2022-06-23

Interview : Designer Sonjunghoon of VANDY THE PINK

Bandi The Pink's Bandi represents herself through her work. Designer Son Jeong-hoon, born in Korea, often hides himself behind his fashion and shoes, preferring to stay in the background. However, in many respects, placing the work in front of the figure itself reveals more about the designer, perhaps more than the portrait. Until the brand Vandy The Pink became known for its playful, capricious, and even brazen appearance, Son Jeong-hoon collected all the memories, references, and influences he had collected along the way as souvenirs along the way. He expressed his experiences in a tangible way.

With 'fans' such as Billie Eilish and Blackpink's Lisa and collaborations with brands such as Hidden New York, Bandi the Pink transforms luxury clothing and motifs into sneakers and clothes through its own fun lens. Custom made and established as an internet sensation. His love of this course was formed while attending college at George Mason after emigrating to the United States from Korea. He worked in a restaurant to pay tuition, and since he didn't have the money to buy a new product at the time, he reformed the products himself and persuaded his friends to pretend it was a new product. This is the story before his talent blossoms into customization crafts.

The duality of where he was born and where he lives is conspicuous in his current work. For example, Bandi the Pink refers to his mother's clothing store. Meanwhile, his signature food and burger motifs were conceived from the flashy advertisements and marketing of fast food restaurants, which are essential elements in the United States. What makes Bandi the Pink stand out amongst his colleagues is probably his ability to mix his vision and influence with good design with a light heart. With support from the Adobe Diverse Voices initiative, and to further disseminate and support the stories of islander creators in Asia and the Pacific, Dao-Yi Chow, co-founder and designer of New York Public Schools, sits with VANDY to share his pop culture inspiration and inspiration. We discussed the importance of injecting a fun element into his creative work and how to bring passion to work.
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DYC: When did you move to the US from Korea?
VANDY: I was born in Korea and moved here when I was 18. I was about to graduate from high school in Korea. But after coming here, they sent me to sophomore year, so I had to go through the whole process again.

DYC: Did you speak English back then?
VANDY: Actually, it's not. We are learning English in Korea, but not learning to speak. I try harder to understand the grammar. When I came here, I could understand a little bit what people were saying, but it didn't come out of my mouth.

DYC: I totally understand what you mean. My wife was born and raised in Hong Kong and first came here when she was 28 and it was the same. I learn English at school, but I don't translate English one-to-one when having a conversation. High school is probably the most influential period and it must have been a sudden change for you.
VANDY: To be honest, it was a really good experience. Besides, in Asia there is a lot of pressure on education. You can't get a job if you don't get an A grade (if you don't study well), but here, compared to Asian countries, I didn't feel that much pressure, so I felt like I could do more. In the US, school ends around 2pm, but when I go back to Asia, it's literally 11pm. Do homework, sleep, wake up, go to school, and so on. But when I came here, I felt less pressure on school and education and started to invest more time in what I was doing right now.

DYC: You arrive in Virginia and you go to a new school, a new language, and a new culture. You said you had more free time, did you indulge in creative things that much?
VANDY: I think it's a little different from other people's beginnings. At the time, I was really bummed out. After high school, he attended George Mason University, but his father's work did not go well. I had to pay my college tuition, rent, everything myself. It was really hard. While attending school, I worked part-time at a Korean barbecue restaurant. To earn more money, I had to go back to school after taking a semester off and pay my tuition. Then I took a break to earn some money, went back to school, then went back to Korean BBQ and served again. It was a very difficult time, but I couldn't give up on what I was doing.

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DYC: What was it?
VANDY: It was graffiti and painting on shoes. For example, I used to not have the money to buy a new Air Force, but at the same time I wanted to look good. So when the shoe was most popular, I painted it a new color and made people think I bought a new shoe. I was simply coloring my shoes and those things started to grow me. At that time, there was no such word as custom edition, and it was more like a remodel.

DYC: I think that's a common challenge facing many artists. I think those situations make you more creative, more talented and, like you said, reshaping the things around you. You talked about getting a job and having to help your family, but I think it's probably common among first-generation immigrants. How have those experiences shaped you to be more creative and have a business perspective?
VANDY: I would say that experience motivated me. I always prepare something. In the past, when I was at school and working part-time, the days were so short that I always tried to manage my time. I had to spend five or six hours at school, and another six hours after school to work. Only then did I have some time to spend on the things I wanted to do on my own. I learned a lot through those hard times. You have to manage your time, you have to manage your money. I always try to plan ahead, so I don't panic when the 'time' comes. I'm ready.

