Meet Juri Yoneda, the Sentimental Surrealist Fresh Out of Parsons. Defining her future through reflections of the past, Juri Yoneda presents her graduate collection “Serendipity”.
“I am in an intersection joined by multiple cultures and not being perfectly leaning on one side” says Juri Yoneda as a self introduction. Growingup in Shanghai, Juri was at the epicentre of different cultures with her being raised by a Japanese father and Chinese mother who alternate between three languages at home. During her childhood she recalls having to fly back and forth between Shanghai (where her father was working) and Osaka (her hometown), all whilst attending an international school, which resulted in her naturally spending her earlier years in the midst of a melting pot of various cultures.
The designer recalls her interest in fashion started getting deeper during 8th grade, when girls around her started paying more attention to how they dress and how they looked, especially since her school was one that didn’t require uniforms. From this, she started putting extra thought in how she presents herself, and thus originated her love for dressing, “I find fashion to be complicated. We were born in bodies, faces, and skins that we were not able to choose from. […] No matter what skin colour, body gender, body type, and face we were born with, we were all given more choices to enhance, decorate, and empower our bodies. It gave us more freedom of choices with our appearance,” Juri elaborates.
“I think being a fashion designer means also providing more choices for others. It enriches the act of getting dressed, the activity that one will perform, and the environment that you can bring the garment to,” she continues, explaining how she hopes that her dreams of being a designer can create a positive impact to how others’ get dressed, “I also see being a fashion designer like being a magician. Others don’t have to see the tedious process that we are going through but will find out that we had made the abstract and crazy sketches come to life, in colour, in texture, in four dimensions.”
To ensure that this dream became a reality, Juri left for New York to pursue her studies in Parsons, which she claims was a time full of development and self-growth. For her graduate collection, she decided to look back on the reality she faced whilst studying in the school and how it differed to the vision and dream that she had prior to her university experience, and from this study, a professor suggested for her to look into the Surrealism movement. “It was also about revolution and liberation. I became obsessed with the idea of this ‘connection between individual creative freedom and collective liberation’,” she recalls, “I wanted to work on a topic that throws away all the preconceptions and restricts labels.”
In order to interpret the concept of Surrealism into physical works of fashion, the designer started her creative process by creating hundreds of collages using scraps from items she holds close to her heart that she cut apart. From these abstract pieces, she trims and reforms these collages to fit a body and try to see the potential of how these shapes and forms can be created into a garment. To her, this process of reinventing and reshaping objects from her reality is how she defines surrealism, “It is not to escape from reality but a way, a movement to build on what is present with anyone’s pure ideas. It is not to destroy but to place anything ordinary in extraordinary ways to recreate how reality could look like.”
These forms and figures that came as a result from her collages seemed a bit too abstract to be wearable, which was a struggle Juri faced during her creative process. “Since my ideas were very abstract at first, it was hard to find the technique to bring these abstract shapes to life,” she confesses, “One of the solutions that came was to add extreme darts to create the volume and to support with buckram (usually used in hats). I’d say it is about keeping up the challenges and doing many trials. If something doesn’t work, it may be the material or how you are using it. Doesn’t mean it is impossible, so don’t give up!” But despite the struggle, the designer shares that there is still an element of fun to reminisce about when looking back at the journey, with the textile development and selection process being her favourite part.
After all the trials in technicality, and reflecting on her past to create something that marks the beginning of her future, the designer has fittingly chosen to title her graduate collection “Serendipity”. She tells us that the process of crafting something new out of mundane items that hold sentimentality to her did make her feel like those moments were indeed serendipitous. Despite this being her debut collection, one can admit the boundless potential that the graduate has, and Juri Yoneda will be a name to keep an eye on in coming times.
When we ask her what message she wants to convey to the audience and what designer she aims to be, Juri earnestly answers, “This is a collection that encourages people to be freed from labels and words of categories and that life should be in our own styles. Don’t let anyone else define who you are and not be restricted by your cultural expectations or prejudices. I want [Juri Yoneda] to be intricate with some couture aspects. It is timeless and precious, but not traditional in the way that is restricting. I wish it to be youthful and exciting. I think the core is to spread a joyful and loving feeling through garments and have hints to tell stories.” (Text Vanya Harapan)