The fashion designer Robert Wun created one of his first collections from his bedroom in London’s Brixton neighborhood. Five years later, he has turned his eponymous label from a six-look graduate project at the London School of Fashion into a boundary-breaking brand, and a favorite of musicians like Lady Gaga, Lizzo, and Doja Cat. Currently, the designer, who was born in England, raised in Hong Kong, and returned to London for college, is the subject of an exhibition at the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion and Film in Atlanta. Titled Between Reality and Fantasy, the show features over 40 garments curated from Wun’s archive, runway presentations, and celebrity commissions. Despite all the hype surrounding him, when it comes to Wun’s foundation, he speaks fondly of his very first fashion inspirations: a friend from church and the magazines strewn around the salon where his mother got her hair done. “I remember the first name that really caught my attention was Alexander McQueen, one of his menswear collections in one of those magazines,” he says. “It made me realize I could remember a designer’s name. I was only 11 years old, but I still remember that very vividly.”
Below, Wun discusses what it takes to make a celebrity’s custom fashion look in less than three weeks, how to stay focused on growing your brand, and why he stans Adele in Schiaparelli, just like you.
Tell me about dressing Lizzo and Lady Gaga—how did you come up with the looks, and what touches did you add to make them truly custom?
When we design for celebrities, it’s very easy because we know exactly what we want to do—obviously, we study what they’ve worn before, and work closely with their stylists. They always have a theme when it comes to their marketing, and that’s why they order custom. The timing is always tight, two or three weeks, but we make it work.
We made Lizzo’s white look when her song with Cardi B, “Rumors,” first came out. Her stylist, Jason Rembert, has been a very kind supporter of my work for a long time now—he’s always putting me on the radar and onto the pulling lists. He gave me this opportunity to customize something for Lizzo; the look was inspired by Greek goddesses. They wanted something white. We started proposing thoughts, exchanging ideas over Instagram and building on initial bullet points. The look just worked for her—especially with Gaga as well. They’re two women who are just unapologetic and they own it. We did a second custom look for Lizzo, and I think she’s going to wear it soon. It’s something gold.
What’s the main message that you want to tell through your exhibition at SCAD?
When the exhibition director Rafael Gomes and I were talking about what the exhibition name should be, all the names we were proposing and throwing on the table were about things in between—artificial and nature, the organic and the inorganic. It’s all about finding the balance between two extremes. We ended up between reality and fantasy. I think a message that we were fixated on was the idea of finding the balance in between the two extremes, because that is how I approach fashion as well. I don’t see fashion as just fashion. For me, it’s always about combining fashion with something that is completely not about fashion. Something in nature, something about science fiction, something about art, something otherworldly. That’s the message I want to send: fashion can be more than just clothing. It can be something imaginative, it can be something relevant, and what it means to human identity and society at that time.
Describe your personal style in three words.
When it comes to dressing, I love something that’s comfortable, powerful, and quiet. I like to be muted.
What were you wearing yesterday and why did you decide to wear it?
It’s fucking freezing right now in London, so I found an old coat and warmed up a huge black scarf I got from my mom—it’s basically a sofa throw, but I use it as a scarf. It’s humongous, I can wrap my whole head up in it. I threw it in the dryer so it was hot when I left the house. I put a pair of blue jeans on too, because I normally wear jeans to go to work; there are so many needles and scissors and shit everywhere. I wore my Camper boots, because they’re functional, comfortable, and easy to work in.
What was your style like as a teenager?
It was rebellious—that’s the word to use. I was very different and flamboyant back then. I went to a boys’ school as well, so people wanted to beat the shit out of me, because I was so dressed up. I’d normally go thrift shopping, because, you know, you’re broke when you’re a kid, so you’re using pocket money to buy very cheap shit. I’d buy clothes at the thrift store and started using oil-based paints to draw patterns on top of pants, jumpsuits, or even on my boots. I was extra.
What is the most prized possession in your closet?
Right now, it’s a top that my first assistant, Loko Yu, made for me. Now, she’s the head of design at Saloni London, but we graduated together and she helped me build my brand at the very beginning. Her patterns skills are otherworldly. I’ve never met someone that can design a pattern in her mind the way she does. On my 18th birthday, she made me a t-shirt out of black cotton twill—but it was cut in a way that’s never been done before. There are no seams—it’s one piece, cut exactly like a t-shirt. She even went to a rubber shop to print her name on a piece of rubber to hot melt it at the back. I hang that top in my closet after all these years, because it’s so special for me.
Do you remember your first major fashion purchase?
That would be a Givenchy top from Riccardo Tisci’s time [at the house]. It was an embroidered top that I got from a Christmas sale in Selfridges. It was 200 quid, originally 800 pounds. I never wore it once, but I was obsessed with Tisci’s heavenly style at Givenchy—what he created for those haute couture collections. It was the first and only time I ever bought a piece of clothing out of admiration for another designer.
Do you have a favorite fashion moment from pop culture?
There are so many. I think lately, though, it’s Adele’s opera looks while wearing Schiaparelli at “Adele: One Night Only.” I think Daniel Roseberry with Adele and Schiaparelli is timeless, classic, feminine—it’s just her. And it’s so high-end because of the way Daniel cuts those gowns with all the taffeta. I think that is iconic, in my personal opinion—especially with the Jupiter idea at the observatory. It’s a black dress, which is what Adele is always in—but it’s so much more than a black dress.
What is the best fashion tip you’ve picked up, whether in the studio or on set?
Time management can lift your career by miles. As a designer, I always have very straight deadlines working with my team because I want things to be executed properly. I want to see progress every week.
Looks from Robert Wun’s exhibition at SCAD FASH, “Between Reality and Fantasy.”
Do you have a biggest fashion regret?
I think my biggest fashion regret would be like every other young designer’s: trying to impress people you don’t even know when you’re first starting out. They will never hold a candle to you in your life, but you feel like you need them in order to get somewhere. Then, actually, you realize you don’t need anybody. It’s beautiful when someone appreciates your work and decides to help you—be grateful and focus on those great people. But don’t focus on those who aren’t necessarily bad people, but they’re just not part of your journey. Don’t waste your energy on things that aren’t meant to happen. Just work on yourself—be good at your craft, be very good at it. Go so big that they can’t ignore you.