From styling to jewelry design, and now fashion photography and even the craft of weaving, the artist and designer thrives on fresh new ways to make a statement. Jung, now a Los Angeles transplant, sat down with us for a during a recent visit back to town to discuss her new projects and the enduring differences between east coast and west coast style.
GrandLife: Welcome back to New York. How long are you in town for?
Mimi Jung: Just five days. We’re here for an art direction project with a beauty brand. It’s a quick trip—busy one!
GL: You’re perennially busy, though! In fashion, there’s always that cycle of creating, producing, looking to the next season, but you actually go so far as to expand your brand by adopting entirely new forms of work, like photography, weaving. How did your last lookbook project with Jayne Min of StopItRightNow come about?
MJ: I’ve always shot my own lookbooks. But now I’m really interested in expanding my fashion photography portfolio. It’s a secret passion of mine, and I’m always looking for an excuse to do more challenging shoots. Jayne and I had never worked together creatively, so we thought it was time. Our model, Leah Henken, is a friend of mine and also happens to be a great stylist—she’s on Lady Gaga’s style team—so the three of us got together at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, which is one of my favorite pieces of architecture in downtown LA. And we cranked out a photo series. I was so happy with the images, I scrapped my last lookbook and replaced it with those.
GL: Will you be shooting your own lookbooks from here on out?
MJ: I’ve always shot them. I really enjoy doing that. I know a lot of stores and brands shoot their own lookbooks in-house, but further down the road, I’d love to shoot for a luxury brand. If I could take a year off and just shoot, that would be ideal.
GL: And you’re weaving now too.
MJ: When I first moved to LA, I was in another world—my own world, like this bubble—for three months, and that’s how I got into it. [My husband] Brian built me a loom, and I got so into it…but suddenly I was late on all my other projects.
GL: That’s a good, productive kind of distraction, though.
MJ: Right. That’s true. But weaving’s so different compared to anything else I’ve ever worked on. Before I start, I have to be in the right mentality, a good mood…it’s the only thing in my life where my mood and my being makes a complete difference.
GL: Where do you sell your weavings?
MJ: They’re at Creatures of Comfort right now. They take so long to do that I don’t have them for sale on my site—they’re special-order items.
GL: Your career has taken on so many art forms, how would you define yourself if you had to?
MJ: I’m just a maker of things. I enjoy figuring things out, and finding a new craft. I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, personally and professionally. Everything just sort of clicked—and it’s all connected. It’s hard for me to say ‘no,’ but I also want to be able to do it all. I always want the next challenge.
GL: You got together again with Jayne Min for your “Brook&Lyn Now in LA” collaboration series to make a silk wood-print scarf. Any more on the horizon?
MJ: I love collaborations. It’s fun, and if I have the opportunity, I want to keep doing that. We also collaborated with two other Los Angelenos—Julie Hung of Jujumade for a collection of ceramic hair pieces, and then we did an online city guide with Su Wu of I’m Revolting. The guides are something we want to continue doing beyond LA—in other cities. We have a few people lined up. It’s not the typical “best of” guide. It’s more personal—your favorite places and why. It becomes emotional. It’s a good collaboration between my husband and me, too. He does all the design programming, I do all the shooting. In a couple of years, I want to do a New York “Homesick” series.
GL: Speaking of New York once being home, what are some of the things you always do when you come back?
MJ: Soba-Ya. It’s a soba place the East Village—on 9th street. I’ve been every time I’ve come back. I love it. I’ve been going there since college. It’s quiet, thoughtful, and they make their soba by hand.
GL: How does New York stand out to you now that you’re seeing it through a non-resident’s eyes? Especially in terms of fashion and style?
MJ: I didn’t notice it as much when I was living here, but people in New York are much better dressed—and way more groomed, I’d say. There’s a definite emphasis on style.
GL: Are you doing ok with the colder climate?
MJ: I don’t mind the temperature, but it’s the added bulk of all the layers and coats that’s hard. I’ve never liked that about winter, though.
GL: How has your style changed since moving to LA?
MJ: I’m confused, to be honest. My style makes more sense here [in NYC]. In LA, I don’t know how to dress casually fashionable. I only know how to dress up. In New York, either you look nice or you don’t care. But in LA it’s this easy, effortless…natural beauty. You’re not trying as much. In New York, I’ve never worn flats. I’ve always worn heels—grocery store, everywhere. In LA, I bought three pairs of sneakers the first month. I’m still confused, though. If I wore this outfit I’m wearing right now in LA, I’d look like I’m trying too hard. My middle ground, I’d say, was finally buying a pair of Isabel Marant wedge sneakers.
GL: What LA designers are on your radar now?
MJ: Raquel Allegra, who does a lot of shredded-backed pieces. Her line makes more sense to me now that I’m in LA—the colors and the relaxed fit and the sheerness. That all makes sense now. I got introduced to Black Crane through Mohawk General Store, which sells my pieces. It’s really comfortable cotton and linen clothing, in the right colors and the right shapes, and the prices are actually really affordable for clothing like that. I’m incorporating a lot of that into my wardrobe.
GL: What’s on your current wish list?
MJ: There’s this quilted black leather jacket by Isabel Marant. I kind of discovered her later in life. Maybe it’s now that I’m in LA.
GL: Put it on your Christmas list! What are you doing this year?
MJ: We like tree and decorating, but it’ll be different on the west coast. In Brooklyn Christmas tree lots are everywhere, but I don’t know where to go in LA. I really just want a picture of our Mini Cooper with a giant tree strapped onto the top.