Hyden Yoo earned no design degrees, didn’t intern at a respected fashion house, didn’t put in years toiling in the fashion closet of any downtown men’s mag. The New York-based designer took more of a circuitous route in establishing his eponymous, genre-bursting line of forward, yet widely-appealing, menswear. We grilled the designer on his origins, the state of the Knicks, and where to get the best Korean food in the city.
When did you first decide to become a designer?
I was sitting at my desk, pretty much hating my job and my life. I wanted to do something completely different, so I began to list out things that I really liked or enjoyed. Since everything listed involved fashion or clothing, I quit my job, and here I am! Now, I’m just sitting at my desk again, hating life.
You have a pretty unique occupational backstory. What did you do before getting involved in fashion?
I did a few things. First, I got a consulting job out of college; then that job got deferred, so I worked at a retail store. Then I taught high-school calculus. Then I dabbled in trading options. Then I went to be a personal trainer. Yes, I was in shape back then. Finally, I went back to the consulting job, when it finally started up. Oh, and yes, it’s true, I won an episode of Fear Factor and saved that money to start my brand somewhere during all of this.
What was the most challenging thing about launching your eponymous line?
Other than the fact that I had no clue what I was doing? It was pretty much learning everything on the fly. Now that I know a thing or two, you’d think it gets easier, but mo’ money, mo’ problems.
Did you have a prior design background?
No. I taught myself and bugged a few friends along the way.
What is it about your line that’s helping men dress better today?
I offer affordable fashion that doesn’t step over the line. Some pieces definitely walk that line, but most of the pieces are really easy to wear and have some details that add value. It’s between real fashion-forward ninja outfits with a 20-inch drop crotch and a khakis/blue shirt man in America. Something either type of guy can take a chance on.
What do you absolutely hate to see on a man? On a woman?
Boot-leg jeans and tattoo art of wings or sparkles on either.
You attend a lot of Knicks games, and I believe you’re a season ticket holder. Any comments on the season so far?
Last year, I couldn’t give tickets away. Now, people are willing to pay stupid amounts. Knicks vs. Heat? Insane! The Garden is packed and there’s a lot of energy. And there’s cap space next year for one max deal. Carmelo, anyone? I jumped in on season tickets at the right time. Anyone want to come with me?
Yes, count me in. How much do you hate LeBron?
I don’t hate him, because I didn’t buy another set of season tickets thinking he was gonna come to N.Y.C. like a few people that I know. [laughs] Maybe he didn’t do it the best way or the right way, but he’s still a freak of nature. A guy that tall, big, and fast? Come on, now!
You’re quite the Korean food aficionado. Where can I get the best Korean in the city? And what do I order?
All those Korean chicken wing places are pretty good cause I love me some fried chicken. Kunjip on 32nd Street near Fifth Avenue is one of my favorite places because they cook the food similar to how my mother would; no-nonsense, simple, and good.
Photo courtesy of William Yan.