From Paris with Love
Renowned exhibition artist Hideki Seo effortlessly balances art and fashion.
Designer and artist Hideki Seo has made a mark on fashion that reaches across the globe—and St. Louis is no exception. The Japanese native was one of the newest designers featured in the World Chess Hall of Fame’s breathtaking 2013 fashion exhibition, “A Queen Within,” having participated in renowned exhibits from Belgium to Japan. But his unique view of fashion has come into play both in and out of the competitive art world. Seo is presently playing double-duty as assistant designer to Azzedine Alai?a, considered one of the most respected Paris fashion design houses, as well as developing his evolving career as a sculptural fashion artist.
Not only is he a man of exceptional talent, but Seo’s down-to-earth personality and persistent commitment to quality work have put him on the radar of the high-fashion set, including St. Louis’ Susan Barrett, who recently launched the fashion and art consulting company, Barrett Barrera. We caught up with the designer when he was in town for the Barrett Barrera launch to chat about his budding design career and how a leap of faith early on redeveloped his destiny.
ALIVE: You began your career as a graphic designer. What made you switch gears to focus on fashion?
Hideki Seo: When I was a graphic designer, I traveled through many places, such as Tibet, Africa and the Middle East. The differences in each culture fascinated me, and those differences were the most apparent in their clothing. I decided that I wanted to work with clothing immediately after that and quit my job to begin searching for design schools.
ALIVE: You began your schooling soon after at the Royal Academy in Antwerp, Belgium. How was your experience there?
HS: It was hard. During my first year, there were 60 students in my class, but by my last year there were only seven. Very few could handle the curriculum. Although it was difficult, it was a really good time to focus and concentrate. Antwerp was a good city to find myself.
ALIVE: How do you plan to further develop your career in fashion?
HS: Now I’m doing two things: During the day, I’m working as an assistant of Mr. Alai?a. I’m doing fashion there, of course. But at night, on the weekends and holidays, I am focusing on my other career, where I can say that I have succeeded to go beyond the category of fashion. At the beginning, it was very difficult. I was making these sculptures and thinking, “What am I doing? I am in fashion.” But I wanted to create a special forum, which is not possible to make in just a garment. That’s when I started to really take my sculptural creations seriously.
ALIVE: Of your sculptural creations, do you have a favorite piece?
HS: My first piece that I created, as a response to the earthquake that had happened in Japan in 2011, is my favorite. It’s called “Switching on Small Lights in Our Too Dark Heart.” I thought I could do something to make people happy, even in the face of tragedy.
ALIVE: We have read that you consider Azzedine Alai?a a mentor. What is some valuable advice that Mr. Alai?a has shared that has assisted you in your own career?
HS: He has always said, “We can’t teach anything to mold one for fashion.” He believes that it is a gift that comes from within. Instead, he showed me his life as a great creator, which taught me a lot of things. He never compromises, and he is very adamant about what he will or will not create. But after the creation, he’s so kind. Now he is like my father and we can joke around with each other.
Photo by Wesley Law.