Interview with Dukhyun Won



For our latest Feature Series we had the pleasure of chatting with Dukhyun Won, the creative force behind South Korean label, NEITHERS, and, BLANKOF. Dukhyun opened up about his unique design philosophy, blending timeless style with everyday functionality whilst emphasising the importance of mental focus and authentic communication. 


Q: Hi Dukhyun! First of all, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Please can you tell us a bit more about yourself, what are your interests inside and outside of work?


A: I am the director of BLANKOF and NEITHERS. While I focus on creating output when working, I try to receive various inputs when I am not working. I seek more inspiration from fields other than fashion. By digesting these diverse inputs in my own way, I create new outputs.


Q: Alongside running BENEDEF and your impressive roster of brands, how do you balance your time between projects and brands?


A: Balancing is very complex and subtle. It’s like walking a tightrope. At certain moments, you need to put more strength on the right side and at other times, more on the left. The key is to never lose your mental focus. Mental strength and judgement are the most important, and the way to balance changes depending on the situation. I think we can only know that we have balanced well when we have survived and made progress.


Q: We admire your playful imagery from the NEITHERS lookbooks, please can you share some more on your selection of styling and use of props?


A: When designing and planning clothes, I aim to create items that can be worn as uniforms by people in specific professions yet also be utilised as fashion items when they are not working. In a way, these are clothes for people who have no boundaries between work and life. By incorporating the philosophy of NEITHERS, I style and accessorise these garments, drawing inspiration from individuals in such professions. However, I do not want to express this too seriously. I don't believe that being serious necessarily equates to being cool. Truly stylish people do not try hard to appear cool in others' eyes. Instead, they can smile and joke around with ease. I believe that style is not something to be forced but something that emerges naturally.


Q: What motivates your design ethos?


A: In line with the Bauhaus spirit, I pursue 'design according to function.' I design necessary elements beautifully and stylishly, without forcing in unnecessary components. Details meant to stand out can feel outdated over time. What I aim for is a 'Timeless Design' that transcends eras, both in products and the brand.


Q: Please can you tell us about the process behind the products and collections for NEITHERS?


A: First, we select individuals who embody the NEITHERS philosophy. Then, we research their characteristics and the attire typical of their professions. We aim to blur the boundary between uniforms and everyday wear through our designs. It’s crucial that we do not merely mimic their outward appearance. We preserve only the ideas and essence, allowing new fruits to emerge. As a result, our designs may sometimes not straightforwardly align, but they contain hidden paths that become clear upon explanation. Design without intent would contradict our philosophy.




Q: Can you tell us more about specialising in space design?


A: In spaces, I strive to embody the character, surrounding environment, and spirit of the times that the space should have. Rather than merely considering the size and levels, I focus on ensuring that the space harmonises with the neighbourhood and the building. I also assign a role to each space. To convince customers of this role, I incorporate various details. Thus, some aspects may be similar, while others may differ. This is what I pursue: having the same roots yet being diverse and not identical. Ultimately, everything comes together as one.


Q: Who and what is your ideal retailer for NEITHERS and BLANKOF?


A: We place great importance on communication with our customers. We believe the era of simply picking up items is over, as it can already be done quickly and conveniently online. Compared to online, the advantage of offline is its 'warmth.' It’s hard to feel human warmth online. However, this human touch doesn’t automatically manifest in offline stores. I think customers visit offline stores to experience this warmth. A place that can provide such warmth can be the most ideal partner.


Q: In terms of retailers, who and what do you look for in the brand?


A: I prefer brands that consistently challenge themselves to develop with steady direction and perseverance. Moreover, a brand that communicates well is even better. Ultimately, it’s important who is behind the brand. The values that a person pursues determine the brand's direction.


Q: Lastly, are there any key people around you who inspire your day-to-day work and community?


A: I don't draw inspiration from any specific individual. I find inspiration in most people, with the premise that no one in the world is perfect, including myself. So, I don't single out any one person for inspiration. Instead, I focus on identifying and overcoming my own shortcomings. I communicate and learn from many people who have solutions to these shortcomings, and I also try, fail, and try again.


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