‘Squid Game’ Features Lee Jung-jae and Jung Ho-yeon on Their Emmy Style Strategies – The Hollywood Reporter
It’s an August morning in the Gangnam district of Seoul, South Korea, where two Emmy-nominated A-list personalities squid game stars gathered in a five star hotel. After completing a photo shoot, Jung Ho-yeon is on Zoom, flashing a broad smile and raising both hands to form a heart shape to describe the experience, one which she says was made even sweeter as she offered the opportunity to reunite with her boyfriend Lee Jung-jae.
They haven’t had much face-to-face time lately, as Lee has been busy promoting his directorial debut, Huntwhile filming Alfonso Cuarón’s Apple TV+ series Disclaimer opposite Cate Blanchett. They will have another chance to stay together on September 12, when the squid game The team descends on Los Angeles to attend the Emmy Awards, for which the Netflix series is nominated for 14 trophies, including Best Drama Series and individual nods for Lee and Jung.
Win or lose, Hwang Dong-hyuk’s South Korean series has already delivered something not made for a shelf: record viewership for Netflix as the most-watched series in streamer history, with 1 .7 billion hours viewed. Starring in the world’s most popular TV show boosted Lee’s global fame – the 49-year-old, born in Seoul, was already a big star in his homeland with more than three dozen credits – while cementing a new career path for the 28-year-old model-turned-actress Jung with her first big credit.
And Jung’s hand gesture can easily be applied to his work. His character, Kang Sae-byeok (player 067), was the heart of the hit series, while Lee’s Seong Gi-hun (player 456) was the soul, as well as the last man standing at the end of the season. . Creator Hwang said THR this season two will focus on Gi-hun’s journey after he becomes a “totally new person” by the finale.
Their on-screen time as competitors in the deadly game is over, but their careers as in-demand fashion stars continue – and flourish: Jung serves as an ambassador for Louis Vuitton, while Lee has a enviable pact with Gucci. They signed with the fashion houses last fall, shortly after the show started. Ahead of the Emmys, the cast chatted with THR (with the help of translator Hyewon Park) on all things style and their common roots in the modeling industry.
You both started your career as models; how has this influenced your style and sense of fashion?
LEE JUNG-JAE I wasn’t really a model. I’ve mostly modeled for commercials, and when you’re doing commercials you have to make the product stand out and the model shouldn’t overshadow the product. So I didn’t need to dress fashionably back then. I have to say that I really didn’t do modeling because I wanted to.
JUNG HO-YEON When I was a model, I had a lot of opportunities to try outfits with different concepts, so one thing I learned is not to be afraid to explore different styles and choose to experiment, even off camera.
How did your style evolve when you started playing?
LEE When I started acting in the early 1990s, actors [in South Korea] had to pack their own clothes for TV shows and movies. From 1993 to around 2000, I made my own style, and when choosing my clothes, I tried to choose the clothes that best matched the character. I wanted to go for color schemes that would highlight my character’s emotions in a particular scene. It was the time when I thought about fashion the most.
YOUNG I don’t think evolution had anything to do with moving into acting because in my early years as a model, I was really there. I would put on really fierce makeup and outfits. But as my career progressed, I got really burnt out and gave up on dressing fashionable. Before, I only wore sweatshirts and casual clothes. About five years ago, I found a balance where I was fashionable but not too fashionable, with just the right amount of hip.
How would you describe your red carpet style today?
LEE I’m a person who doesn’t like boring things. There are many different red carpet styles, and it all depends on the mood of the event. If it’s a really formal event, I would go with fewer accessories. If it’s not so formal, I try to go for an uplifting wardrobe.
YOUNG For the red carpet, I listen to my team about their opinions and would describe it as a very natural yet detailed style.
How would you describe your style when you are not working?
YOUNG I literally wear the same thing every day – either jeans or Adidas sweatpants – and then I just change my t-shirt. I also have a contract as an Adidas ambassador, so it’s very simple.
