It Makes You Forget (Itgehane) was the title of the track that finally burned the name Peggy Gou into the minds of electronic music fans in 2018. Now, the Berlin-based, South Korean DJ is one of the biggest talents on the scene, cheered at her concerts in a way usually reserved for pop stars. 

Her innovative sound, which she calls ‘K-house’ — an allusion to K-pop — has played just as much of a role in her success as her fashion credentials. Peggy Gou is a style icon; she stands for a new generation of DJs who no longer merge into the darkness of nightclubs, but celebrate unusual looks and use them as an integral part of their performance. Right now, though, the 29-year-old is dressing like most of us in lockdown: “I’ve only worn hoodies, sweatpants and my glasses for months,” she tells Vogue via video call from her Berlin flat.

Here are 10 reasons why you should have internationally renowned DJ superstar Peggy Gou on your radar.

Her career is self-made — even if people often claim otherwise 

“Once, friends sent me a screenshot of a Twitter post claiming that I only became successful so quickly because of my rich family. In fact, my father would be very upset if he read that because he comes from a poor background and was responsible for himself from an early age. He became a reporter, an English teacher, then a professor. My parents both worked incredibly hard to build something and give me the education I had.”

She grew up in Incheon, South Korea and is proud of her heritage, which is why the lyrics of her songs are in Korean 

“I often combine European and Korean culture, and I’m very proud of that. Many Koreans still think that going abroad and becoming as European or American as possible is the only way to be successful. I left [my home country] early, but I always knew how much cultural value there is and wanted to convey that with my songs and videos.”

Becoming a DJ was the result of a long journey of self-discovery, which started in fashion

“When I was a student at the London College of Fashion, I wanted to be a designer, then a photographer, and then I was interested in styling. So I changed my mind a lot over time, but the thing that stayed with me through all of this was music. I went out a lot and always knew which DJs were playing where. And then I met a producer from South Africa who had seen on Facebook how obsessively I collected music and asked me if I wanted to learn more about producing. Of course I did! And at our first meeting, my heart began to beat faster.”

Berlin, still the undisputed capital of European techno, was her school as a musician

“The city taught me a lot. It was there that I really found myself as a musician. The many nights at [techno nightclub] Berghain, my work at the record shop, the artists I met — I soaked it all up like a sponge.”

She struggled for a long time with her love of fashion, but now it’s the secret to her success 

“Due to my fashion background, I felt I was being taken less seriously. Or maybe I just told myself that — like a self-fulfilling prophecy. But at some point, I thought to myself: ‘I love clothes and shoes and I don’t want to hide that.’ I wanted to be me. If I were standing in the crowd, I’d be happy to see that a DJ had made an effort and not just put on a shirt. A lot has changed in the meantime.”

She stands up against sexism in the music industry

“People often ask me: ‘What is it like to be a female DJ?’ And I reply: ‘Why do you have to put the female in front of it?’ That distinction should be unnecessary. I haven’t often talked about gender issues or racism because I didn’t want to look like I was whining about how hard everything is. But of course, I have experienced a lot. Men get away with a lot, but if a woman stands up for herself and has strong opinions, she is quickly considered a bitch. The music industry is still very white and male-dominated. So the fact is: I don’t like talking about these issues, but unfortunately it’s still necessary. And no one who brings them up should be accused of wanting to play the ‘woman card’.”

As an Instagram sensation with 2m followers, she learned not to attach too much importance to social media comments

“At some point, you have to let go and just say, ‘Fuck it!’ I love the documentary The Last Dance about [US basketball hero] Michael Jordan. It shows how he was so successful because he lived in the moment and didn’t waste energy on things that were out of his control. I try to stick to that as well. The important thing is to know your own truth.”

‘Gou-mania’ is a fandom hardly found among DJs 

“When I appeared on the cover of Mixmag magazine, [there was a line that] said ‘Welcome to the age of Gou-mania’. Since then, my fans have been using that word on social media. I’ve been told many times by people that they’ve never experienced a DJ set where people shout the artist’s name. I know that is extraordinary and I am very grateful for that.”

An encounter with Virgil Abloh in 2019 led her to start her own fashion brand, Kirin, named after the Korean word for giraffe, her favourite animal

“We met at an event where we were both DJing, then he introduced me to [luxury fashion company] New Guards Group, which [Virgil Abloh’s brand] Off-White is part of. When I sat in my first interview, they said: ‘We see some of Virgil in you.’ That was a great compliment, in my eyes. Virgil and I are very ambitious, we always think we can do better, that there must be more possible. Then they asked me who I would want to design for if I had my own label, and I said: ‘For myself, of course.’ It was the only logical answer. Right now, I’m more than happy to have a second leg to stand on [with Kirin]. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — this is advice I like to pass on to other artists.”

She strongly believes nightlife and electronic music will bounce back from coronavirus lockdowns

“Rave culture will not disappear because it is needed. So many people are longing to dance again and see artists live that they wouldn’t hesitate to come together, especially if the event is  outdoors. But clubs also include kisses, dirt and sweat — maybe it will take a little longer to get back to that. Many in the industry are racking their brains right now about what partying will look like in the future and I’m sure they’ll come up with something.”

Peggy Gou releases music on Gudu Records