IN CONVERSATION WITH AMBER PARK
Amber Park, Korean-American artist and director is a true creative paragon defining the aesthetic of her generation, reinventing the visual arts space and lifting up fellow female, Asian creatives in the process. She has collaborated with artists such as Katy Perry, Camila Cabello, LIL NAS X, Chloe & Halle, Madison Beer, Lil Yachty and Ty Dolla $ign to transform their artistic visions into hyper-realities. At this year’s Paris Fashion Week Amber launched her debut collection ‘The Kidz Love to Play’ from her lifestyle platform and fashion label ‘PLAY! POP! GO!’.
This June, at Paris Fashion Week, you released your debut collection ‘The Kidz Love To Play’ from your label ‘PLAY! POP! GO!’. The full capsule collection is made up of 23 pieces of lifestyle wear. Tell us, what inspired this collection and how did you decide on the pieces for it?
As a kid, I was always a fan of culture, I was a fan of art. Even now as an adult, I am always a fan first. Passion, curiosity and a deep level of respect for the cultures and subcultures that have inspired me are the roots of my creative process. This sense of love for your art, your story, your own dreams and appreciation and admiration for other creative processes.
With our first capsule, I wanted the collection to capture the energy of our story and where this dream began, tapping back into the innocence of play and our childhood roots of naivety and curiosity to explore the world around us. Growing up, I was so inspired by what Nigo created with Bape, as well as the 90s Japanese streetwear culture of Hysteric Glamour, Angel Blue and my ultimate hero, Hello Kitty and the world of Sanrio. With PPG, I want to maintain a high level of cultural relevance mixed with the polish and artful storytelling of lifestyle luxury, but also keeping it fun and colorful.
When thinking about a mini tease of a debut capsule before our official main collection releases later this year, I wanted to give a small snapshot of what’s to come. At the focus of our graphics are our main hero kawaii mascots the Dreamerz, my next generation Hello Kitty and Sanrio family. Then utilizing denim. I love how you can dress denim up into something formal or dress it down into something casual. I love multi-purpose fashion and the ability to play with your clothes and style them on your own terms.
Can you tell us more about the whole creative process when you were designing this collection.
The creative process has been an infinite work in progress. It has remained fluid and medium agnostic, by design, and always inspired by imagination and a sense of play.
The collection is part of your lifestyle platform and fashion label ‘PLAY! POP! GO!’, which is offering an innovative gamified approach to luxury streetwear and ready-to-wear garments, fine art and objects, immersive installations and digital experience. What inspired you to create this brand? And what inspires it daily to redefine the boundaries of fashion and digital media?
‘PLAY! POP! GO!’ started as a dream that I’ve had since I was a kid. A dream to play, a dream to enter a fantasy world of color, a dream to feel love. Another source of inspiration is Hello Kitty, my childhood and current all-time biggest hero. As an adult, I’ve revisited these worlds created in my head and this very human desire for fantasy, freedom, possibility. I believe there’s an immensely powerful form of healing and growth that transpires when humans of all ages are exposed to creative expressions akin to Hello Kitty and the artful, fantasy worlds that encourage us to play.
As an adult, I now am aware that I cannot physically become an animated posh cartoon hero, so my goal in this lifetime is to be able to create my own Hello Kitty, one that is infused with the music, lifestyle and culture that has inspired me. My mission is to create a world that is current and culturally relevant to not only my generation, but also has elements of nostalgia and can inspire the next generation to keep playing and dreaming.
When I look back at my career as a creative director and visual artist, I never fit into a box. I am as multi-hyphenate as it can get, self-taught for better or for worse and use different mediums to create surreal worlds. I love to tell stories and create visual environments that are conducive to viewers truly feeling the emotions of joy and freedom. With that, I love the ability to play with physical and digital expressions, testing new approaches to world-building and exploring. Everyday I learn something new or am shared a new thought, by the world, my peers, music, any element of life constantly shaping my brain. And I think that’s the beauty, when you open your eyes and see the world, allow yourself to feel and allow yourself space. The world is the most colorful piece of art. So many incredible nuances and voices and perspectives. It’s truly a playground. To bring this full circle, my hope is that my work inspires people or rather reminds them to see the world that way too. As we formulated our brand ethos and think about a new collection or initiative, we constantly ask ourselves how we can inject fun, color and freedom of expression, and trigger this sense of play and love for others, regardless of which medium or technology consumers are engaging with.
