Munroe Bergdorf and Robert Wun Get Deep About Fashion

Munroe Bergdorf and Robert Wun Get Deep About Fashion

By Andrew NguyenDec 14, 2023

Last week, the British Fashion Council held its annual Fashion Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, presented by British broadcaster Maya Jama and musical artist Kojey Radical. Meanwhile, American image architect Law Roach and fashion commentator Julia Hobbs hosted the red carpet where all the designers and celebs showed off why they were there.

The Awards' mission is to “amplify leaders of change, celebrate excellence in creativity and support the next generation of creative talent," and Robert Wun is a shining example. This year, the Hong Kong-born, London-based fashion designer received his first nomination under the "New Establishment Womenswear" category, which "recognizes a womenswear designer who has created a new movement in British fashion and has had a sustained impact on the industry globally." Wun was chosen not only for his intricate and beautiful designs that are widely shared on social media but also for the showcasing of his collections, his business growth and the international headlines driven by his work.

This year, Wun walked the red carpet alongside longtime collaborator, model and activist Munroe Bergdorf, who proudly repped a purple, pleated and corseted gown complete with armor and hardware detailing. PAPER caught up with the duo after their big night to talk about their trusting relationship, finding beauty in darkness and celebrating the wholeness of the human condition.

Tell me about your night!

Robert Wun: It was a very big, emotional night for me.By the time I got home around 2 or 3 AM, I managed to have a moment to really sit down and get a bit emotional and think about all the things to be grateful for. I received a lot of love throughout the night for my nomination and to be able to dress Munroe. She's the first one who actually supported me two years ago before I even got invited to or was able to dress anyone at The Fashion Awards. The next day, I went back to my studio, and my team was waiting for me. They have helped me and been an incredible support system.

Munroe Bergdorf: It was a really beautiful, full circle moment from two years ago, when Robert designed a gown for me to wear to The Fashion Awards. And I loved that one. What's so amazing about Robert’s work is that, rather than just working with aesthetics, he’s a designer that is an expert at building worlds. It's a real honor to have been on this journey with him.

It really sounds like it was a special night and a culmination of your relationship believing in each other.

Robert: There's not that many artists out there like Munroe. You have no idea how much I've learned from watching her social media. For the future of the world, we need more artists like her to use her platform to educate the public. Her beauty is not only on the outside, but also inside. She's truly a special one.

Robert, when dressing someone so beautiful on the inside and outside, what is the design process?

Robert: I always start with color first. When I was working with Munroe a few years ago, we had a conversation about colors because I love to imagine what works from my own world for the person that I’m designing for. When I hear the story behind why people like that color and what it means to them, all the other pieces start coming together. Purple will always have a special place in my heart, because it’s the first color that I used three or four years ago for my grandmother's collection. It was the last piece I made for her before she passed away. From there, it was about understanding Munroe's body and finding that balance between softness and strength and empowering with corseting, lacing and metal details so that it wasn’t just a traditional gown. The whole process feels very spontaneous and organic.

Munroe, what world did you feel like you were living in that he built for you in this gown?

Munroe: What I get, as someone who appreciates his art, is a celebration of darkness and finding beauty in that. There's something very angelic and ethereal about Roberts' work, which isn’t necessarily something that’d you associate with darkness. Those two elements playing together harmoniously is a reflection of the heavy times that we’re living in now. But there's still celebration that we all have to find. Robert’s work is all-encompassing.

Robert: Finding beauty in darkness is one way that I always describe my work. And the first thing that pops into my mind is a Hayao Miyazaki movie. There's nothing evil. There's nothing good. But it's finding the balance in-between. That's sometimes how I design and build my collections: embracing something that we might see as dark or sad, deconstruct it and find beauty if you're brave enough to confront and face it.

Munroe: That's what I try to push in my work as somebody who speaks a lot about the systems within society. We're pushed to see each other as either wholly good or wholly evil. The reality is that there's good and not so good elements within all of us. Socialization plays a role, but we all have a choice of whether or not we’re going to be a force for good in the world. I feel a real affinity for Robert's work in that celebration of the wholeness of the human condition and the wholeness of the world.

Munroe, do you pretty much give Robert free rein when he’s designing for you?

Munroe: I pretty much give him free rein to do whatever. There's a real understanding that we have with each other. He knows my body, what aesthetics I like, what looks I've already done and I’ve yet to do. For The Fashion Awards, I wanted this to look to be quintessentially Robert Wun but also something that was an extension of my personality. I felt like a modern day Morticia Addams if she wore color and served at The Fashion Awards. I felt extremely powerful, strong, sexy and in command of the moment. It really was a very special moment.

Robert, that must be so nice as a designer to have so much trust in you to design as you please.

Robert: I always work with the person that I’m designing for in the sense of communication, sending sketches and understanding what kind of world they wanted to be in. To find that balance is what I love. I’m lucky enough to be able to do couture now and focus on custom pieces because I can push new boundaries and experiment working with different people, seeing where that chemistry leads us to the final design. The magic ends up happening every time I work with a different person, creating love for a specific moment by understanding what place they're at right now and where they want to go. That is where the beauty is, really.

Do you think there’s a wider cultural significance to you being nominated finally?

Robert: The first time I went to The Fashion Awards was last December, and then this year, I got nominated. It felt very surreal, as a designer that hasn’t done any physical event or anything involving London Fashion Week for almost ten years of my brand. I must have done something right. I’m being included in the city that I've been living in for 15 years and within the institution itself. To hear my name on that stage and to have received a lot of love that night is what makes this industry so beautiful. Sometimes it's just how we all come together, and we appreciate each other.

Photos courtesy of Robert Wun