The Parsons Grad Making Tailored Coats From Plastic Bottles
by Dylan Kelly
16 September 2020
Each year, Parsons School of Design partners with the Italian online retailer Yoox to present the Yooxygen Award to one of the school's BFA Fashion Design graduates.
Named after the company's sustainability initiative, the winner of the annual accolade receives a six-month internship at the Yoox headquarters in Milan where they collaboratively produce an eco-friendly collection to be sold exclusively on Yoox's website the following year. Last year, the award was bestowed upon designer Sharon Cho, and today her collection has arrived.
Conceptualized and developed with Yoox's design team, the capsule features suits, coats, and trousers made for both men and women in fabrics constructed entirely from recycled plastic bottles. With tailoring at its center, jackets are made with detachable panels, allowing for changeable lengths to suit different styles.
"My goal was to design a collection that allowed the consumers to achieve more for less," Cho said in a statement. "Garments made of sustainable fabrics, which can be styled in various ways for multiple occasions, not only require less clothing in the closet but also provide an opportunity to make a positive impact in this fashion industry by promoting sustainability."
PAPER spoke with the burgeoning talent about her beginnings in fashion, the collaboration with Yoox and her future as a designer. Read what Sharon Cho had to share, below.
How did you first spark an interest in fashion design?
My parents are missionaries and dedicated their lives to helping Vietnamese tribes in the mountain villages. Although the war was many years ago, that area was still underdeveloped and so I didn't have a lot of options to wear or play with. I would often repurpose my parents' old clothes to make my clothes and doll clothes.
When I was eight years old, I decided that I was going to be a fashion designer and support missionaries and people around the world — spark a positive influence through fashion design.
From the first sketch to the final piece, what does your design process look like?
My design process always starts with the concept; I first decide on the theme, the meaning, the purpose of the collection. Then I create mood boards and gather ideas to determine the aesthetics, style and direction of the collection. Afterward, I move on to sketching out ideas of garments while deciding on fabric choices because fabrics play an essential role in the fit and structure of the design.
Once the sketches of the garments are finalized, the most amount of time is spent on figuring out the fit and structure of the garments. I often end up having at least two prototypes made with prototype fabrics before making the final sample because I truly value finding the right fit and silhouette. Then when the garments are made in the final chosen fabrics, it feels like watching magic come to life.
Who are you designing for?
I'm designing for those who love fashion, appreciate the details and are environmentally conscious. Tailoring is the foundation of my design. I want everyone to look sharp and for the pieces to empower them and give them confidence. The capsule that I've developed with Yoox consists of multi-style garments made of sustainable fabrics — 100% recycled plastic bottles and eco-friendly produced wool.
How were you able to learn and grow as a designer through your internship at Yoox's headquarters in Milan?
It was incredible, I was able to see the entire process and have the collection come to life. The meetings, fittings, introduction to supplies and the final production, it was such a valuable learning experience. I got a better understanding of the entire process and the people in the industry. It was also my first time in Italy, so living in Milan and soaking in the Italian culture and style was priceless.
What was it like collaborating with Yoox on this collection?
Yoox not only allowed me to create my own collection, but also provided me with the tools to be able to continue my sustainability efforts in my future collections. I knew I wanted Sharon Cho x Yoox to be sustainable both in concept and materials. Working alongside the Yoox design team and introductions to experienced suppliers is what made this come true. The team is very creative and solution-oriented when it came to bringing my ideas to life.
Where did you draw inspiration for the range?
I was actually surfing online for a tailor jacket for me. I found a jacket that I really liked, but also wanted a longer version that I could wear during the winter months. I found myself wanting to buy two coats that had very similar designers and thought, Why not just design one coat instead? I feel like I'm not the only person who runs into this and so that led me to design one outerwear piece that has detachable panels allowing for adaptable lengths.
How did you manage to implement sustainable practices into your design process while also producing a full range of eye-catching garments?
First off, my teammates were very knowledgeable on conscious practices and were constantly giving me advice on better ways to keep the silhouette and style while using the sustainable material. Secondly, working directly with the suppliers allowed me to explain my ideas in full detail. We had at least three or four meetings with fabric supplies in order to choose the right fabric for the key styles.
What's next for Sharon Cho?
I'm hoping that this Sharon Cho x Yoox will open more doors and possibilities for the future. I hope I can collaborate with other companies, designers and artists. I'll continue to design and produce meaningful collections, and use fashion as a tool to make a positive difference in the world.
Head to Yoox's website to shop the full Sharon Cho x Yoox collection, available now.
Photos courtesy of Yoox