Supermodel Soo Joo Park Gets Real On Industry Representation, The Return To The Runway, And Making Music Under Her Alias

by Freya Drohan

Soo Joo Park makes it look easy. The effortlessly stylish supermodel boasts many talking points in her career trajectory, from her architecture background to her notable reputation as a DJ behind the decks at fashion’s coolest parties. Not content to rest on her laurels, the Seoul-born, California-raised, and internationally-seasoned talent is now adding singer to her proverbial business card; creating new music under the moniker Ether. We caught her for a beat (!) to hear more…

Tell us about your involvement at Cannes, what’s the return to the red carpet been like?
L’Oréal Paris is a long time partner of Cannes Film Festival, and as a global ambassador, I’m invited to walk the red carpet each year. This year was definitely more special, especially after a year-long pause. I wore a beautiful Chanel Métiers d’Art lace dress; a look I chose because it looked effortless and alluring. I kept my beauty simple as well, with hair down and smokey eye makeup.

 

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Take us back to growing up in CA, what kind of kid were you?
I was born in Seoul, then moved to the suburbs of Southern California, close to Disneyland, when I was ten.
I was terribly shy. I had a ton of opinions and was pretty strong-willed, but I mostly kept to myself. I still am very introverted by nature somewhat. In high school, my choir teacher, Mr. Hoshi, was the most fun teacher and helped me become more confident in having a voice. It built my confidence and also encouraged me to appreciate performing arts.

You were discovered in a vintage store! What was this time like for you?
Of all places! It was kind of unexpected…I was just completely immersed in finding some treasures, and the next thing I knew, I’d gotten a business card from an agent who wanted to offer me a modeling contract. At the time I’d just freshly graduated from my college with a degree in Architecture.

What sparked that passion to study Architecture, is it something that still comes into the picture now?
In my undergraduate studies…we learned a lot about critical thinking in design and focused on every process of creating an environment. The studio classes gave us an opportunity to convey our ideas while imagining things as they could be.
It takes imagination, an acute attention to details, as well as an able skillset of design language: there’s depth and texture, weight and relation, levels and drafts. I apply a lot of my education in Architecture to everything I approach in my life and career.

 

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Tell us about your love for music, where does it stem from?
It’s always been there. Music is the most essential and easily accessible vice that we have.

Tell us about the music you’ve been making recently under your stage name Ether…
I always thought that when the time felt right, I would release my music project under an assumed name. I’d been quietly waiting, working, writing in bits and pieces through the years. The vision of Ether is that of a dream-pop sound that’s moody, nocturnal, and ethereal. Like noir vibes playing into a hazy sunset. Rather than being an alter ego or a completely different persona, I see Ether as being an extension of my creative expression. I designed the logo myself and asked architect and designer Stephanie Lin of the firm Present Forms to create atmospheric animations as a teaser to introduce the band. These, especially the pink clouds and the lightning bolt shattering…are in essence what Ether is. I hope to have fun culminating this persona of Ether.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Shania Twain’s Man! I Feel Like A Woman!

Have you been DJing much as of late? Who taught you how to DJ?
I haven’t DJed since lockdown. I’m compiling songs and spending more time on writing.

You’re the First Asian-American woman to be a L’Oréal spokesmodel, what does it mean to you to further representation in the industry?
It is a huge honor to represent my heritage on behalf of a global beauty brand, with a message as empowering as “I’m worth it.” I want to actively participate in the promotion of inclusivity and diversity. On top of providing accessible beauty products at L’Oréal, we have been focusing on creating initiatives, and platforms for conversations that are there to lift women up. For instance, we are all trained and encouraged to fight against street harassment with a nonprofit organization called Holdback.

Do you think representation has improved?
We’ve seen more Asians and Asian Americans gaining recognition and accolades, but there’s still so much room for more. The most important thing is that we are open to talk about our experiences and move forward together.

You’re known for your style—has this always been the case and have you always been into fashion? 
I’ve been obsessed with creating looks and dressing up since I was a child. I think, over the years, I’ve learned to visualize and map out my favorite pieces and basic staples of the moment, and mix them around in my head. I like to think and have some go-to looks in advance, it gives me less stress. But obviously some days I like to be more emotional and organic.

 

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Who are some of your favorite fashion designers to watch right now?
Besides watching Virginie Viard shape the house of Chanel, I love Casey Cadwallader at Mugler, and also Commission, an NYC-based brand founded by an Asian American trio named Jin, Huy and Dylan.

Speaking of, you just walked in the Chanel Haute Couture show, what was it like partaking in a physical show again?
It was a smaller show compared to the grandiose fetes of the past, with an intimate audience and smaller collection of looks. But “smaller” is not meant as a jibe in any way. The collection felt romantic and potent. There was a dress I particularly loved, with the beaded bodice top with little organza flowers in rose and marigold with layers of billowy, soft feathers dappled in pastel colors that had the quality of an Impressionist painting. There was a medley of translucent chiffon silk slip dresses with lace trims paired with knee-length pants, silhouette reminiscent of bathing costumes of Victorian Era, but modernized and simplified, perhaps in a true “Coco Chanel” spirit. Then there was the breathtaking black gown with side panels of white silk with feathered trims, topped with a hat with camellia flowers adorned under the wide brim. Everything felt referential of women from a long lost era, but reimagined with impeccable craftsmanship and the codes of the house. It was pure joy to come back to the runway for an intimate show and lead the finale of such a beautiful collection!

 

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What are your Fashion Month plans?
I assume there’ll be some traveling, but I don’t have anything confirmed at this moment. We usually don’t know until the week or month of.

What else are you up to this summer?
Well, technically I just began my holiday earlier this week! I’m in a beautiful countryside in Milan. I’ll be here until August, then I’ll be busy recording my EP.

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