Putting his best face forward: Jin Park was found on social media and hit the runway a few weeks later
Park’s life as a model began at the age of 23, considered relatively late in the industry. He had been uploading pictures of himself on social media for fun, and a photograph he shot with a friend caught the eye of his current agency, YGKPlus. And just three months after he signed a contract, he found himself opening up a show for an Italian luxury brand.
“When I heard that I would be opening the [Emporio Armani] show, I just burst out in tears,” said Park. “I don’t exactly know why I cried, but I think I was so overwhelmed by the fact that my efforts had paid off. I had been knocking on doors so desperately, and it was like the first opportunity came to me.”
Park sat for an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily at the YGKPlus building in Apgujeong, southern Seoul, on Friday to discuss his passion and love for his job. The following are edited excerpts.
Q. The first show you walked in was for Emporio Armani in Milan. What was that like?
A. I have had people around me telling me that I should become a model since I was young, because of my height (189 centimeters, 6 feet 2 inches). When it really happened, it felt so amazing. I felt happy and nervous at the same time because back then, I was really eager but I lacked confidence. But mostly, it felt marvelous to actually be there on the runway.
Are there things that you have learned over the past three years? Do you think you have changed?
I don’t think I’ve actually changed much. I’ve always been ambitious - even though I’ve only just been able to admit it (laughs). I’ve always liked working. Whether it’s photo shoots or videos, I love my work. And I’ve really tried not to lose that mindset. But it did become somewhat more comfortable for me to be in the scene. It felt really awkward and difficult at first, but now I’ve learned how to survive in the environment.
How have you changed since you first started modeling?
I used to be really shy at first, and I still tend to be when I meet people for the first time. But I realized that I needed to do something about that, because I came across so many people during work. So, I started to become the one to say hi first, and to talk to them. I actually felt my personality change, and now I can approach people a lot more easily.
What has been your the most memorable runway show?
I will always remember the Hermes show in 2016, for the 2017 Spring/Summer season. The outfit was great along with the set, which looked like a beautiful garden, and it was really memorable for me because it had been my goal to be in a luxury brand’s show, and it came true. But what made it really great was how I got to be on the show in the first place.
I couldn’t go to the casting audition, because Hermes doesn’t put out an open call and you have to be invited to audition. I walked in a show just the day before, and the Hermes stylist must have been there watching. That night, they called me and told me they wanted me on their catwalk. I loved every moment of it.
What do you think is the most demanding part of your job? What has helped you overcome that?
Every job has its hardships and I think it’s mostly a battle with yourself. For me, I’m okay going on a diet and being at photo shoots all day. What’s difficult is that I always have to show people something new, and that I always have to think about what side of myself I want to show. We have to be on the lookout for the latest trend and be one step ahead of it, because if you’re late, you’re nothing but a copycat.
What helps me overcome those difficulties is actually really simple: If the photos come out good, then I’m fine. If my efforts pay off, then I can keep going.
As a fashion model, do you always have to pay extra attention to what you are wearing?
Not particularly, because I believe it’s something that comes naturally with time and effort. I call it the self-mirror. You have to look into yourself and who you are to see what kind of style suits you the best, because even if you think someone looks pretty and just copy them without thinking much, then it could really turn out bad for you. The key is not to be obsessed with it, but to just take the time to look at yourself and figure out what you like. For me, it used to be slim-fit pants, but nowadays I’m more into simpler and modern designs.
The life of a fashion model remains a mystery to many people. What do you think is the hardest for you?
I understand that people have their own ideas about us, like the fact that our career is short-lived and we care a lot about our looks - and they’re valid to a certain point. But for me and a lot of models out there, we study a lot to find what suits us the best. Overall awareness of the fashion industry itself is quite low in Korea, and so it’s inevitable that people don’t know much about us or what we do.
Though people might not know it, we’re doing our best to show ourselves to the world, as Korean models on the global stage. I hope that people look at us in that light.
BY YOON SO-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]