Subin Hahn is a New York based Gender Fluid Wear designer. Taken from traditionally feminine elements, his designs challenge traditional mens and unisex fashion aesthetics, aiming to provide equality in current fashion industry, while embracing his or her own ambiguity and fluidity.
Based on his belief that art is a spiritual activity that conveys one’s faith and belief, he aims to help the wearers bring out their own spirits through his designs, and to provide hope of a better future, by creating an illusion of a world that he wishes to belong with.
Graduated at Parsons School Design in 2018 and with an academic award nomination in ‘social innovation’ won Hugo Boss x Parsons Award in 2017.
A Conversation with Subin Hahn x 33 Magazine
Describe Subin Hahn as a person in five words.
Sensitive, Quiet, Idealistic, Fluid, Mystic.
Why did you decide to become a fashion designer?
I used to play with Disney princess and Barbie dolls, and always wished to dress up like them as a little boy. I was very into extravagant gowns and dress designs from Disney movies and while drawing and making doll dresses, I realized I have interest in fashion, and expressing the feminie side of myself through it. Around the time when I was 5th or 6th grade, one of my art teachers told me I’ll do great in art and fashion, and this sort of inspired me to study fashion desgin.
How the Subin Hahn’s mission evolved starting with your first collection?
My Junior year at Parsons was the time I realized I want to design genderless/ gender fluid clothing. Before then I did womenswear, as a way to express my feminine side. Although I enjoyed the process of designing and constructing garments, I couldn’t fully see myself from just designing womenswear for women, and kind of lost my interest. I wanted to create something that still has feminininity but could be worn by all genders, and felt that’s what best represents me, which continued to evolve as strong identity of my designs.
My latest collection, ‘Impression of Tomorrow’ evolved from the past two mini–capsule collections. I pushed the boundaries further and questioned why feminine beaty is not fully appreciated, especially in men’s dress practice, and always considered as drag, or categorized in a certain way, compared to women wearing mens clothing, which is more socially acceptable. I wanted to bring male femininity upfront, and wish this to be equally appreciated in the mainstream fashion.
In your experience, what are some of the negative points regarding fashion design schools?
I think fashion schools/ art schools in general are too expensive. It’s definitely not for everyone who wish to pursue their career in this field. I’ve seen a lot of friends who wasn’t even dared to apply because of the high tuition, and discouraged because of it. Even a lot of students who are already in the schools struggle with affording materials and other expenses. Especially in fashion design major, thesis production budget can cost a fortune if you want to produce your work pristine.
How sustainability can change fashion industry? Do you think we can see, in the next future, a positive change also in United States regarding sustainable design?
To be honest, I am not sure if sustainable designs could have huge impact on fashion industry, as long as fast fashion brands exist. I think it’ll take a long time to make changes in the current manufacturing systems, both for fast fashion and high fashion.
In your opinion, will it be the consumer who will facilitate the change in the supply chain or will it be the design and manufacturing industry?
I think design and manufacturing has more reponsibility and impact on the change.
What should a customer expect when buying Subin Hahn?
Freedom of expression. I wish people to embrace their own individuality and be free from all perceptions. Although my brand puts male femininity in the forefront, my clothing is for everyone.
What drives your passion for genderless design?
I wish male femininity to be equally appreciated in the fashion industry. Most of unisex and genderless designs in the industry are, to be honest, more like alternative menswear. As I grew up, I aways felt there’s not enough represntations of male who doesn’t want to fit in to the traditional masculinity, and as a designer, I want to be part of the representation that I needed, in order to bring more diversity and equality.
What are your top tips for others trying to lead a “fashion designer” life in New York?
It’s really important to have a strong point of view as a designer, whether it’s political or extremely personal. Just having a cool clothing line without any relevance or purpose may not be a way to stand out among thousand or fashion designers in New York, or any other places in the world.
What was the biggest challenge for you as a designer?
Finding the relevance in current society and my design identity took a while for me to figure out. it was quite a challenge to find the reason why I need to design gender fluid/ genderless clothing, because I didn’t want to do it just because it’s cool, new and in trend. I spent a lot of time thinking about why I was drawn into fashion design in the first place, and how my dress practice was influenced by peers and people I encountered throughout my upbrining, with extensive research of gender and unisex in the fashion history.
Also telling my personal stories out was extremely challenging for me, since I’m not a person who really talks about myself to other people.
Would you like to showcase your collection in one of the most important fashion weeks around the world?
London or Seoul. If I have to pick one, it’s London because it’s the birthplace of the New Romanticism in the 1980’s, which is my favorite subculture in the fashion history and it heavily influenced my designs, so it’ll be really meaningful to me to showcase my gender fluid clothing in London. Seoul is in my home country, so I wish one day I could have my own show there.
What we should expect next from Subin Hahn?
I am preparing small production from my recent collection, and also working on a new Fall 2019 collection to showcase in February next year. It will be a slightly different direction from Spring 2019, and could be a little more commercial.