“My goal has always been to create a collection that allows you to achieve more for less,” says Cho. “I am sure that consumers will appreciate this collection for the elegance of the cuts, but also for the materials chosen and for having contributed to making this planet more sustainable. For me as a designer, this certainly is everything”.
She is speaking about her capsule collection - Sharon Cho x YOOX - which was unveiled in September 2020 after much anticipation. The stunning capsule collection, which Cho exclusively designed for luxury online retailer YOOX, features elegant garments manufactured entirely using fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and eco-friendly wool. At its core, Sharon Cho x YOOX is more than just a capsule collection: it is a movement attempting to prove that sophistication and sustainability can coexist.
Growing up, Sharon Cho always knew that she wanted to do two things: to be a fashion designer, and to make a positive difference in the world; the latter being a goal inspired by her parents who are both missionaries. So, Cho enrolled at the prestigious Parsons School of Design, and in 2019 the promising designer was showered with applause as she was awarded the Yooxygen Award. The award not only commemorated Cho as a bright talent in the sustainable fashion industry, but it also gave her the opportunity to develop her debut collection with YOOX at their headquarters in Milan, Italy.
Cho’s goal for the Sharon Cho x YOOX capsule collection was to develop everyday garments that empower consumers whilst powerfully demonstrating that sustainability is, and can be, highly fashionable.
Innovative and Eco-Friendly textiles
Cho worked closely with suppliers to find fabric made entirely from recycled plastic bottles and sustainably-produced wool for the garments in her debut capsule collection.
Fabric made from plastic bottles is a new and highly innovative solution to tackling plastic pollution - one of the world’s greatest environmental challenges - as it gives a second life to single-use plastics that would otherwise end up in landfills, or deposited in marine environments. Studies have found that manufacturing sustainable fabric made from plastic bottles is 30 percent less energy-intensive than that of clothing made from raw materials. The minimal use of energy and natural resources in production also reduces the amount of toxins and greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere. With the fashion industry currently standing as the second largest global polluter after the oil industry, sustainable fabrics made from plastic are not only helping clean up the ‘dirty’ fashion industry, but are simultaneously cleaning up the environment by repurposing single-use plastic bottles.
In the words of YOOX, Cho’s exclusive debut collection is "Not only style and elegance, but a sustainable choice for the planet".
Tailored for all seasons
The prominence of fast fashion in contemporary societies has created a culture where individuals are increasingly susceptible to buying, wearing, and quickly discarding clothing items every season. This has given rise to open-loop production cycles that heavily pollute the environment. Fast fashion is also highly reliant on the sweatshop model of production where exploitation of garment workers is frequently reported.
The high human and environmental cost of fast fashion inspired Cho to design the garments in her collection with removable panels. This clever 3-in-1 design disrupts the linear fashion model of fast fashion by providing consumers with adaptable and versatile garments that they can wear during any season or occasion.
A Korean Touch
On the back of each coat is a striking ‘origami tessellation design’ - Cho’s signature design element. Cho explains that origami tessellations are a type of origami where “numerous folds and creases have to be first folded in order to actually fold the actual tessellation”.
Cho poignantly implemented this intricate design in her thesis collection - 4.16 - which was designed to pay tribute to the lives lost in the Sewol Ferry Disaster which occurred in South Korea on April 16, 2014. With each intricate fold, describes Cho, a tribute is paid to one of the 304 individuals who lost their lives.
“When the Sewol Ferry Disaster occurred, I was a high-school student in Korea myself. There was nothing I could do then but to mourn and pray for the lost lives and their families,” says Cho.
“I was inspired by origami because hundreds of people had gathered in the streets of Korea and folded origami yellow bows and ribbons during the memorial service of the Sewol ferry disaster…This was when I knew that it was my chance to do something about this incident through my thesis. I wanted to use fashion as a tool to raise awareness and reflect upon tragedies”.
Designing with Purpose
Sharon Cho describes herself as a designer who "values designing with a purpose" due to her strong belief that fashion can be used as an avenue to bring positivity into the world.
As the sustainable fashion industry picks up pace, Cho has established her place as one of the most promising minds in the industry. She hopes to continue her sustainability efforts in her future collections.