From the very first issue of this season’s Daily, we bring to you designer Brandon Sun, who is beloved for the luxurious furs he designs for Oscar de la Renta as well as his own label. For Fall 2015 he’s staging his biggest and boldest runway show yet. Moody elegance and decadent eveningwear from this chipper and joyful designer? Mais oui!
You started as an accessories designer, and now you’re mounting a huge runway show.
In 2011, I did a capsule collection to show off Blackglama’s capabilities with their fur. Then Janet Jackson came onboard as the spokesperson. After the Blackglama collaboration, I started my own accessories collection and it did really well and got picked up by Louis Boston, Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks. It took off and all of a sudden, I was in business. I did a little show and that continued to propel it. Then I started doing coats and built, and now I have a fur collection and a ready-to-wear collection with Neiman Marcus. Ken Downing once sat me down and said, “Brandon, you can’t build a fur brand. You have to build a brand that has fur.” So I took that advice to heart. You have to sell a dream. I do my fur collection first, because that’s where I make most of my money. It has to be forward-thinking but not too avant-garde. This season, I did about 25 to 30 fur pieces, which is my biggest so far. I have both couture and commercial pieces. Then I start developing the dresses.
You work with leather, too.
The way I work leather is not very straightforward. I’ll take a whole skin that has a special treatment and then deconstruct and reconstruct it into something completely different—almost like embroidery, but not exactly. The way I manipulate fur and leather is very similar.
Your inspiration boards are so arty—lots of black.
Those are pieces by Pierre Soulages, who is pretty much the last living abstract expressionist. He created these super monstrously sized artworks that are explorations of black and texture. They are about taking transparency and matte black and shiny black and textures of black and creating artwork based on that. Black is all colors; it is not a noncolor. I love black.
And you tacked up that Interview cover of Keira Knightley. Is she your girl?
Keira is beautiful. I love her. She exudes youthfulness and sensuality, but she is definitely cool. This particular image of her I like because she is very sleek and almost looks like she came out of an Edgar Allan Poe story—a little bit greasy. That’s where I am going with the hair and makeup and the overall vibe of the girls. The collection is very dark this time. It’s a little bit melancholic and jarring.
You always seem so happy. I would never describe you as melancholic.
I am in such a good mood this year. This is my favorite collection that I’ve ever done. The last few seasons I spent a lot of time discovering—not just what my voice was going to be but who wanted my pieces. My original idea was to design for cool, slouchy downtown girls, but then I realized that they didn’t really have the budget to buy what I wanted to sell. It’s been this journey to discover my archetypical woman and what she wanted and how to design for her. I think this season is the fruit of all that.
You always have a lot of black, but it never seems depressing. You also wear a lot of black yourself.
It’s easier to buy a black wardrobe and mix and match. Once I have a pop of color, it’s all of a sudden limiting. You would open my front door and my wardrobe would be on the floor. Most of it is black and gray and white. I’m pretty monotone.
You still work with Oscar de la Renta.
I consult now mostly on furs with Oscar de la Renta and technical stuff and give some ideas. The new creative director Peter [Copping] is great and he has a lot of ideas. I interpret what he wants.
What was it like working with Mr. de la Renta?
When Oscar was there, you could learn so much by just being in the room with him and understanding how he sees his customer. I learned an analytical approach to design. Of course he had a grandiose creative vision as well, but the reason his business is so big is because it is relatable to a real person. I consult for about five other brands, too.
You live in the Financial District, which is becoming very chic, now that Condé Nast is nearby.
I’m thinking about moving. I lived first in the Armani Casa building, which was magnificent and had this grand cemetery-esque feeling. But the black floors were difficult to maintain and became dusty overnight. And there aren’t enough bars down there. Once things calm down, I want a change of pace. I want more culture around me—better restaurants and cute, young people. I’m thinking about moving out to Brooklyn.
But you’ll be far away from Koreatown and the karaoke bars you love.
I live for karaoke. And I’m not just a good singer; I’m a bomb singer. I sing a lot of Michael Bublé and recently I’ve been singing a lot of John Legend. When I am not slammed with work, we go twice a week. You can only go so much before you lose your mind. And you can only go with people who sing well.
Do you go back to China?
My parents were born in Taiwan, and my grandparents left China during the revolution. I go to China for work-related things, but I don’t really like it. I do go to Taiwan a lot to visit my friends. I love it there, because the food is so good. I was born in downtown New York and then my dad moved to New Jersey to open his Chinese restaurant business. They still live there. My dad doesn’t do restaurants anymore. Now he just chills.
Can you cook Chinese food?
I love to cook. It’s like putting together a fashion collection; you just find different ingredients and mix and match them until they make sense. I create a bit of a story. When I have dinner parties, I make an opulent, fun dinner. And I need everyone’s help at some point, because I also have a lot of wine.