Jene Park talks fashion and her 10 years with Thomas Wylde
An L.A. fashion forecast
At the helm of one of America’s most achingly cool luxury labels, Jene Park reflects on the past and gears up for the future
The year was 2007. Paula Thomas and Jene Park had just launched Thomas Wylde, a 30-piece capsule collection. Today, the LA-based luxury ready-to-wear brand is stocked in over 200 stores worldwide, and has been worn by the likes of Beyonce, Heidi Klum, Madonna and Angelina Jolie. We sit down with the brand's creative director, Jene Park, for a dialogue on fashion, designing for the modern woman and why the skull is the epitome of the brand's DNA.
Thomas Wylde is synonymous with the skull. How did that come about? At the beginning, we sought to create a signature element that embodied Thomas Wylde. The design team came up with the Henna Skull because we wanted to design something that didn't fit the standard luxury look. After many, many iterations, sketches, and prototypes, we created the skull — it's something eye-catching, slightly rebellious and has cultural relevance.
What is your history with fashion? How did Thomas Wylde begin? After completing my studies at FIDM, I worked with Max Azria (the founder of BCBG) for a decade, before I started my own consulting venture called Jen e Jen. I began product development and production consultation for big brands such as True Religion, Seven and Vera Wang; at the same time I was working on my own clothing line. In 2005, Paula Thomas, an incredible stylist and a creative force approached me to help produce her new collection, Thomas Wylde. The moment I met Paula, I fell in love with her charisma, her vision. She was this gorgeous visionary with amazing ideas and I could back her up with all of my industry experience — from design, product development, production, sales, marketing and logistics. So we became partners.
After so many years with the brand, is inspiration hard to come by? It's easy because I live and breathe this world. There's a rich and deep conversation that happens with the people in my life, with my friends, with my twin daughters and husband... at the restaurants where I eat. They all make up the foundation of my creativity and they are how I keep the dialogue going.
What is Thomas Wylde's signature look? My absolute favorite piece that I repeat every season, spring or fall, is the ruffle shorts. They are quintessential to the LA lifestyle and can be dressed up or down depending on what you style with it. We also make the best studded biker jackets using the most sumptuous Spanish nappa lambskin, oversized kaftans made in our signature seasonal prints, Stretch French plonge leather leggings with our dog tag hardware, and overflowing silk blouses in chiffon, washed charmeusse or twill. And of course, everyone must have one of our oversized, Swarovski crystal embellished cashmere hand knitted cardigans.
Do you inject your own DNA into each collection? I've always had a peculiar approach to getting dressed — mixing unconventional items in novel ways, and wearing pieces during the "wrong" season. I think there's something very LA about it since our weather is not so specific. Still, I love clothes, and the way I mix and match has garnered intrigue from clients all over the world, especially the way I rock leather all year around.
"I try to propose some of that individuality into the way I approach Thomas Wylde — it's a bit eclectic and unexpected, but always elegant."
Are you living the life that you thought you would? No, of course not! That's the best part! I love that things don't happen how I imagined they would, it keeps things interesting and it keeps me on my toes. I love my life and I wouldn't change any part of it!
Do you have a muse? I don't really design for a particular client or muse. I design for modern women with careers and possibly families — women who raise children while juggling the ups and downs of everyday.
Speaking of women, what is your direction for the pre-fall 2017 collection? This season's theme is "Warrior". In the midst of this uncertain, uneasy and unstable world we live in, women need to stand up and keep marching ever forward to overcome and prevail — to turn obstacles into opportunity, to channel pain into energy.
What do expansion plans look like? We currently have 200 points of sale in 30 different cities worldwide. We have a Los Angeles flagship with prospects of opening more in New York, Paris, Dubai, Seoul, Tokyo and Shanghai.