Your brand is a pioneer amongst the fashion houses, turning to the digital realm to bring back the thrill of youth and help consumers reconnect with their inner child. Why are fashion and digital becoming so interconnected in your opinion?
As humans, we have this innate desire to express ourselves and to connect. Humans are twofold, we are social creatures and we are also self-centered. We want to feel a sense of love, connection and belonging. We also subconsciously are the main characters of our own life story. We are the protagonists. We want to be seen. We want to be heard. When I think about fashion and digital, there is a very seamless integration. We spend so much of our physical existence online now, with how we stream content, how we consume information, how we interact with each other, how we make new connections, how we shop and ultimately, how we create our identities and alter our own image and reality.
Fashion is the biggest tool we have to express ourselves, this is true even for those who don’t feel like they are the most ‘stylish’. There is a subconscious reason why we choose to wear certain things whether based on function, emotion or a creative sense of storytelling. It’s truly a beautiful thing to see how clothing and fashion is this physical means to express the intangible, identity and emotion. When I think about this digital age that we are progressing into and how we spend so much of our IRL and physical reality online, we want and need to be able to express our metaphysical selves as well. I think this is why we’re so intentional and spend so much time selecting characters at the start of video games, customizing Memojis and choosing profile pictures. As more and more of our footprint crosses over into the digital realm and as we enter this next evolution of internet culture, we are naturally going to need more dynamic ways to express and create our digital identities. This is why I think fashion is transitioning into digital formats and why building that seamless integration and connection is so important. It gives us more power to tell our stories and to express ourselves, whether that’s via a twin or exaggerated form of our own identities.
In addition to the summer capsule collection, ‘PLAY! POP! GO!’ plans to reveal the ‘PLAY3 KIDZ’ collection of digital avatars. What choices does a fan have when creating it? And why is this something that your brand decided to create?
We are thinking about our big picture. We are building an ecosystem. We are building a world that we want users to enter not only digitally, but also physically. In this initial phase, I believe strongly that our users need to be able to express themselves and identify themselves. Digital avatars and profiles are something tangible that we are all accustomed to. Think about your favorite video game. The very first step is usually character selection. Think about your iMessage memoji. We all need a medium to express who we are. I am very aware of the stigma that circulates around the terms ‘NFT’ or ‘NFT PFP’. Ultimately we are a brand that integrates blockchain technology to enable and streamline user transaction and archive as well as creating a more immersive approach to direct to consumer experiences and gamifying storytelling. The decision to launch our own avatars is twofold, there’s an innate human desire to express identity and also more importantly, to reshape the way a mass audience looks at blockchain technology.
‘PLAY3 KIDZ’ avatars represent your digital membership and identity in our ecosystem. We have been so fortunate to officially partner with Chainlink, which will enable our NFTs to be dynamic and customizable. Utilizing Chainlink’s VRF, traits will be randomized, meaning the characteristics that each avatar gets are based upon random luck, ensuring that everyone who wants an avatar has equal opportunity. Because avatars are dynamic NFTs, owners will be able to customize their avatars, changing the metadata ‘the traits’ in real time. This customization feature take place in owners’ digital closets. Digital closets, stored in owners wallets, will allow owners to customize their avatars based on their shopping history and any collectibles that they have collected in our ecosystem.
We would love to hear all about the PLAY3 digital gaming universe, what’s it offering today and what are its plans for the future.
I love the element of surprise and also think life is more fun when you play along. Without giving too much away, our first phase is focused on showing how you can gamify your lifestyle and play every day.
We are focused on our physical to digital fashion, toys, consumer experiences and live immersive pop up experiences that integrate with digital activations.
Phase two and beyond, the vision is an amusement park and our own world. And I am not just talking virtually.
‘PLAY! POP! GO!’ seems to be having a very busy summer, with planned IRL events around the globe. What can the fans expect from these events?
Every IRL event is grounded in our brand’s ethos of play time. Simply put, I want every person who interacts with ‘PLAY! POP! GO!’ to feel an overwhelming sense of joy, freedom, bliss and a feeling of love.
We are partnering with some key ‘Web2’ brands/platforms that will support us in lifting up the next generation of creatives. As a young Gen Z creative, it’s also important for me to be able to give back to communities that made me and also to provide access to information and technology to other creators so they can kick start their own dreams.
