The Internet has allegedly democratised access to fashion imagery. But there are only a handful of times high fashion truly permeates the mainstream culture. That is – in the form of memes. Victor&Rolf’s Fall/Winter 2005 ‘bed-clothes’; Rihanna’s Met Gala 2015 ‘omelette dress’ designed by Guo Pei; Rick Owens’ Spring/Summer 2016 ‘human backpacks’.
Central Saint Martins has an impressive record of nurturing talents who create awe-inspiring – and meme-inspiring – garments too. Take Edwin Mohney’s inflatable pool necklace. Or Fredrik Tjærandsen's deflatable balloon dresses. Or rewind the Internet search a bit further down the data lane to Goom Heo’s BA Graduate collection in 2017. Layered t-shirts, bulky silhouettes and pastiche of sportswear tropes mixed with disruptive tailoring; Heo’s first foray into menswear put the designer on everybody’s radar.

Goom Heo grew up in Jinju, South Korea and studied in Illinois before moving to London in 2011 to enrol at Central Saint Martins foundation course. In 2017, Heo graduated from BA Fashion Design with Print with a collection that fused and layered repurposed stack of vintage t-shirts into hybrid garments that proposed the subversive alternative to men’s wardrobe and won her the L’Oréal Professionnel Young Talent Award. Heo went on to study MA at Central Saint Martins – a programme famous for training the likes of Alexander McQueen and Christopher Kane. Heo’s MA graduate collection, which received the L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award, replaced her BA collection’s sizeable proportions with form-fitting leotards, appliquéd with floating silk chiffon panels and layered sportswear pieces.

Now, a year after her graduation, the designer has joined the Fashion East, a non-profit scheme in London headed by Lulu Kennedy which enables young fashion designers to stage on-schedule shows for three consecutive seasons. Fashion East has famously launched the careers of the likes of Kim Jones, Charles Jeffrey, Simone Rocha, Gareth Pugh, Art School, Martine Rose and many more.

Goom Heo presented her Fall/Winter 2020 collection as part of the first-ever co-ed Fashion East show in February. The collection, showcased on both male and female models, aimed to embody the ‘feeling of romance’ translating Heo’s take on the subject in liquified fabrics trailing off body-hugging silhouettes. Lycra cycling shorts; cropped long sleeves and pleated and twisted scarves. Goom Heo’s signature geometric forms were rendered in jewel hues of fuchsia, plum and citrine yellow, enhanced with psychedelic snakeskin-like pleats. Glossy black codpieces- a focal accessory throughout her MA collection – gave way to bejewelled tops, trousers and rings. “It’s about different experiences of romance. I wanted to explore how I feel about romance”, the designer said, “but it’s not about love.”
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How did your upbringing shape your work and what made you decide that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I never thought I wanted to do fashion or be a fashion designer until I was 20. After finishing high school in the United States, I watched a documentary about Central Saint Martins and all the best fashion schools in the world and realised I wanted to go there, so I started preparing my portfolio.
You designed for women before concentrating on menswear. What facilitated this change? What was that drew you to designing menswear?
When I came back for my final year in BA after placement year, I was already bored of my ideas and research for the final collection. I wanted to try something new that would make me excited and decided to do menswear instead of women’s as I thought at least this would be new to me. I was worried but also very excited about the idea of doing something I’ve never done before for my final collection.
You have studied both BA and MA at Central Saint Martins. What is life like out of it?
First of all, as an international student, I had to find a way to stay in the UK to establish my own brand. I was lucky as now I can be part of Fashion East and work on a new collection. I would say it’s very weird when you first get out of university. I did my foundation, BA and MA, which comes to almost seven years at Central Saint Martins. But after a few months, you get used to it, I guess. I still miss university though.
Could you tell us a bit about your experience of being part of  Fashion East show?
It’s amazing. They are very supportive and respect your decisions and ideas. They support young designers and help with things that are very new to us. I was worried before starting my own brand not knowing much about how it works, but the Fashion East team – Lulu, Natasha and Raph – helps a lot with everything basically.
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You have mentioned that your Fashion East collection was inspired by romance. Can you expand on that?
It’s about different experiences of romance. I wanted to explore how I feel about romance but it’s not about love. I’d say it’s more about personal feeling and taste towards romance.
What inspires you the most as a designer?
People on the street.
Who do you design for? Who is the Goomheo man?
I wouldn’t say it’s just for men. It can be anyone who has the mindset of not being afraid of being experimental or brave to wear what they want in any occasion.
What was your favourite aspect of your Fashion East debut collection?
Having the show with other Fashion East designers but also the fact that you can direct your show from casting to music to makeup.
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Do you ever worry about commercial/wearability aspect of your designs?
Not really, but if I have to, it’s only when I’m working on production pieces after the show. But for the show, I don’t normally think about commerciality or wearability.
Casting seems to be a very important aspect of your shows. Who do you look for?
I think every season when I start working on a collection, I have this image of a man. It’s very hard to explain but from that point to casting, I’m trying to find models to match the image I had for the collection.
Can you tease us about some of your plans?
Working on a new collection and possible chance of exciting project for collaboration.
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