“Making The Cut” contestant Ji Won Choi, a recent Parsons grad, is on a mission to merge her Korean and American heritages through fashion. She’s one of the younger designers on Amazon Prime’s new reality series, though Choi has already started to reaped the benefits by having one of her designs from the show sold on Amazon.
Former “Project Runway” duo Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn host “Making the Cut,” a competition series that takes contestants with already-established labels in hopes of finding the next big global brand. After each challenge, the winning designer’s look is immediately available for purchase on Amazon. Choi didn’t win the second week’s challenge, but her design impressed one Amazon executive to such a degree that it was selected to be sold online as well.
Following the show’s sophomore episode, Variety caught up with Choi about getting cast, how to build a brand and receiving critiques from Naomi Campbell.
How did you first hear about “Making The Cut”?
The producers actually reached out to me via email, and in the beginning I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was spam mail. I put it in my trash box. They kept reaching out so I was like, “OK, it’s for real.” We went through some audition processes where they flew me out to L.A., and I had to pitch my brand to all these producers and people at Amazon.
What else did you know about the show before it started?
I knew absolutely nothing except that I knew Heidi and Tim were involved, and I knew it was Amazon so I was like, ‘Yes it’s going to be a big budget show. It’s not going to be janky.’
Do you think “Making the Cut” will change Amazon’s status in the fashion industry?
It definitely will because they are working with all these young designers and established brands. No one has the reach over the world like Amazon does, and I think that’s a huge power that they have.
How would you describe your brand in three words?
Multicultural, modern, and graphic.
Can you talk about what it was like facing the judges? I mean, Naomi Campbell!
Me standing in front of Naomi… I was trembling the entire time. She’s the scariest person to be in front of, and she’s the most perfect person I’ve ever seen. She would just stare down at me whenever I was in front of the judges pitching my brand and explaining my looks. I’ve never been so terrified. They’re first class, they’re first rate. You don’t get better than Naomi. You don’t get better than Carine.
As a designer and creative person, what are you doing to cope with the coronavirus pandemic?
I’ve been sewing different projects that I’ve been meaning to get to but hadn’t had the chance or time to. Right now is a chance for me to get even more creative and more in-depth because fashion is such a fast industry, you don’t really get so much time to work on one collection. It’s such a fast turnaround that your collection is immediately going into production. But right now, I have the time to really think about it and design it in a proper way.
What advice do you have for aspiring designers?
It’s really important to have a strong visual identity and message behind your brand. With the crisis right now, sustainability is such an important part of our world. If you’re using up resources, it better be for something that has meaning and power behind it. It can’t be just a pretty dress — it needs to mean something.