The new generations are going strong. Although we are living in a difficult period, there are awards like the H&M Design Award that help provide visibility and hope to very talented young students with the desire to win the world. One of these students is 24-year-old Ximon Lee, the first men's clothing designer to win the H&M Design Award, which we saw in the last VFILES MADE FASHION at New York Fashion Week and whom we had the pleasure of interviewing. 
First of all, congratulations! How was the experience of taking part in the H&M Design Award?
Some very talented finalists from previous H&M Design Awards inspired me to participate. Even though this is only the second year since it opened to US schools, we already had four finalists from New York. The H&M Design Award is a precious platform to showcase your graduate collection and get feedback from experts in the industry. It has been overwhelming since winning this award. From developing a collection of 17 new looks down the runway, to working on the H&M collaboration capsule and its production, all in the space of two months. There will be a campaign shoot in Spring in which I'm involved. There is no doubt that I will learn a lot from this experience.
Did you think you could become the winner? In this fourth edition, H&M and the jury had a difficult task since there were very good projects. What do you think about the other contestants’ work?
I didn't think that I would be the winner since womenswear designers are mostly under the spotlight in this kind of competition. Womenswear also has a much wider audience compared to the niche menswear market. All other seven finalists are very talented and everyone has a distinct design so it is really hard to say who is the best on stage. I personally like Andrea Jiapei Li's collection since I paid close attention when she graduated from MFA Parsons and her work reflects a very strong modern femininity.
Now that you’ve earned the prize, what’s coming up next? I guess this award is a great push to begin your own brand.
Winning the H&M award means a lot as a young designer who just started his career. It is hard to imagine how I will present my very first collection on a runway without this sponsorship. The prize money will go to my next collection with which I will push my concept further.
H&M always shows a strong commitment to acclaimed designers with the capsule collections and to new talents with this award. How do you feel knowing your garments will be sold in H&M stores all around the world?
I think H&M does amazing collaborations with designers and translates their designs to the H&M market. My collection is very experimental but I believe most pieces in the collection work with the existing urban consumer groups. Some easy denim shirt jackets under a long coat could be both everyday menswear or womenswear. I'm thrilled to see my capsule in different markets and how people wear them.
It’s the first time a menswear collection has been the winner, how do you see men’s fashion nowadays? Do you intend to design for women in the future?
I do menswear because I can relate to it. I can see myself in it. But somehow through presentations or presentations that I’ve been through so far, no one really sees it as menswear. People see cool girls picking up the denim jackets or the skirt-looking shorts. I don’t lock myself into menswear because your customer chooses whatever your clothes are. If it’s labeled on a rack as menswear and a girl picks it up, then it’s womenswear on her body. Sometimes I call my work "humanwear", I don't believe in the word "unisex" but I think strong design is good for all.
You have been inspired by homeless children in post-Soviet Moscow and the collection itself doesn’t look very wearable. Could this be a starting point to create a more commercial collection?
Grey Soviet architecture, abandoned playgrounds and colorless long winters in the documentary Children of Leningrasky gives rise to a deep nostalgia of vivid childhood memories. This collection is more of a narrative story than a fashion collection. It is defiantly not a starting point of a more commercial collection but at the end of the day, those pieces that hit stores are not the same as showcase collection pieces.
This first collection is the result of your studies at the Parsons School of Design. How was your time there?
The School of Fashion in Parsons is a big community and the student body is growing every year. Learning how to communicate and connect with people is a part of the four-year education.
You were also granted the Parsons Menswear Designer of the Year award, you’ve definitely set a pretty high standard for a beginner and you are the talk of the town! How does your path follow? Are you afraid of disappointing?
I am only looking forward to things ahead of me. I am never afraid of disappointing but I am definitely under great pressure at the moment.
You grew up in Hong Kong and now live in New York, do you think these worlds are as different as they seem? How is the Chinese culture reflected in your work?
As a child growing up in a Korean-Chinese family and moving constantly, I almost lost that sense of belonging and the idea of hometown. To me, home is where my work and friends are. I spent most of my time in Mainland China and Hong Kong before coming to New York City. Thus, Chinese culture has a big influence on my design work. The Chinese mentality and sense of value contribute to how I work today. However, my designs are never culture literal. I take daily inspirations that speak to the current world, often not taking from a particular culture. Just like New York, I blend things together to create a collection.
At first sight, we can see clear artistic inspiration in textures, silhouettes and layers. What inspires you? Which elements define your creative universe?
The starting point was this documentary, mixed with my own childhood memories. There are these really romantic scenes in the documentary where you see the kids wearing these really old man jackets that don’t make sense on their bodies, and somehow it falls awkwardly and the sleeves aren’t fitted. After tracing a lot of silhouettes, it’s such a beautiful proportion. I don’t want to romanticize it in any way, because it’s homelessness. You don’t want to romanticize something that’s a disadvantage, but I’m personally attracted to these scenes — how free they are. In a way, they are free because they don’t have boundaries of what is cool or how they have to dress. They don’t need to care about that.
How would you describe the creative process of this first collection?
In the collection, there’s the idea of drapery and spontaneous construction that happened along the way as well as this vision that I already see in my head that it should be super constructed and harsh. A lot of design and construction decisions come during the making of it.
You have carried out an internship at Calvin Klein and Philip Lim, in what ways have these two experiences influenced you?
Internships at both houses gave me confidence. The most important thing I’ve learnt so far is to listen. As young designers we all have egos and strong voices, but it's really important to listen.
How would you define the kind of man wearing your designs?
They are a group of men or women I love! They’re never afraid of adventures.
Who do you admire most in the fashion business?
The designer who has stood out for a long time is Phoebe Philo. She’s always my muse for the way she deals with material and how she’s so careful with her decisions… such precise cutting. And Raf Simons, his themes always go along with my story as well about children, growing up, pain and family. I love all his stories. Those two are always on my list. New designers who I am watching now are Craig Green on the menswear side and Yang Li on the womenswear side.
How do you see yourself in the future?
Continuing to create better works and collaborate with different artists. I don't really plan by year since things change so fast in the industry. But I need to make the best out of today.