LEE I especially like colorful clothes. And people already know that I’m a fashion icon, that I dress well, so I can’t really go anywhere without paying attention to my style.
Can you talk about working with your stylists, Gianna Hwang (Lee’s stylist) and Aeri Yun (from Jung)?
YOUNG We decide together, and sometimes it can be confusing because we have so many ideas, but it’s good because we always listen to each other. We share photos, like Audrey Hepburn. Or, back then, we used to draw and sketch ideas and share them and talk about what we like.
LEE We have been working together for six years now. He is a very meticulous person; she prepares very carefully so that I can choose from several styling options.
You both have deals with big luxury houses. Why did you decide to partner with a brand?
LEE When Gucci changed designers [naming Alessandro Michele creative director in 2015], I thought Gucci was taking a very bold direction in terms of color and design. It came across as very new, innovative and sophisticated. I already had a very good impression of the brand, but then I started looking for Gucci a lot. That’s when they contacted me for a partnership, and I was very happy.
YOUNG First of all I knew [Louis Vuitton creative director] Nicolas Ghesquière has done very well since I was a model, and I admired his creations a lot because I thought it was a nice combination of both modernity and antiquity, in a way. I also admire the fact that he draws a lot of inspiration from art and pays so much attention to the structure of his outfits. I really wanted to work with Louis Vuitton because of their signature design philosophy. And just because, I mean, it’s Louis Vuitton!
Favorite pieces you’ve worn for the brand?
LEE It’s very difficult for me to choose one, but when I became a Gucci ambassador, we did a photo shoot for the official announcement. They sent me three looks, and one of them was a black suit with fur. At first I thought it looked too fierce and might not go well with me. But when I tried it it looked great and I had a lot of fun [wearing it].
YOUNG I can’t choose just one, but I love my SAG Awards dress. And I enjoyed it so much [Louis Vuitton] made for me a daenggi hair ribbon, a traditional Korean hair accessory. I suggested to my stylist that we could do it, and she asked them to do the accessory and they did. It was quite an experience, to represent tradition in this way as a Louis Vuitton ambassador.
Have you ever noticed the impact that something you wore had on fans or audiences?
LEE I did a lot of promotion [for Hunt], and I went on a TV show with a pink jacket and an ivory blouse. I unbuttoned the top three buttons and wore a really daring pearl necklace. People were really interested in this and it was widely covered in the media. I think this may be one of the most influential items I’ve worn.
I know a lot of people consider you a style icon, but who is yours?
LEE Timothée Chalamet. He dresses in a very interesting and intriguing way.
YOUNG There are so many! I really like Jennifer Aniston’s 90s style. She is incredible. I also like Winona Ryder and Cate Blanchett. I always google photos of 90s style because I think actresses looked so iconic in that era.
What clothes do you have in mind for fall?
YOUNG A knit cardigan, corduroy pants, moccasins and ties.
What’s your essential travel item or two?
LEE I always bring my laptop and my tablet PC, because I have to write and watch movies.
YOUNG Buckwheat tea and Cup O’ Noodles.
Is there anything else that excites you, like cars or watches?
YOUNG A Contax T3 film camera.
LEE I love vintage items, so I have a few vintage watches and cars.
If you have a visitor in Seoul, where would you take them?
YOUNG Comfort Seoul, a cafe and bar with city views; Namsan, a park where I like to walk; and Nemojip Korean BBQ, a super good Korean barbecue restaurant.
Everyone will be careful what you wear to the Emmys. Have you already chosen your outfit?
YOUNG We don’t have it yet, but I’ll say it’s going to be classy. And detailed.
LEE Since the Emmys are such an important awards show, Alessandro Michele, Creative Director of Gucci, asked me what style I wanted and he gave me a few options. I picked one out and it’s going to give me a custom look that I’ll be wearing.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the September 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.