With a short masculine haircut on one side of his face and voluminous bouncy curls on the other, Kaidon Ho is a stylish dresser full of creative contradiction.  His fashion choices have come a long way from when he was a little kid forced to wear a uniform at his Catholic kindergarten in Korea.  “Once I was given the freedom, I took full advantage of it” Kaidon says about finally getting to wear clothes without a dress code when he came to the states.  With his sometimes outlandish outfits that include heels, loose blouses, and plenty of jewelry, it’s no surprise for outsiders to find out that Kaidon chose to study fashion design at college.  It might have been a surprise to Kaidon’s parents however, who didn’t find out Kaidon was studying fashion until his Junior year at UT.  Having always been pushed by his parents to become something like a doctor or a lawyer with financial security, Kaidon was nervous to finally let his parents know about his immediate switch from being a pre-med bio student to studying fashion.  But because Kaidon’s mom was in the fashion industry herself, she couldn’t deny Kaidon the support he needed to follow his creative path.  Kaidon says his mom, who was the director of Elite modeling agency in Korea, told him “I guess you can’t deceive your own blood.”  And the UT fashion show, Contour, proved that fashion definitely flows through Kaidon’s veins.

Kaidon’s collection for the show, which was inspired by weird dreams he had back to back for a whole month, was one of my favorite collections in the show.  “I was in a dark forest alone.  Super scary and out of no where I see quartz growing out from this black dirt. I woke up and remembered exactly how it looked and I had to translate that into my collection.”  Using silk chiffon, silk organza, wool, and faux mo-hair to symbolize the organic nature from his dream, and using faux leather and clear vinyl to symbolize the structured lines and shape of the quartz, Kaidon produced a stunningly unique collection that played with texture and proportion.

The future looks fashionably bright for this senior student who will soon be graduating.  Right now Kaidon works as a buyer for Buffalo Exchange which he says has taught him a great lesson about how to balance what he as an eccentric dresser wants, and what the mainstream customer wants.  Kaidon has also gotten the opportunity to work with the Dog & Pony team led by Star Lee, and for two years he has been the social media director of the University Fashion Group which helps to produce the UT senior fashion show each year (which really does get better and better every year.)  I look forward to following Kaidon through his personal style journey as he continues to pursue his dreams of working in the fashion industry.

Check out the photos from my shoot and Q&A with stylish Austinite, Kaidon Ho:

 Q&A with Kaidon:

Describe your personal style.

I find myself mixing different aesthetics all the time.  I like contradiction, therefore my style also reflects that.  Not just because I like shopping in the girl’s section of every retail store, but with textures, patterns, colors, or shapes of garments.  I do like going beyond looking clean-cut or safe.  A lot of people tell me I look like a run down drag queen in heels, leggings, and skirts, but who doesn’t want to look like a tranny hobo?!  I try to “make it work,” as Tim Gunn would say.

What or who influences your personal style?

I think my style kind of revolves around my mood more than anything.  If I feel super lazy and tired, I wear something that’s flowy, boxy, comfortable; if I feel energetic and happy, then I wear something more put together and preppy.   I also think my mother has been a big part of who I am and how I dress.  She was the director of Elite modeling agency in Korea so I’ve been exposed to the fashion industry all of my life.  When I was a kid I hated going shopping, going to photo shoots, going to fashion shows, modeling, anything that had to do with fashion, but look at me now.  My mom never suggests going shopping now.  She knows the consequences.

 Do you have any embarrassing style moments?

I would say to go look at my high school pictures on Facebook but thank god I deleted all of them before I got my timeline.

How does being a college student affect your personal style choices?

It really doesn’t. Maybe when I didn’t have a source of income, I had to look for affordability.  I just ask myself what would I wear if I didn’t go to college… and my answer is “the same thing I wear on a daily basis.”

What’s your least favorite thing about the fashion choices you see on UT campus?

I try to block my vision from seeing so many students wearing free tees but it’s really difficult at times.  I used to be all gung-ho about getting free t-shirts during my freshmen year but I never ended up wearing them.  Also, it’s so weird seeing Nike shorts on the rack at Buffalo Exchange where I work.  What Buffalo Exchange would buy Nike shorts other than the one in Austin?  But I have to think about “what sells” and Nike shorts definitely fly off the racks.  I think it’s the attached underwear that comes with the shorts.

What was your biggest challenge in creating your senior collection for the UT Apparel Design Program’s fashion show, Contour?

Definitely time management.  I literally started on everything only a month ago and I finished my bridal gown at 5:30 pm on the day of the fashion show.  I went through a weird phase in the fall semester where I was enrolled in draping/senior design class which I only showed up to a couple of times during the whole semester.  I was really scared and self-doubted myself all the time.  I was overwhelmed by due dates of our first knitwear and bridal gown which were due before Thanksgiving.  I couldn’t do it.  It wasn’t till the week of SXSW when I realized my “second” deadline, Contour, was just around the corner and literally sat down in front of the sewing machine and started my collection right then and there.  Something got into me.  Maybe it was the support from my friends and family and professors but, whatever it was, it worked.

If you could design an outfit for anyone, who would you choose?

Queen Elizabeth or  Michelle Obama, mainly just because I want to make them look like Daphne Guinness.

What plans do you have after graduation or what dreams do you have for your fashion career?

After I graduate, whenever that is, I want to travel around the world then move to New York.  I really want to go somewhere in Europe like London, Paris, Antwerp, Berlin, Stockholm, or Copenhagen but I want to have a firm fashion foundation and network before I go off to Europe.  I want to intern and hopefully transfer to a Buffalo Exchange there so that I have some source of income.  I want to try everything though and not just focus on the design aspect of the industry.  I’d like to also try styling, buying, editorials, PR, whatever I can get my hands on.  But my ultimate goal is to produce a line under my name and eventually have a house that celebrates creativity, vision, and art.

 

Joanna Wilkinson

Keep Austin Stylish