DYC: Let's go back to the previous story. First generation, immigrants from Korea, how does that affect you?
VANDY: I'm 31 now, but I came here when I was 18, so if you count, I still have more time in Korea. When I first came here, the advertisements for fast food restaurants were really luxurious. I went to New York, neon signs, big advertisements, and everything else had a huge impact on me.

DYC: Does your background as a Korean influence your ability to work? Do you think about those things while you work?
VANDY: Because everything is so different from my homeland, it has to be obvious. Whenever I jump into a project or try to create something new, I always try to figure out exactly what I was used to when I was in Korea and what I am doing in the US now. You compare them, you mix them up, and you end up putting them out in a better way.
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DYC: Your mother's store name was Vandy. Where did that name come from?
VANDY: My mother's actual store name is Bandi. Firefly means firefly. I once asked my mother why she named it that way. She is like a firefly. It glows in the dark.” Firefly reminds her of hope. When I came to the United States and went to school, everyone used to call my Korean name Jeonghoon, but I couldn’t even pronounce it, so I needed a nice English name. I got the idea from my mother's shop called Bandy, and I named it Vandy.

DYC: Where did 'The Pink' come from?
VANDY: In Korea, pink is a really colorful and hopeful color. When I was in school, I had a really hard time with no money, and my parents didn't want me to do art. I really needed hope in my life, so I put firefly and pink in the name. hope and hope.

DYC: Double Hope. That's cool. Because that energy and that spirit is reflected in many of your works. Your work feels very optimistic and hopeful. Are your parents proud of you?
VANDY: Well, you know Asian parents. (laugh)

DYC: Even if they're proud of them, they won't tell you. Can you tell us a little more about what your mother's store was like and how it felt to grow up around a fashion store?
VANDY: When my mother was younger than me or when she was my age, she was also very interested in fashion. Pretty clothes, lace, flowers. But it wasn't really for sale. The store was in a small town and it was more for local people. So for me it was, really, a place where I felt a lot of warmth. Whenever I think of my mom's store, I think of really warm and nice people. Whenever I think of my mom's shop, I always miss my motherland. She eventually had to close it because she had to relocate to the United States, and the main reason she moved here was for the success of my life. Naming myself Vandy meant a lot to me.
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DYC: Can you tell us about the things that influenced your early work?
VANDY: In every interview, I speak of a Korean rapper called 'Okasian'. He has always been one of my favorite rappers. So I started a business and then I showed a lot of my work through DMs, but of course he didn't reply. But I just kept sending. One day, I still remember, around 3 am, I was extremely tired, and I checked my DMs, and I got a reply from Occe. That week I sent him all the stuff, he actually wore my shoes on stage, and he mentioned me in an Instagram story. It's kind of a turning point for me because I've been involved with all Korean rappers since the Occasion. Then, less than a month later, Tyga contacted me, and that's how I've grown rapidly in four or five years.

DYC: That's great. Is there anyone you would like to work with just like when you DM?
VANDY: Oh, so many. Since starting a business and starting my brand, I always have my best brands. My favorite is Nigo. always you

DYC: Let's talk about the transition from a lot of customization and remodeling in the past to making your own products now. Why was that an important decision?
VANDY: For the first few years, I focused a lot on remodeling and customizing, but I'm starting to feel like it's taking a lot of time. Because you can only finish one at a time. I bought a very old, vintage LV bag and then cut it out and attached it to my shoes and everything. People really liked it, but I started to develop my own identity and brand. I started doing my own thing.

DYC: It's an opportunity to do more and share with more people. What's your favorite thing you're doing right now?
VANDY: I've been making a lot of toys, plush toys. My father used to collect toys too, so I grew up with a lot of toys around. It affected me a lot. Toys are really fun and cool. It always reminds me of my childhood. I really wanted my employees and customers to feel that way. So I always try to make toys, even small ones. When I buy my shoes, there is a small toy in them.

DYC: It's like McDonald's Happy Meal. What are your future plans?
VANDY: Right now, I'm really focused on making steady drops with the hit collection. We are preparing our first official collection for Spring/Summer 2022. We'll only be releasing one a month, so it's going to be a bit more traditional than the way we did before. We're trying to do 'honest branding', so to speak.

DYC: I think ultimately you will be defining what your brand means to people. I think it is the same energy and the same hope that makes Bandi The Pink special. Can I ask you one more interesting question? Food is a topic that comes up so often in your brand, I'm even more curious. Which food is your favourite?
VANDY: Oh, of course. Actually, I like a lot of food, but now it's omakase. Of course, the burger is always my number one, but right now I really enjoy going to Omakase.
DYC: Is that money coming in? They are quickly switching from burgers to omakase.
The contents of the interview and all images are from HYPEBEAST
Translated by Heights
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