We’re sad that So You Think You Can Dance contestant Alex Wong got injured and therefore disqualified from the competition. But the show must go on for Soyon An, the two-time Emmy Award winning stylist and costume designer for the show. (She just won her second Emmy in a row!) Not only does she style all the myriad looks for the dancers on the popular reality competition, now in its seventh season, she also just finished designing for Carrie Underwood’s “Play On” tour, styles for Jay Leno’s band on The Tonight Show, and just accepted a position as a fashion editor for Jimon Magazine, an art and fashion magazine published twice yearly.
Audrey Magazine: What do you do as the stylist and costume designer for So You Think You Can Dance?
Soyon An: Every day is a specific day. So for example, yesterday was fittings for Thursday, and also it’s also the day we find out who the dancers are dancing with. And at that point we’re calling choreographers trying to figure out what their concepts are, so that I can start conceptualizing with them what their wardrobes are going to be. So then we go shopping for fabric, and wardrobe and makeup. I have to do full costume designs, and I have 40 costume designs to make by Wednesday.
AM: Do you make all your costumes individually?
SA: About 80 percent of the costumes are made and 20 percent are bought. Most of the time, like the hip-hop routines, we’ll go and buy jeans, but we try not to make them look store bought, so we customize all of them. We tailor the individual pieces.
AM: What was it like to style Alex Wong?
SA: Alex is an incredible dancer, and working with him has been a lot of fun. He has a really great personality and is really easy to work with. I am glad he is as confident as he is on the show, and I think he really killed it in [his hip-hop routine]. And coming on the show as a ballerina, he can move his body and legs in ways that the average person can’t. Working with him and wardrobing him, I’ve had to really create and customize for him. All of his pants have to be constructed and have extra stretch in them, and the way the back is, because with the choreography, he gets big and bulks up.
AM: What elements inspire you and your designs?
SA: Everything, from everyday life, to people that I meet, places that I go, maybe when I’m driving around different neighborhoods. I have a photographic memory, so little bits and pieces of things that I remember will go into my design. I definitely have an edgier look to everything I create. I like to put an element of high fashion into anything that I do. It’s like a combination of high fashion and costume.
AM: Did you get any formal training for design or was this a hobby-turned-passion-turned-job?
SA: I’ve always really been into drawing and art. I used to be an athlete, and I think that may be why I know dancers in terms of their needs. I went to school for fashion design. I initially went into Otis for design and to build my foundation, but after a couple years, because I wanted a faster route, so I went to FIDM. After I did some corporate work in design, I went into TV/film because it felt like more like my scene.
AM: I think it’s amazing that you’re a stylist and doing something very creative. It defies the typical stereotype of an Asian American as a doctor or a lawyer. Do you think your ethnicity gives you an edge over the other stylists?
SA: My parents definitely wanted me to go down that aisle of being a doctor or lawyer and trying to fulfill a career goal. I think for me, personally, with my designs, there is a particular element that makes it my creation; you can tell my hand has touched that design. I don’t know if that has anything to do with being Asian American or the influences that I had growing up. But I think you can tell when a performer has my costume on versus someone else’s creation. And if anything, the way my parents raised me, they’ve helped me be a multitasker. The reason I can be a multitasker is because they put me through so much as a kid.
AM: Any thoughts for anyone pursuing a creative career like yourself?
SA: As Asian Americans, I don’t think we should follow our parents’ definition of success and happiness.
Watch the top 5 dancers compete tonight on So You Think You Can Dance at 8 pm on Fox. The season finale airs August 12.