“I define myself as a massive minimalist,” is what Moon Chang tells us as she takes us down on a trip to her psyche and her own fashion world. Seoul-born, Chang found herself moving to New York City not only to pursue a career in fashion but also to pursue her own search for freedom.
It’s been 10 years since she made that decision, and the designer has proved everybody that tried to shut down her creativity wrong. From debuting at New York Fashion Week with her Spring/Summer 2020 and having her clothes compared with Comme des Garçons and Maison Margiela, Moon’s work is one meant to be followed. Now that she’s launched a new lifestyle brand, Venus in Black, we peek inside her moody imaginary world.
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You are originally from South Korea but moved to New York nearly a decade ago to pursue a career in fashion. Could you tell us your lifestyle in South Korea and how you have adapted it to New York?
My lifestyle in Korea is ordinary. ‘Ordinary’ can be an awkward word for a designer, but my lifestyle there led me to be an ordinary girl, who had to follow certain norms which excluded creativity and uniqueness. I grew up with a restrictive culture, wearing uniforms and cutting my hair at a certain length. In the meantime, I had to hide my artistic talents whilst trying to find my identity as an artist.
However, when I first came to New York City to study fashion design, I had full freedom of expression and my creativity exploded. My academic and industrial experiences, along with the New York lifestyle and my french bulldog have formed my identity as a fashion designer.
Let’s continue talking about your roots. The culture and traditions we grow up with have an impact not only on our daily lives but also on our references. Where would you say South Korea and New York meet on your brand?
I believe that one of the reasons I have dual and opposite personas is because of my cultural background. Visually and psychologically, there are conversions between two different cultures. I reinterpret couture techniques as the medium to convey my brand concept. And I also realised that I perceive the different cultures and history through my own vision, as I apply traditional craftsmanship from Korean culture to maximise the strengths that I gained from each.
The first thing that stands out about your personal style is the puffed elements, which could well be described as dreamy, mixed with solid, hard elements such as leather — very Rachel L. Mellon for Balenciaga. Was this dichotomy between softness and toughness always in your mind?
A few years ago, I accidentally burnt cotton candy excessively and the colour pink turned black, the round and puffy shape became liquid, then stiff. The texture went from soft to hard and the flavours went from sweet to stinky. I collected the stinky black liquid and moulded it again into a heart-shaped candy. I felt that this is the way I wanted to be. Not just being cute or soft, but also embracing the dark and the ugly.
To show who I am, who we are and what will be, as well as the trauma. My dual aesthetic evolves into the shapes and fabrics to illustrate the dreamy but dark fairytale which reflects our life. I wish to portray that very existence. To do so, I develop my own fabrics and silhouettes, such as faux leather made of recycled plastics.
Beauty and ugliness come from within, as you have stated in other interviews. Even with the stand-out patterns of your collections, is that minimalism that we see on the very basis of your clothing a glimpse of your personal vision of humanity?
My focus on beauty and ugliness comes from my visual narrative and philosophy to harmonise these dual perspectives. Fundamentally, I relate it with the aesthetic point of view that humans can be fascinated by minimised interactions in order to highlight the maximised. I also wish to cut excessive waste from the creative process for sustainability reasons.
Moreover, you also try to merge all five senses into every piece you create. From the materials you choose to the shapes you go for. Please, give us more details about it. What’s your thought process like?
First of all, my concept is from human and social experience, something you cannot see and touch. I imagine how my invisible concept can be visual and narrate it into the design.
Therefore, I do many testings in 2D to 5D to experiment with how it looks, feels, sounds, smells and if it were edible then how would it taste. I enjoy breaking the senses and perceptions through the creative process and redefining all limits by using imaginary ones. I then test them out with actual people to make them more valid and useful in the real world. As this is fashion, I add the aesthetics and designs to make them visually beautiful.
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Ever since the start of your eponymous fashion brand, both Fashion Victim and Hybrid Beauty have been award-winning collections. We have even seen your dog Venus pose in the latter’s lookbook. Where did the will to create a secondary brand, a lifestyle one, that also focused on dogwear come from?
My second brand, Venus in Black, is a lifestyle and contemporary line founded in 2021, in New York. It was born out of my love for my dog, Venus. Venus is mostly received as the goddess of beauty, however, my muse is my black French bulldog.
I reinterpret Venus as the symbol of dualism. The brand is inspired by my dog and fashion culture in New York City, which is boundless and full of freedom as it highlights the contrast of the purity of light and the darkness of shadow: fantasy and reality. There is a wardrobe/‘human’ version of my couture line which accentuates the comfort and functionality so that customers can mix and match together with their four-legged pals.
There has always been this notion surrounding the fashion world where people believe its main goal is to dress the human body. With Venus in Black, you go beyond that.
When dressing humans, I always challenge myself to break the stereotypes of beauty, especially in the fashion industry. Many people who desire fashion are willing to fit their bodies to meet fashion’s standard and beauty ideals. However, my brand Moon Chang does not have distinctive sizes, we only have size O, meaning oversized. When dressing pets, there are many different bodies for them, this led me to think beyond the impression of the physical body and redefine the fit.
Yet you not only dare to go further by including dogwear on this new collection. You have always been open and have expressed before that a big part of what shapes your brand is your own experience dealing with PTSD. Sadly, mental health isn’t exactly a recurring topic in fashion overall. What prompted you to use this as the main theme of your brand? At the end of the day, going outside what’s expected is a huge risk. 
These are very heavy topics for fashion. I chose PTSD and the main concept of my collections because I hope that fashion has healing power. This journey started with my personal experience being a victim of the fashion industry.
Fashion overcame my health. I realised that this is not just my experience, it is for everyone who is in the fashion industry, moreover, for everyone living in this society. I challenged myself to handle my mental health from the perspective of a fashion designer. My collections look beautiful on the outside but on the inside, there are dark and sad experiences.
You have worked alongside Siyu Tang, Matin Zad and Martin Tremblay for a while now. What made you want to collaborate with them?
Fashion and art always start from the communication and collaboration with creative artists. I especially highlight them because we have the biggest synergy. They are all from different backgrounds, but we all harmonised in New York. Collaborating with creatives from different areas always inspires me as an artist, as well as seeing my works from unexpected perspectives; which has led me to come up with new interpretations.
Lastly, please tell us what we can expect from you moving forward.
I will keep pursuing the challenge of studying psychology and aesthetics, as well as how to express love from the lifestyle of humans and animals by embracing fashion with creativity and ownership.
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