Fashion designer and artist Benjamin Cho has died, writes Laird Borrelli-Persson of Vogue. Cho was a multihyphenate thinker and maker who creatively came of age in downtown New York in the 1990s and early aughts, with designers such as Susan Cianciolo, Seth Shapiro, Miguel Adrover, and As Four.
Cho grew up in San Jose, California. His mother was an opera singer and his father was a physicist who worked for NASA. He spent some time as a makeup artist before going to Parsons School of Design to study fashion, though he dropped out before finishing his degree to start his own clothing line. In a profile on Cho for the New York Times in 2007, Guy Trebay described the designer’s aesthetic as something that “waver[s] between hardness and softness, between the eminently practical and the surreal. If Elsa Schiaparelli’s car smacked into Vivienne Westwood’s, the ambulance crew would find Ben Cho.” The designer was never interested in becoming a kind of megabrand with mass appeal. Cho told Trebay that “New York fashion has really become synonymous with clothes that are like chic picnic dresses. I think people are sick of everything basic and safe.”
Cho was a big Smiths fan and DJed a popular Morrissey night at the SoHo nightclub Sway. He attracted a broad cross section of personalities to his runway shows as well—one could easily find Chloë Sevigny, Nate Lowman, or the Misshapes in the front row. According to a childhood friend of the artist, who goes by the handle @cyntheticpleasures on Instagram, Cho ran for student government in high school. He created a campaign poster with a picture of the famous cone bra that Jean Paul Gaultier designed for Madonna’s “Blond Ambition” world tour, with a tag line that read “Express yourself.” “Of course you won,” @cyntheticpleasures wrote in memoriam of the artist. “You were the most glamorous person I knew.”