tiny London apartment.

Her dazzling creations have caught the eye of numerous top stylists to starlets like Bella Hadid, Miley Cyrus and Cardi B — the latter of whom she cites as her favorite to dress (her Billboard shoot remains forever etched in my mind). Now, after countless fashion spreads and a clever ready-to-wear capsule, Park is releasing her second collection for Fall 2021, and it's all we've come to expect from the rising star.

Miss Sohee's sophomore outing is a continuation of the brand's focus on exquisite craftsmanship. The voluminous and molded sculptural gowns took months to create, and the marvelous head pieces return for a second time in their hand-crafted glory, this time with shell-like elements. While detachable sleeves, body-hugging catsuits and tailored french lamé jackets are some of the newer elements Park experimented with this season.

It was also the result of a deeper introspection of herself as a person and identity as a South Korean designer living in London. "I was thinking about my childhood a lot," she tells PAPER. "I spent a lot of it in my grandmother's house. She passed away during COVID but she used to live by the sea which is really close to Jeju island. It's a very special island that we all love in Korea and it's a really beautiful place."

She remembers seeing these older women called "Haenyeo" who dive into the sea using traditional methods to collect shellfish without using any oxygen masks. "When I first encountered a Haenyeo, she was just coming back to shore in her black scuba diving with all these corals, shellfish and all these treasures that she found. That was very inspiring. She looked like some mythical creature, it was just so amazing."

This translated into key aquatic themes like coral and shell-shaped gowns mixed with some black bodysuits that fit really tight on the body, a nod to the scuba and wetsuit gear. Motifs also derive from flora and fauna, as well as alien-esque discoveries beneath the water's surface.

There aren't as many Haenyeo as there used to be — the daughters who learn the techniques passed down by the older women are increasingly moving to big cities to land jobs, putting the tradition at risk — a key reason why Park wanted to honor the practice and incorporate that part of her childhood and culture into Fall 2021.

Like many designers of her generation, Park is also intent on making sustainability a cornerstone of her business. She worked with an Abaca banana tree fabric from the Phillippines that's mostly used for ship ropes and fish nets, as well as deadstock and recycled Preciosa crystals.

"It requires a lot of study, so it's not something that I could accomplish in one season," she says. "It's gonna be something that's a gradual process, but hopefully for the next few years, I want to go full sustainable and develop and source more sustainable ways and sustainable materials to create my amazing gowns."

Photography: Jenny Brough