Emily Hong became a fashion designer because it gave her a way to express herself creatively. It also gave her a way to connect with others. She explained why fashion design drew her in, “Growing up I was very shy and I had a hard time speaking in general, but after I started exploring fashion, it allowed me to connect with others. Clothing can just be ‘a look,’ but it is just as social as it is visual.” Fashion is no stranger to anyone. It’s a representation of one’s identity, culture, and even their story. It’s easy to go up to someone now, more than ever, especially with social media, to ask them where they got their clothes from. It’s more than a necessity…it’s a story.
The 20 year old fashion designer currently attend the Fashion Institute of Technology and is “currently working on a capsule collection.” This capsule collection is something she plans to launch as her own brand in order to allow others to dress and feel at their best, “I’ve always wanted to have my own brand and give others that feeling of creative freedom when wearing new clothes.” She is aiming to release them before the end of this summer. Her anticipated theme of the capsule collection is a direct representation of her culture and identity, “Korean warriors with a mix of streetwear.” Emily is a Korean-American with a knack for streetwear fashion. Her collection will be an amazing display of who she is while inspiring and connecting others with it.
There are obstacles that are faced in order to get to where she is now, a city girl with a dream. She grew up with a lot of people who discouraged her as an individual but she emphasized that her parents are her greatest supporters. She expressed that the things she has been told by her closest of friends really chipped away at her confidence but it also made her stronger, “Even some of my closest friends at that time would say things like, ‘Do you really think that you are so special that you can be a designer’, ‘you are a nobody’, ‘you’re not even good at what you do’, ‘you live in a world that will never understand you’, etc. and as a fragile kid, these words absolutely destroyed me. I lived in a very suppressive environment and it took a toll on my mental health and challenged my confidence, but I think I’m stronger because of it.” Her hard work and strong will is admired by many because she didn’t allow that toxicity get to her. Her current goal is to empower others with her clothing, “My goal is to be able to give others the same joy and confidence clothing has given me. I don’t think I’ve really reached any level of success yet (career wise), but I’m ready for the next challenge in life by starting my own brand.” (We are all looking forward to it <3)
Emily emphasized the importance of recognizing one’s purpose, especially during times of struggle, “When you are overloaded with work and you want to give up, it’s important to remember your purpose. You have to ask ‘why am I here’ and that reason does not have to be solid. If you really love something, you will find more and more reasons to keep on going and keep on loving it.” She also mentioned that people need to take a step back if they’re overloaded because oftentimes, “we tend to forget why we were there in the first place.”
Her greatest influences are her parents. They immigrated to America with an intention of living a better life, Emily expressed that “like most immigrant parents, they’ve had to deal with a lot of hardships (racism, unfair system, financial troubles, culture shock, etc.), but they still continue to be happy and are always inspired to do more.” With that, they easily become the strongest people she knows and she expresses, “I really respect their perseverance.” Emily adds that moving to NYC, she was able to meet and befriend a lot of amazing people who also inspire her as well, “I’m also really lucky to have great people around me now who are very passionate, positive, and inspirational.”
On a different note, Emily wishes that she “could end racism once and for all.” Growing up in a town where racism persists, she understands the negativity and strong fear that accompanies those who perpetuates it, “Living in fear that you could die based on a false perception is…I really don’t have words to describe how angry that makes me.” As people are fighting for the black community in America right now, she finds it comforting that people are fighting against racism, “I find it comforting seeing that there are so many people who are in support for the BLM movement, but there still needs to be more changes.”
Digging deep into her past, she reflects her encounters with racism as a sentiment for those who don’t believe it exists, “Personally, for the longest time, I thought I was really less than a regular human being and that I didn’t deserve the rights to live a normal life and it was my responsibility to just accept that ‘fact’ and let others treat me like I’m less. A common thing I would hear is ‘there are too many Asians on this earth and so more of us need to die’ and I’m not saying this to score brownie points of pity, but to show that there are people in this world who do think this way.” She understands that not everyone is this way but it doesn’t replaces that fact that racists and racism do exist. She stands by the resolve that people can all enforce for a better future, “I don’t think they know what they are saying honestly and I don’t think they mean to hurt me, but there is this ‘stigma’ that parents enforce on their children and hopefully, as we go on in the future, we can teach our children that this isn’t right.”
Emily endured a lot but like most of us, it’s what makes our story. Her strong will and desire to persevere resembles that of her parents. Her encounters of racism is not unique and that’s what makes it saddening to hear. It’s time for us to fight for a better future and more important than ever, it’s time to uplift people and their stories. To listen. Emily didn’t let hate and pain stop her from living her dream and her best life…and she serves as a testament that many of us can do it too.
Bonus: What’s your favorite fashion piece, and why?
“My favorite pieces are the Ribera LV handbag, denim bomber All Saints jacket, and my astronaut huaraches. I value comfort, and longevity. Clothing shouldn’t restrict everyday activities, it should be there to support the active lifestyle of individuals.”