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Sam Han

You may have seen students wearing black hoodies or shirts with “MASTEF” written on the back and assumed that it’s just another street style brand. You get partial credit on that, because you missed this part: the brand is designed by a UW-Madison finance major student. Following the renowned alumni Virgil Abloh of streetwear brand OffWhite, Sam Han is bringing another wave to UW-Madison with MASTEF. Sam spent half of his lifetime in the U.S., including New York City and Los Angeles. But his teenage years in Korea heavily shaped his taste in fashion. With a diverse background and many trips to Europe, Sam draws inspiration from his experiences and has injected them into his label. Dressed in all-black, Sam illustrated the minimalist spirit and was ready to share his insight in fashion, and of course, MASTEF, in the following 1.5-hour interview:

MODA MAGAZINE: Before we start talking your brand, we want to learn about your fashion background. What is the brand that makes up most of your closet? SAM: You’ll probably find me wearing UNIQLO or Acne Studios most of the time. UNIQLO, a Japanese brand, is reasonably priced, and the cuts are made to fit Asian figures. Both of them have classic designs for everyday wear, and you can’t really go wrong with them. Who are your favorite designers? Both of my favorite designers are from Belgium, and the city itself is very inspiring too. Dries Van Noten graduated from Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp- one of the top 5 fashion designing schools. He was one of the Antwerp Six, a talented group of avant garde designers in 1980s. His work combines minimalism with beautiful color matching. (Hint: Sam admires and applies Dries Van Noten’s color matching skills into his third capsule!) The other designer is Martin Margiela, he is a genius by defining his clothing with thoughtful cuts and structure. It’s always amazing to delve into the details of his designs. It’s a bit sad that he has left Maison Margiela, but see– I still got my wallet from his brand.


Where do you think the future of fashion lies? Streetwear brands are slowly fading out, and PVC is a huge trend on the runway in recent seasons, but that’s only a trend. Streetwear will rise again. Now, I see brands going towards more commercial designs. I still believe that minimalism is something that will be there forever, because people can adapt them into dailywear easily. How did the idea of establishing MASTEF emerge? I’ve been putting up outfits since I was a teenager, and I love it. I have friends who took a step further and are studying in FIT. They introduced me to the FIT design lab in January 2017– that’s when I gained my first hand-on experience on clothing design and production. I settled on the first capsule’s design, inspired by Centre Pompidou, after my Paris trip in March. I sold the first capsule at a price lower than the cost, but I gained positive feedbacks from my friends. With this success, I finally had the courage to tell my parents about what I’ve been working on; Asian parents can be more conservative sometimes. But they actually approved my work, and my dad even asked if I needed investment from him, but I didn’t accept it. The first capsule became my invitation to the fashion industry as well– I received an internship in Rick Owens’ showroom as a business student last May. Towards the end of summer vacation, I received kind support and investments from friends, and launched the second capsule. Later in December, I set up a pop-up store in August. The collaboration was a success and more people knew MASTEF. Then we started working on the third capsule — people can now pre-order the design on our website. From your brand’s page, we learn that MASTEF stands for “Minimalist Aesthetic Street Trends, Ergo Fashion,” can you elaborate on MASTEF’s mission? I want to bring more minimal designs to people, because minimalism will never become off-trend. MASTEF’s clothes are the staples in a wardrobe. But to make the clothes last with time, they have to be durable — we use the best textiles we can get for our clothes. People often think that some designer clothes are too expensive, but they forget that the costs, including labor and materials, are high. What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered with MASTEF so far? I actually had a slump for a month because of the struggle between going mainstream or creative. It’s easier to make money by selling mainstream clothes, but that’s betrays my intention with MASTEF. Then I realized that either side I pick, the process wouldn’t be easy — now I just design whatever I like.

What is your plan with MASTEF in 2018? What’s next? Besides the third capsule that came out fresh before UWFW, another pop-up event is on its way. It will not be in Madison though, we are holding it in Chicago! The 4th capsule is also under the experimental process, what I can say for now is that a piece in my room inspired the design. The release may take a little longer; we are outsourcing the materials because we have limited options in Madison, but it will be worth the wait. MASTEF will gain more control of the sizes and fabrics of the clothes. Although I design the clothes, and lead the 7-member group, I don’t call myself a creative director. Since I am returning to Korea to serve the military next semester, I plan to study textile design in Seoul to integrate my designs. Hopefully MASTEF will expand its market to Korea and China soon, because we have some team members from these two countries. How about your plans for UWFW? Besides displaying our clothes, I also [wanted] to show audiences new way of dressing. I hope that the styling details, such as tucking in the shirts, will inspire UWMadison students to upgrade their outfits.

UWFW Designer Profile: MASTEF  
UWFW Designer Profile: MASTEF