The Creators Project: How did you establish your own label, The Centaur, at such a young age?
Ye Ranji: Well, when I was young, I never really gave much thought to my future. I wasn’t extroverted, and I often played alone, using my imagination to pretend I was an animal in some distant country or something. Then, all of a sudden, I did get an urge to do something. I graduated with a degree in fashion design at 27. Since I couldn’t just start working without any experience, I ventured into Dongdaemun, a place known for up-and-coming fashion in South Korea. At first, I was very scared of the people working there, including my boss, because they were all so intense. But I gained and learned a lot from the experience and was able to create connections. After I finished that job, I developed depression because the work required me to be constantly focused. In an attempt to soothe myself, I created my first work, a hyper-detailed purple flower print. That somehow became the start of it all.
Was your first fashion show a success?
Well, the result was pretty disappointing compared to the work I’d put into it. Then a co-worker of mine gave me a tip about a store space being available, and I decided to sign the contract right away because I liked it. Currently it’s a very rare spot to find yourself in, but at the time it wasn’t. Then, through another co-worker of mine, I was introduced to someone who invited me to participate in show called Generation Next. People who went got pretty psyched about my designs. So with the enthusiastic response to the first show, I was able to do a second show, and like that it went onto a third show.
How was your third and most recent show? The video and pictures from it are incredible.
It was hard work. In South Korea, there aren’t any producers to create shoulder pads and such, so I made my own. I think I made about 400. The show’s theme was based on traditional tightrope walkers in South Korea. A tightrope walker uses a fan to hold her balance to carry herself forward. I tried to incorporate the pleats of those fans into my collection. By incorporating those elements into my clothes, I was able to convey a message that clothes can become a tool that can accompany and help balance out our lives, help keep us from falling over the edge. That part of the show was a success.
Is there one special thing that you want people to see in your clothes?
On the runway, I want people to acknowledge the storyline. When looking at the clothes alone, I want them to recognize that my clothes aren’t the regular conventional clothing they’re used to seeing, they’re something else altogether.
Would you mind telling us the stories behind the runway shows?
In the first show, I wasn’t able to tell a great story because I was notified to do it so suddenly. But in my second show, with my Logic of My Private Parts performance, I asked a musical actor who played a snake to be part of it. He is transgendered, and because of his identity, lives in the grey area of sexual identity, which is a big part of fashion. I asked him to dance any way he wanted as long as it was genuine, passionate, and sincere. I opened the show with him dancing, then showed my clothes expressing myself, and finally showed a film for the ending.
Could you talk a bit about the name and concept behind all three of your shows?
For my first collection I used and showed tailoring dealing with Tibetan colors. So matching with the social concept of the title, I started with a drape dress and purple flower dress styled like the robes worn by monks. The second show, Logic of My Private Parts, was my favorite and portrayed mostly my own stories. The idea behind it is that everyone has their own private parts that they want to hide away and keep to themselves, and that fashion is a way for us to chose which small selections of those parts we reveal at different times, and to whom.
The name of your store is the The Centaur could you explain how that came about?
Well, a centaur is neither god nor human. While I was in the process of discovering my own identity as a fashion designer, I realized that I have a lot in common with the centaur.
What advice would you give to young designers today?
In the fashion world, everyone wants to break out of old molds, and of course I support that. Now for my generation, I think a newcomer, a rookie, should and must possess a thrilling sensation. I don’t know what the new sensations of the future will be, but I know they must continue to get more and more thrilling.