As sad as it is, longevity is a rarity on the Australian fashion landscape. While there are always new labels cropping up, few of them last more than a handful of seasons. Keeping this in mind, Melbourne-based designer Yeojin Bae wisely opted for the long road.
At 35 years of age, Bae has already been in the industry for two decades. Bringing a whole knew meaning to the term wunderkind, Bae was accepted into the Whitehouse Institute of Design at just 15. The Korean-born designer went onto work at Charlie Brown and SABA, and interned with Marc Jacobs and Anna Sui in New York.
“I just received an invitation for my fashion school reunion this month, and I kind of went ‘Oh my goodness, it’s been 20 years,’” laughs Bae. “I really believe that a steady long-term career is about doing your own thing and being steady with your handwriting – not being too faddish with trends. Fashion moves so fast and I think you need to find your own pace in the cycle of fashion.”
Since setting up her own label in 2006, Bae has indeed taken a measured path. The designer only made her Australian Fashion Week debut last year, and despite scoring Barney’s as a stockist from the outset and being a favourite of the Myer buying team, Yeojin Bae still manages – quite surprisingly – to fly slightly under the radar.
Steering clear of short-lived trends, Bae has slowly gained herself a loyal following for her timeless aesthetic and painstakingly flawless technique. A classic pencil skirt, for example, will feature delicate, precise pin tucks while deceptively simple trousers will be tailored to effortlessly fit the body.
Bae’s sophisticated approach to womenswear has seen her become a favourite with celebrities and businesswomen alike. The designer is well accustomed to dressing local and international stars for the red carpet. Australia’s Isabel Lucas is a fan as is the ever fashion-informed Sarah Jessica Parker.
Having firmly established her brand, Bae recently launched an extension line, YB J’aime. As the name implies, the offshoot has a French-inspired aesthetic, where everyday staples are given a modern update.
“I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with France,” says Bae. “I seem to have this strong connection to the Parisian aesthetic. My life has been tied in with the French lifestyle because my husband is French and I’ve been to France two to three times a year for the last 18 years.”
Bae says she admires how French girls wear simple, unfussy clothing and have an understated, nonchalant style about them. While YB J’aime’s debut collection is more daywear-oriented, and sits at price point around 30 to 40 per cent lower than the Yeojin Bae line, the quality and craftsmanship that has come to be expected from the designer is far from compromised. “YB J’aime is an extension but it should be able to stand alone as a brand as well,” says Bae. “So I’ve also put a few ‘wow pieces’ in there.”
Meanwhile, Bae will push her mainline in the other direction. While she won’t be creating ball gowns anytime soon, the designer hopes to further explore luxurious fabrics and tailoring, focusing more on cocktail dresses and pieces for special occasions.
Next up, Bae hopes to delve into accessories, proving that while she takes a cautious road, she has just as many exciting plans for the future. She’s just a little more patient than most when it comes to achieving them.