Progressive despite its infancy, Italian-Korean brand Neul epitomises the new wave of Korean womenswear brands that are currently gaining momentum. Led by a strong sense of identity and and a distinctive oversized, menswear inspired approach to design. Neul’s innovative collections centre around their ‘city girl’ muse and nurture a vivid story around each season’s collection with their manifesto to create ‘a little something special in everyday routine’.
When talking to Jun and Joy, the co-founders and designers of Neul, their own narrative reads as a tale of two parts. Balance remains key in all aspects of the brand; their partnership in life and work, the cultural contrast of Korea and Italy as influences on their collections, and their interpretation of what it means to design womenswear. As the new season arrives in store we spoke to Neul about the importance of creating a collection that reflects our everyday lifestyle and how they keep things balanced.
Above: Empire Lace Dress
Can you begin with explaining to us how and where Neul began?
Neul was launched in 2015 in Italy, in an attempt to revamp the everyday wardrobe with a bit of a twist. Rather than producing iconic designs of a period, Neul seeks to create timeless pieces which will never be deemed out of style or lose their appeal. Neul was created from a desire to tell a story about a 'City Girl’ that we've imagined, a girl who is stylish but with a bit of wit. Season after season we would like to narrate a story about this 'ordinary' girl who, in the end, possesses that something special in her everyday life.
Did you have any previous design or fashion experience before you started the brand?
We are a pairing of designers; a husband & wife; Jun & Joy. We’re from Seoul, Korea and have lived in Italy for more than 15 years and for the moment we try to live in both countries. I (Jun) have over 10 years of experience working in Milan as a menswear designer. I’ve worked at Moschino and Gianfranco Ferre as a menswear senior designer and a design director. I also worked for Italian outdoor brand Museum as a creative director before we decided to launch our own brand.
My wife Joy was interior designer with a passion for womenswear. Since July 2012 she has grown her own brand with a little flagship store in Verona named Hidden Forest Market. Currently we have 6 of these Hidden Forest Market stores in Italy. In September 2015 we launched our first collection (for SS16) as Neul, with a desire to create a new womenswear brand which reflects both our characters and personality but with a consistent appeal for a worldwide market.
Above: Empire Lace Dress
How do your cross-cultural connections to both Korea and Italy influence Neul as a brand?
As you've said our cross-cultural connections and our own personal lifestyle influences the brand tremendously. First of all, the name of the brand 'Neul' is a Korean word which means ‘perpetual’ so there is already a linguistic connection. We were born and raised in Seoul, Korea but for the last 15 years we have trained and worked in the Italian fashion field and have now settled into our life in Italy. I think that because of this Italian context we have this element to our brand which roots in a typical Italian appreciation for the good life.
Your oversized, wide cuts and tailoring could easily be unisex, why do you choose to focus on womenswear?
We choose to focus on womenswear because it reflects my will to support and assist my wife in recognition of her ability to design womenswear. Joy has supported me a great deal in my past career as a menswear designer to help me achieve my goals. Now it is my turn to support her, achieving her dreams with our brand Neul.
Above: Neul Linen Jumpsuit
What do you think is important when designing for a modern woman?
There are a lot of important elements to designing well. For example, having a good understanding of authentic womenswear and then the ability to interpret it into a modern design. But I believe that the most important thing in designing for a modern woman is nurturing a strong sense of the aesthetic – a good eye for colour, detail and a sense for balance and proportion.
With the concept for each campaign focused around a ‘scenario’, what inspired the SS17 collection?
Take a nap, feel the breeze, read a book, make a conversation, listen to the birds, sip a drink and relax: just like picnics in good old days. Actually these are all things that we need at this very moment. For this reason, we started the story of the SS17 collection with our Neul girl going on a picnic.
All the items are about style inspired from the happy mood of picnic, some of which have details from both women’s and men’s vintage such as British military Ghurkha pants and 1940’s denim work wear. This collection interprets vintage details and transports them into modern design to create a unique style; an authentic classic men’s work jacket combined with a shawl collar and a front string knot added with a shirring back for feminine details.
The collection uses a selection of natural fabrics such as cottons, cotton-linen and linen. High quality lace, Vichy pattern cotton and seersucker have all been selected for this season as special fabrics so that our customer can wear comfortable and timeless garments with the mood of joining a friend's picnic.
Above: Vichy Comfy pants
Finding ‘a little special in everyday routine’ how do you design wearable pieces that still stand out?
We always try to design everyday wardrobe with good twist. We believe that wearable, commercial pieces can also make a statement if we design them well. Taking a classic design and transporting it into a modern piece by playing with an unexpected collaboration between fabrics.
Can you tell us about your favourite pieces from the new collection?
We are in love with one of our bestselling items, the Ghurka Tulip Pants. Inspired from the original British military Ghurka shorts, we updated the design into a modern and feminine pair of trousers.
Above: Ghurka Tulip Pants
What do you envision for the future of Neul?
In time we wish to widen the range of products so that Neul expands as a lifestyle brand. We envision Neul as becoming a global brand, but remaining a friendly brand that people love to love.