LOS ANGELES--Australian fashion is synonymous with bright palettes and beach-ready styles. But Yeojin Bae is breaking the mold with her namesake line of tailored separates, dresses and tops. A tightly edited, sleek collection that is often situated alongside such names as Vanessa Bruno and Stella McCartney, Bae's line has been around for just four years. But, she's coming into her own this season with slick metallic suits, as well as elegant dresses and separates that play with both silhouette (including some cut-outs) and form. We caught up with Bae last week at a trunk show, where she was showcasing her wares for spring. With an e-shop freshly launched and her first solo fashion show taking place in Sydney next fashion week, Bae is assuredly a star on the rise. We talked to her about her favorite LA spots and the ever-changing Australian fashion landscape.
What brought you to LA this week? I actually came with the department store Myer to do an event called "G'day USA." I'm doing a runway show with a few other Australian designers. I've had some very busy days with press and media. I've been to LA many times and love it.
What are your favorite places to visit when you're in town? I love to go out to eat, go vintage shopping and go to museums. I love The Way We Wore; that's a great store. And I love Decades. I'm also going to check out Satine--good little boutiques that I think really know their market. What led you to launch your own line? I've actually had the line for four years. Prior to that, I was a designer for 14 years. I worked with a number of large companies and brands in Australia. Then, I got to the age of 30, and I was like, "I'm quite ready to set up my own collection." I felt like I had the right combination of experience and knowledge of suppliers and resources to draw upon. You have to have the guts to get out there and do it, and, at 30, it was the right time for me for all of that. I started out with just a series of 12 dresses, rather than represent so many different things. I wanted to offer these core dresses that could take you from day to night, with great detailing but still subtle, elegant and chic. I took the collection to Barneys and they loved it and picked up the entire line. The very first collection went to Matches in London, too. It was fortuitous because dresses were getting quite huge. I was an unknown brand getting into the contemporary market and I was put alongside Alexander Wang and Vanessa Bruno, which was the market where I would want to position myself.
How has the line evolved since then? I added tailoring as the line evolved. I approach it as a capsule collection of everything I would want for the season: Tailored suits that can go from office to out at night for a drink. My first love is dresses: easy dressing, effortless pieces that you can wear with flats during the day and heels at night. I keep it quite edited. The real focus for me is to keep the collections really tight and never add pieces endlessly. My background is working with adding and adding; sometimes it's better to remove.
What's been the most exciting thing about launching e-commerce? The collection keeps refining each season. With wholesale you're constantly being edited by the buyers; with an e-shop you can present the whole collection to the customers and know what they want. That's been really exciting. This year I'm also doing my first solo runway show in Sydney as part of our Fashion Week in May. I've participated in a lot of group shows - prior to GenArt closing I was one of their last new faces. So, I'm also excited to be doing my first solo runway show.
Australian fashion has gained a lot of international recognition in the last decade. What do you enjoy about being based in Australia? Buyers seem to love Australian brands, but Australian fashion is well known for its casual wear and swimwear. A very big editor once thought I was NYC-based because I was selling in NYC and I had a line that didn't necessarily fit into the casual, Australian lifestyle brand. We do tailoring just as well as some of the European brands. My suit jackets at Matches would sell alongside Stella McCartney for half the price. I'm so thrilled to be able to export tailoring to London. In terms of weather, I'm also designing to the Northern hemisphere; I'm keeping a lot more seasonal. It seems to work well with the LA buyer.
What are you most looking forward to this year? I've been working so long and I've been working as a designer for 18 years. It's really been the majority of my life. Now I'm actually going to sort out exploring a few more things that will make me a better designer. I want to make more time to go see music or museums and spend more time away from work. We all dream about it. But I'm planning it from the beginning of the year and now I have to see if i can make it a reality.