This year, the fashion world was abruptly halted in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the cancellation of Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul Fashion Week AW20 in early March. The impact of the virus continues to be felt across the industry, with summer fashion weeks in Paris, London and Milan also due to be either cancelled or postponed until later this year.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic
Remaining optimistic about the future of fashion, Kim Hye Yeon has an irresistible charm and an impeccable off-duty style that has contributed to her success as a model. Knowing from a young age that modelling was the job for her, Hye Yeon has always been interested in fashion. She now enjoys having the opportunity to meet the designers of the clothing she loves, whilst working with a variety of people and continuously seeks opportunities to learn and improve her craft. This strong work ethic alongside her charismatic nature and versatile appearance has meant that she has worked with a variety of brands, featuring in runway shows, brand content and editorial work. At 174cm tall, Hye Yeon has walked for NU PARCC, SYZ, HAUSOFPBK, VLEEDA and many more. She has also been featured in content for Goal Studio, Calvin Klein and footwear brand collaborations PRO-SPECS X NOHANT and PRO-SPECS X VIBRATE.
Hoping to have shown her new look on the runway this season, Hye Yeon was unable to flaunt her new hairstyle to industry professionals. However, this was not her only concern since social distancing has also had an impact on other areas of the industry. Hye Yeon shares with View of the Arts what she enjoys most about being a model, the achievements that she is most proud of and her reflections on the role of a model within a changing industry.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic
You have modelled for Korean and international brands including Calvin Klein, D-Antidote and Cilmar originals. Have you always been interested in fashion and when did you first know that you wanted to be a model?
It is common for kids to be dressed by their moms, but since I was in kindergarten I really loved to put on what I wanted to wear and this made me [increasingly] more interested in clothing. Models are the very first people who get to wear the newly released outfits of the season and I was so envious about this [as a kid]. The very first time when I sincerely [remember] wanting to become a model was when I was in middle school, but my mom told me that it was when I was in elementary school. I was not as tall as other kids my age, so I just felt that I wanted to be a model without any specific plans. This background has made me unconsciously think of myself as a model.
Modelling has led to some great opportunities for you, working on advertisements, look books, editorial and fashion shows. Do you like this variety? How do you feel working within the fashion industry has influenced you?
I have had a lot of chances to meet many designers of various brands and this makes me excited all the time. Whenever I am in the show or on a photoshoot, I get a chance to try different styles and perform. It makes me feel that this field is pretty fun and entertaining.
Your job requires a lot of flexibility and collaboration with many people. What do you most enjoy about your work?
I really love to interact with people and express what I love. As I meet different kinds of people, and in various ways, I get to learn with my heart, thoughts, and behaviours. What makes modelling so entertaining and precious is that it lets me integrate [with] a new atmosphere that I have never experienced before.
Photo © Studio Enchantement
Looking at your career so far, what achievement are you most proud of?
It would be when I was in a show for Park Byeong Gyu and had a chance to put on his collections. It was very honourable for me to be a part of the show of Park Byeong Gyu. The emotions and the feelings that I experienced at that time are still vivid. This was the very first fashion show for me and I do think that I was very appreciative of the opportunity. In addition, when I was asked if I have a role model during an interview, I said that it had always been Hye Park. After the interview, Hye Park [read and] screenshot my interview and posted it on her Instagram. This was so exciting for me. Guess what. All these things happened on the same day, September 20th, 2018. This day still remains as the most memorable day of my life.
Given these successes, what are your ambitions for the future and how do you see yourself progressing?
Instead of achieving something in a very short period of time, I have been accomplishing things step by step at my own pace. Although I cannot say that I am getting better all the time, I want to take full advantage of improving and developing myself.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a model?
As growth points and values of individuals differ, instead of advising them, I want to respect their own personal aspects. If I were to give them advice, I would first ask [them] the reason why they want to become a model.
With a busy lifestyle, it is important to stay mentally and physically healthy, how do you take care of yourself?
I do think that health is a top priority. It is not easy to actually stay fit, so I try to take vitamin supplements. It has been more than two years since I stopped exercising due to health issues, although I think that I should workout. Unlike other people, I easily gain weight, which makes me often skip a meal. I know that I have been careless to myself regarding health, so I will try to improve it.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic
As well as eating well and exercising it is also important to rest, especially with health concerns. How do you like to relax in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
I actually haven’t rested since last September. If I get some free time, I would just like to chill because I am a homebody. I think I would watch some Netflix, read books, and eat the foods that I love. In addition, I also want to invest some time into learning about beer and acting.
You say you are a homebody, is there anything that gets you out on a day-off?
I love something cute, which might look useless from other people’s perspective, so I would go shopping for something like that. [I would] also go to exhibitions to take a look at some artworks.
If you had the opportunity, what would your perfect vacation look like? Where would you go and whom would you go with?
For me personally, the perfect vacation would be leaving [the city] for the countryside without any worries and thoughts. [However], if I were to come up with the perfect vacation, it also makes me think of having a fun time with people I like by the sea. But in fact, what I really want is to go to the rural countryside and eat healthy foods for my body and fitness.
You have over 13.5K followers on Instagram. Is having a social media presence important for establishing yourself as a model? What do you like to share with your followers?
Although I do not remember the exact time when, Instagram has been so influential for me as a model. You can even see my Instagram on my comp card [for casting]. Some people want to take a look at a more casual and natural aspect of me. This is why I try to post photos of myself as a model as well as the daily aspect [of my life]. For the followers, I just want them to view me as a relatable sister, not like an entertainer or a celebrated model.
Seoul Fashion Week was cancelled in March due to the Coronavirus outbreak. You had planned to show your new look however you were unable to do so. Did this change in circumstance come as a shock to you, and how were models affected in Korea?
I really wanted to see how people would react to my new image, which is totally different from what it used to be. However, when the event was cancelled it did make me panic. At first, I tried to reason that Fashion Week is not the only chance for me as a model, but unfortunately, not only Fashion Week [was affected]. Other photo shoots and meetings were also postponed or cancelled and this was obviously frustrating for me. However, I just hope everybody in the industry can overcome these circumstances.
Photo © Studio Enchantement
Shanghai converted to a fully digital Fashion Week and many brands have been launching virtual showrooms to meet with buyers around the world. How has the role of a model changed during this time?
First of all, I think that this may be an opportunity for models to improve and develop themselves in a variety of ways. For instance, there are some models that are spending their time studying or working on obtaining certificates. From my subjective point of view, I think that fashion brands trying a virtual showroom [have] made models invest their time in developing themselves.
Established and independent designers, including Korean brand Kyimer, have been making face masks to add to their product range. Do you think that the face mask will become seen as another fashion accessory in the future?
The masks in the fashion industry actually all look the same. Instead of only using masks as medical protective gear, I do believe that masks will also be considered [the same] as other common accessories such as earrings, necklaces, hairpins, and sunglasses. I am pretty sure that people can express their emotions or moods of the day by wearing masks.
Seoul Fashion Week SS21 is still scheduled to go ahead in October. Are you looking forward to this, and do you think people will be ready to celebrate fashion?
Since Seoul Fashion Week AW20 was cancelled, I think that this must work as one of the huge motivations, for not only models and designers, but also for employees who have worked together [on the collections]. I think we should prepare well so that we can satisfy and full-fill the expectations of those who were not able to come to the previous Fashion Week.
Written and interviewed by Georgina Saunders
Featured photo © Courtesy of A.Conic and the photographer
All other photos © Courtesy of A.Conic and the photographers