In the world of fashion, there is often a stigma that follows a designer who hasn’t had traditional training. Korea has less of such a tendency compared to Europe; how has your experience been working overseas so far?
People here knew that I didn’t go to school for photography. So I guess there was a stigma to that in the beginning. But I always believed that you can compensate for that just by doing it well. And I don’t feel the gatekeeping overseas so far. I think there’s this specific label of “a fashion brand run by a photographer.” But I don’t talk too much with people overseas to feel or know about the discrimination.
“My biggest motivation has always been the sense of inferiority. I worked to overcome this complex of not getting into the school I wanted, failures and frustrations. That drive lasted me for over 10 years. ” – Cho Gi-Seok, Kusikohc
You’ve been working for 6 years on your own. Where do you find the motive to constantly move forward?
My biggest motivation has always been the sense of inferiority. I worked to overcome this complex of not getting into the school I wanted, failures and frustrations. That drive lasted me for over 10 years. Now I feel recovered and I’m looking to reset my motives. Recently in the UK, I met the photographer Rafael Pavarotti. It was our first time meeting and he passionately talked about love and living in the moment. My motives were always negative emotions, and it made me think it’d make a nice life to be motivated by happiness and love. Negativity can only last you so long. I’m trying to find a balance. But I’m not a happy person in general, so let’s see how it goes.
Do you often feel the responsibility or pressure to represent “the Korean identity” during a time where Korean pop culture is getting more attention than ever?
I don’t necessarily feel a certain responsibility, but I think it’s right to do what I do well, no matter where I go. I was born a Korean and naturally gravitate toward Korean things. And it’s more comfortable for me to research and work inside Korea, as much as I like challenges. I’m more at ease with Asian people and I can capture their emotions much easier. I want to focus on doing that better, even when I’m abroad.
“It gets harder as you get older. The more you have, the more things you’re responsible for. Your failure means others’ failure as well.” – Cho Gi-Seok, Kusikohc
In the i-D article written by the editor and friend Hyunji Nam, it was evident that you’re a chronic workaholic. And because of that, you’ve achieved so much in a short period of time. Do you still believe in the “Right to Fail”, when you have much more to lose now than when you started?
It’s true. It gets harder as you get older. The more you have, the more things you’re responsible for. Your failure means others’ failure as well. I think that’s why I keep repeating that to myself, have that on the tags of garments, on my Instagram bio… I always want to be trying things that I haven’t done before. Like Nick Knight. After all those years, he still is in some ways a lot younger than the younger generation, in the way he thinks and approaches things. To keep making with Kanye West at his age, doing photography work with his phone camera… I remember at one point they had live CCTV footage of their studio on their website so you can see what they were doing in real-time. The old music videos with Kanye, the SHOWstudio interviews… He’s cool. I want to be like that, to keep trying new things.