Representing the creative future

New Waves: Goom Heo

The winner of the L’Oréal Professional Talent Award talked us through her turbulent years at CSM

Goom Heo began her final collection with a risk. Having completed three years at Central Saint Martins as a womenswear designer on BA Print, she suddenly switched to men’s. “I felt like I needed motivation, I just wanted to have fun and try something new,” she explains. “And I was aware that this was the last time I could truly do what I want, because even if you have your own brand you can’t do 100% what you want all the time. You have to think about the customers.”

The 26-year-old Korean designer is pretty switched on, but in a refreshingly relaxed way. And she knows what she wants: “From the beginning, I was telling myself I have to be happy with my collection.” Did that mean forgoing the famous advice of the CSM tutors at times? “To be honest I listen but I filter it. If I’m sure that I really like something, even though they say no, I go for it. You don’t want to look back and think, ‘that wasn’t me.’”

It was that same self-belief that led her to take two years out before her placement year in 2014. Knowing she was in it for life, and having been doing it for three years, Heo took time to regather her thoughts (and herself) at home in Korea. “It was the hardest decision I’ve had to make since I started,” she recalls. “I loved my friends and even my tutors were trying to convince me not to go. The challenge was trusting myself and my decision.” The interesting bit is, she didn’t touch fashion or art even once in that time. “I love cooking, I did a lot of that,” she muses. “At one point I even thought I could open a café in Korea.”

And ‘Why Not’? That’s the nature of Heo’s easy manner (and the name of her final collection) which translates so effortlessly into her clothes. “Part of me always wanted to do menswear but I was afraid because I knew it needed very intricate patterns and tailoring – in womenswear you can be sneaky about it.” But with fashion’s current climate for streetwear-led trends, she couldn’t have been more on the money this year. Her collection is pristine in its own chaotic way: sci-fi sportswear meshed with disproportionate tailoring, inflated silhouettes underpinned with subtly sexy detailing like fishnet stockings and skin-tight ribbing, sports shorts pulled over tailored blazers, old logos tees and windbreakers deconstructed and panelled onto other pieces. But what stole the show were the ‘piling’ pieces, an intricate assembly of second hand clothing sewn layer upon layer to create new and different garments, like the wrap skirt she styled over trousers.

This technique was inspired by her penchant for piles of stuff – quite literally. “I don’t know about here, but in Korea or Asian countries it is quite common to see objects piling up on market stalls, or the rubbish. I kept taking photos of these mounds while I was away and I was just so obsessed with it – I don’t know why.”

This abstract obsession bagged her the L’Oréal Professional Talent Award: “I knew everyone probably wanted to win but for me it was just so surprising. Before the press show I was almost feeling disappointed in myself.  You can’t help but compare yourself to others and I felt like maybe my work was too all over the place. But now, I’ve come to feel like it’s my baby.”

She’s taking her baby to America next month to start working with a stylist and hopefully generate exposure. But her collection also gathered attention from a potential stockist in Japan, which could lead to it being sold next season. Meanwhile, Heo is already planning her next move: to join the MA course at Central Saint Martins. “Looking back, I really enjoyed myself and now I kind of want my own brand. But, I do want to gain experience in the industry.” And short term? She pauses for a second. “Well, I’m perming my hair on Friday.”