XIN might be a familiar name to those who’ve been following K-pop and K-fashion for a while. Known for his work as a stylist and creative director at YG Entertainment, he’s credited for changing the face of K-pop with his breakout styling for 2NE1 (who were the predecessor to Blackpink). After a stint serving as creative director for Korean luxury retailer BOONTHESHOP, XIN (pronounced “sin”) has remained mostly under wraps, save for the times he walked the runways for 1017 ALYX 9SM.
On March 12, the creative director and sometimes-model will add designer to his list of titles, with the launch of his own brand, XYN. Comprising a capsule collection of six unisex pieces, the launch also includes a small collaboration with 1017 ALYX 9SM, aptly titled “ALYXYN.”
In an exclusive interview, the Seoul native talks about his relationship with Matthew M. Williams and how he got the designer's daughter, Alyx, to design his logo. He then spills on what we can expect from his semi-eponymous brand.
You’ve been styling other musicians and creative consulting for different clients throughout your career. How does it feel to finally launch your own brand, created by you and named after you?
It doesn’t feel real yet. Even while working as a stylist, I always wanted to do my own thing. I’ve tried making my own clothes before. The collection I’m launching this time is a result of what I made in the past, and I tried to recreate as many of my past ideas as I could. It’s something that’s been in my mind for so long, so it doesn’t feel like I’m launching something new.
We are in a state of chaos right now -- not just me, but as a whole society. My collection launch was pushed back almost a year because of Covid-19, and things were pretty hectic and confusing. But maybe it’s a good time to start something new amidst this chaos. To try and establish order within it.
How would you describe your brand?
Those who’ve seen the clothes tell me that I just made something I would wear. I don’t think I can fit XYN into a specific tier, like luxury high-end or young/casual. What I tried to do was to take the stereotypes that exist in the fashion industry, and the system, and filter them through my own lens. I wanted to highlight some things that I felt were missing right now. Instead of designating a few keywords to describe the brand, I’m curious how others will define XYN once they see it.
What’s the reason you named it XYN, not Xin?
My name Xin comes from my days in London, where my non-Korean friends couldn’t properly pronounce my name, Seung Ho. “Seung” would turn into sun, sin… So I just started using XIN as my name. As for my brand, I didn’t want my name to be commodified and sold to the public. I wanted my brand to be named slightly different, but still sound like me.
Your debut collection is titled “2016 Spring Fall.” This is quite surprising, because most of us in fashion always want something new. It seems pretty bold of you to take us back to that time.
When I started conceptualizing XYN in 2016, I was really, really passionate about it. I thought if I gave this collection a current season name with “2021,” then it wouldn’t feel like my first collection. To me, what I made at that stage of my life is and should be my first collection. What’s great is that I was working at Boon the Shop at the time, and I had wanted to launch my brand there. We’ll actually launch there this week, and I’m happy to come full circle and have the same people support me after all these years.
Have your thoughts on fashion, or your style, changed or evolved since 2016?
I think the way I look at and approach clothing is very different now. Styling versus designing really changes your perspective. Whereas I used to insert a lot of meaning into my clothes before, I think now as a maker and producer, my goals have become more realistic. The way I perceive clothing has become simpler.
I went through some personal hardship in 2016, and I had thought about quitting. I wanted to give up altogether and stop making clothes. It was a long tunnel, but in hindsight, I think I needed that.
The fact that you named the season “Spring Fall” instead of the normal “Spring/Summer” or “Fall/Winter” also seems intentional.
I’m not sure if it’s right to divide the year into two seasons anymore. I don’t want to designate one season to this collection, nor separate men’s from womenswear.
You studied at Central Saint Martins, but majored in fine art, not fashion design. Was it challenging to suddenly start making clothes with no real experience on that front?
It’s true I’ve never learned how to make clothes, although as a stylist, there were times I had to produce custom clothing for the musicians I worked with. Because I was interested in fashion since I was young and had a lot of experience seeing and trying different kinds of clothing, communicating my design ideas to turn them into reality wasn’t as challenging as you’d think. It was actually fun to discover new ways of doing things as I went along.
How did your time at Central Saint Martins influence you?
What impacted me more than the school was the city of London itself. I met so many creative and cool people there, whom I learned a lot from and am still close friends with. I got to experience a lot of new things that I wasn’t able to in Korea. It wasn’t necessarily a specific genre of British fashion or culture, but the diversity and mix of people from all over the world that gave me the opportunity to see new things.
How did your friendship with Matthew M. Williams begin?
We first met when he visited Seoul for fashion week. A friend of mine introduced us, and we casually had coffee. Then a few days later, after Matthew went back to Italy, he sent me a plane ticket, asking me to walk his runway for Alyx. I walked the first three Alyx shows, and then most recently for Spring/Summer 2020.
My first impression of Matthew was that he was very cool, so much so that it surprised me. When you think about a designer, you may think more about his or her designs and products, but Matthew as a person has this certain charisma. I think Matthew is one of the few designers in fashion right now doing things from a distinctly masculine perspective. Not that gender matters, but the way he fuses technology and hardware — things outside of fashion — into his brand seems really unique and appealing for the current generation.
I think our friendship naturally kicked off because we had a lot in common. Matthew has experience working with musicians like Lady Gaga and Kanye West, and I had experience working with artists like G-Dragon and CL. We had a lot of similarities and overlapping points of interest. I also met him when I was exhausted and going through a rough period of my life, and seeing how he works really inspired and stimulated me to take on new opportunities. He’s a good friend.
What was it like to collaborate with him?
I think it would have been different if I had met him as a designer. I wasn’t in a position to call myself a real designer then. We were very casual about exchanging ideas, just talking about things that were interesting to us at the time. We never sat down and seriously discussed what we’d collaborate on. It was just conversations we had when we first met, and when I went to Paris for his runways.
The last time I was in Paris, I thought since Alyx is the name of one of his daughters, why not just collaborate with her? She would always be at the fittings or backstage, running around and asking me to play with her. One day, I was wearing a plain white T-shirt, and I asked her to write her name on it with a sharpie, and then my name next to it. I asked her to do it for me as a present, and that became our logo for this collaboration.
So you totally bypassed Matthew and achieved your own Alyx collab!
I actually didn’t know what he would think. I just left the signed T-shirt at his office before I returned to Korea. A few days later, his team sent me a PDF with the collaboration idea. Matthew had remembered the things we talked about and compiled our ideas together. It all happened very naturally. I guess he really liked Alyx’s handwriting too (laughs). We just scanned the T-shirt to make our logo. It’s a collaboration with the real Alyx.
What were some of the ideas you talked about when you first met?
We were really interested in these new and innovative ways to achieve different clothing visuals through technology. Our ALYXYN collab consists of pieces that react to body temperature, to reveal a different design upon the touch of the flesh, and this was an idea that came up when we first met.
Is there anything else you can tell us about what to expect with XYN?
If this launch collection is what I made as my past self in 2016, what comes next will be what I’m working on as myself right now. “2016 Spring Fall” is what I wanted to express then, and my next collection will express my thoughts and feelings today. I think I will be able to show the world what it needs to see.
XYN's “2016 Spring Fall” collection launches at BOONTHESHOP Seoul exclusively on March 11, then subsequently at GR8 Tokyo, CONTENASTORE Tokyo and Canal Street Shanghai. The “ALYXYN” collaboration will launch exclusively at BOONTHESHOP Seoul.
This interview has been translated from Korean and edited and condensed for clarity.