Designer gets his break from TV show’s masks

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Designer gets his break from TV show’s masks

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Hwang Jae-geun Above: Hwang’s favorite mask creations. [JANG JIN-YOUNG]

Hwang Jae-geun is the man behind the masks for the television singing competition “King of Mask Singer.”

On the popular MBC program, celebrities wear elaborate masks to conceal their identities as they sing. The winner among eight contestants on each show becomes the mask king.

The masks are intended to let the judges and studio audience choose the king each week based on voice alone. Hwang makes the masks, each one of which is unique.

Hwang, 39, is a bit of a walking mask himself. He’s bald, wears oddly-shaped glasses and often sports a fake Salvador Dali-esque mustache.

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The High Frequency Double Antenna, Romantic Pair of Diamonds and CBR Cleopatra. [JANG JIN-YOUNG]

Now, he’s a regular on MBC’s “My Little Television,” in which celebrities communicate with fans live on websites.

Hwang was the first Korean to graduate from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, a famous design school in Belgium. After winning “Project Runway Korea” in 2013, a Korean version of “Project Runway,” an American reality TV series on Lifetime that focuses on fashion design, he has launched the fashion brand ZE QUUN homme.

His experimental designs caught the eye of the producers of “King of Mask Singer,” and the mask job began. The show has been running since February.

The JoongAng Ilbo sat down with Hwang for an interview to hear about his work.

Q. It must be hard to make so many different masks.

A. There are many people who help me because I’m very busy these days. But I still do rough copies and do final checks myself. Although it’s easy to give ideas for new designs, it gets difficult technically to make all the different styles. On the day the program is recorded, I stay at the studio all day long in case of an unexpected situation.

What was your most memorable mask?

I have particularly fond memories of the masks I made early on, like CBR Cleopatra, Romantic Pair of Diamonds and High Frequency Double Antenna because I designed and made them all by myself. Now I get some opinions from producers to know what style they prefer.

You say you’ve never earned much by designing clothes but keep doing it as your job. Why?

The clothes I design that satisfy me are too abstruse for normal people to wear. But I want to design unique clothes rather than clothes that can sell a lot. That’s why I went to Belgium to learn avant-garde styles of design instead of studying in Korea. I think I’m talented in designing those clothes and, thanks to my talent, I can make such distinctive masks. I want to do whatever I love in my life.

How would you define your style?

It can be called refined avant-garde, meaning a refined experimental nature. It is not excessive or uncontrollably innovative or experimental like original avant-garde designs. Although it may seem similar to the original avant-garde style at first glance, it’s different.

What kind of designer do you want to be?

I want to be remembered as a lifestyle designer who designs everything from clothes and glasses to shoes and interior designs.

BY HAN EUN-JEONG [koo.yurim@joongang.co.kr]

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