In addition to education based workshops, we will also have a few more IRL immersive pop ups that will provide mini amusement park-esque experiences and will be a culmination of sight, sound and all senses, from physical product to music to color and gamified brand storytelling around each capsule.
You have collaborated with artists such as Katy Perry, Camila Cabello, LIL NAS X, Chloe & Halle, Madison Beer, Lil Yachty and Ty Dolla $ign to transform their artistic visions into hyper-realities. How does a collaboration like this look like, from start to finish? What is the most exciting part about such a collaboration?
First, I want to say how humbling and how grateful I am for this journey. Never in a million years have I thought that at 25 I would be where I am today. When I look back at my life, when I dropped out of Princeton University at 19, I would have never thought that a small town Korean American kid would be living this life where I get to travel the world and create with no rules. I just want to express the endless gratitude and appreciation I have for the incredible people who have supported me and gave me opportunities to create with them and be myself.
Each collaboration is never the same. The approach is never copy and paste. We are all human with our own unique stories and visions and ideas. I treat my collaborative process like an open dialogue. Some people I work with have very specific stories and visions they want to tell and share to the world and it’s my incredible blessing that I get to play a part in visualizing that. In some cases, it’s a blank slate and I get to listen and allow my mind to go crazy and they trust my execution and instinct.
The most exciting part of these collaborations for me isn’t the awards or the caliber of success, but truly the process. Seeing an idea from start to finish, all the quirks and nuances and tensions and beauties that unfold and even happy accidents and unexpected turns. The creative process is never linear.
But each time, the greatest fulfillment is when I get to see how the work impacts others. The excitement in whatever artist I’m working with and their eagerness to share this now completed creative idea with the world. And then to see how that video or album art or song changes fans’ lives or inspires them or brings them joy. I have to credit seeing these results of the collaborative process for reinforcing my focus on using art and story to bring people together and spread love.
Amber, what are your personal goals, dreams and visions? As well as your goals, dreams and visions for the brand?
I believe that everyone here on this Earth has a life purpose, whether you believe in God or the Universe or whatever your faith and beliefs may be. This can be grandiose or materially small. My personal goal truly is to help others feel joy. I want to put a smile on people’s faces whether it’s through my art, my story, the things I create or even if I interact with a person online or IRL. Energy is contagious, whether it’s a shared conversation or a picture shared. I’m on a mission to help others heal and realize that being themselves is the greatest superpower. I’m very passionate about assisting others to cultivate a feeling of belonging, to live their own truths and inspiring people to be confident in loving themselves.
When I think about ‘PLAY! POP! GO!’, my dream is to create the next-gen Hello Kitty and to build my own amusement park. I am ready for ‘PLAY! POP! GO! World!’, the rides, the music, the foods, the smells and sights. I really want to be able to build a 360 experience and playground, my own Disneyland.
The whole IP is based on a movie idea I have about superhero teens, ‘PLAY3 KIDZ’, who are accompanied by imaginary counterparts, our kawaii mascot Dreamerz. I also can’t wait to be able to bring to life the next generation PowerPuff Girls meets KidsNextDoor meets Spiderman Into the Spiderverse, an animated musical action packed franchise. Huge pop soundtracks, dope fashion and lifestyle culture integrated into action packed anime and animation.
What can you share with us about the upcoming project we’ll be seeing from ‘PLAY! POP! GO!’?
We’re thrilled about what’s next for ‘PLAY! POP! GO!’. Coming up later in 2023, we’re introducing a game changing concept called ‘PLAY3 KIDZ’. This is more than just another drop for us, it’s an entirely new way of merging the realms of digital and physical fashion, gaming and self-expression. With ‘PLAY3 KIDZ’, your avatar becomes your digital identity within our immersive ecosystem.
We’re particularly excited about the concept of our digital closet, which creates a seamless, interactive archive for your physical collection of ‘PLAY! POP! GO!’ products. It’s a fully customizable interface that allows people to shop, redeem and reflect their style in both physical and digital versions of our fashion items and accessories.
These avatars will be able to participate in tournaments, win prizes and engage in quests and mini-games that transcend the boundary between the physical and digital world. We believe that ‘PLAY3 KIDZ’ will set a new standard for how people engage with fashion, gaming and technology. It’s not just about what you wear, it’s about how your style becomes an integrated part of your digital narrative.
Stay tuned for more updates, we can’t wait to share this journey with you.
interview by JANA LETONJA @janaletonja
Amber’s photography @le3ay
campaign photography @neri