I'm republishing today a feature I did for Zoot Magazine about Korean designer Lie Sang Bong taking part in an event dedicated to Korean arts, culture and fashion at London's V&A Museum.
Part of the “All Eyes on Korea”, a 100 Day Festival of Korean Culture that will stretch until September in London, the Gala Reception entitled “Korea Shining Bright” that took place at the end of July at the V&A, was a gastronomy, music and design extravaganza celebrating Korea. The highlight of the evening was the catwalk show by fashion designer Lie Sang Bong.
Establishing his fashion house in 1985 and showcasing his collection in Paris, Lie Sang Bong became famous both in his country and abroad for his designs that mix and combine Korean art and traditions with inspirations borrowed from nature, architecture, film and theatre.
The recipient of many fashion and design awards, Lie Sang Bong is known indeed for his use of bold shades and prints that call to mind the colours of wooden buildings in Korea or Korean patchwork pieces and textiles, but also for using sartorial elements such as pleats or intricate laser cut motifs that seem to reproduce on different materials the sharp angles of Korean pagodas in temples and palaces or the features of post-modernist Korean buildings.
Three pieces from the Lie Sang Bong collection shown during the "Korea Shining Bright" catwalk show have been acquired by the V&A to be exhibited in its Samsung Gallery of Korea Art later this year.
How did you feel about being part of the Korea Shining Bright event at the V&A?
Lie Sang Bong: First of all, I would like to thank the V&A, the Korean Cultural Center UK, and many members of their staff for giving me this great opportunity. I was thrilled to participate in this great project introducing my collection and the Korean culture to the world during the Olympics. It was a real honor for me to present my collections at the prestigious V&A Museum.
Which designs did you decide to showcase at this event?
Lie Sang Bong: The gala fashion show featured two dramatic catwalk presentations, “Discourse: Fragment” and “Over the Rainbow”, bringing traditional culture to the present and moving it into the future. The show opened with a distinctive archive collection showcasing modern reinterpretations of traditional Korean Jogakbo or patchwork clothing, a technique that creates three-dimensional shapes from flat patterns. The S/S 2012 collection inspired by the Korean traditional architectural element Dancheong - that is the art of decorative colors stylistically painted on wooden buildings and artifacts - followed. These innovative and unique collections connect the past, present and future; through deconstruction and reorganisation, traditional Korean elements are transformed into expertly modernised structural collections.
Can you talk us through the inspirations behind your latest collection?
Lie Sang Bong: My latest collection that I also presented at the V&A was the S/S 12 collection. As I said, for this particular collection I moved from the "Dancheong" inspiration. Dancheong is a Korean traditional architecture element, the art of decorative colors painted on wooden buildings and artifacts. This collection was for Spring and Summer so it was colorful and powerful like the patterns from Dancheong. Splendid patterns with a mix of straight and organic lines created unique graphic images and bright colour palettes of pink, dark blue and lemon yellow. Vivid colours paired with restrained silhouettes make the collection simple and fun. The shapes of the jackets and dresses were created through playing with the structures and colours of the architectural elements. The traditional look of Dancheong was transformed into modern patterns and prints. The use of various kinds of silk highlighted the airy movements of the dresses along with a mix of jersey and tencel.
The V&A actually stores in its collections some of your “Scent of Hangul” China bone pieces that you designed a few years ago, what inspired them and did you find it challenging designing homeware pieces?
Lie Sang Bong: The “Scent of Hangul” China bone pieces moved from a Korean poem, Yun Dong-ju's "One Night I Count the Stars". Inspired by this beautiful poem, I designed these homeware pieces with two ideals in mind, space and beauty. For me, fashion doesn't stop at the clothes, but it represents a lifestyle. It was a fun challenge to express my inspirations and ideas into something other than fashion. Also, I do have many other collaborations for home products such as beddings and tablewear.
Some of your designs seem to be inspired by artworks: can fashion be art?
Lie Sang Bong: Nowadays art can be interpreted into many diverse ways, and, for sure, I think fashion is a subject of art. I get inspired not only by art but also by culture, film and music. In fact I get inspired by almost anything that surrounds me. I think fashion and art are absolutely connected. Since the gap between art and commerce is becoming smaller, many fashion crafts are gaining their value as art. We may even say that, just by looking at fashion crafts in museums, fashion is already in the subject of art.
Is there an artist you'd like to collaborate with one day?
Lie Sang Bong: Over many years I have been collaborating with many different artists. In the near future, I would like to collaborate with an architectural artist, Zaha Hadid: her works provide me with great inspirations.
The way you construct your creations or work with fabrics, patterns and silhouettes is almost architectural as in some cases you seem to take an element from a urban space and make it clash with an element from the Asian traditions: since you mentioned Zaha Hadid, do you ever feel like an architect or an interior designer while working on your pieces?
Lie Sang Bong: My work contains many constructional and architectural elements, but I have never felt that I was an architect or an interior designer. Yet, since I have high interest in lifestyle design, I actually designed interior spaces of apartment complexes in Korea for one of my projects. I like to 'build' my clothes using fabrics and patterns to create silhouettes that are similar to our body.
Which Korean artists/designers/architects do you feel are changing the perspectives of Korean culture in the West?
Lie Sang Bong: I think Do-ho Suh is one of the many talented Korean artists. He is a sculptor and an installation artist that is famously known worldwide.
Do you think it is difficult for a Korean designer to be acknowledged by the contemporary fashion industry? Why?
Lie Sang Bong: Korea's fashion, as well as its culture and traditions, has started to be acknowledged by the rest of the world. I think this is also related to Korea's economic power as well. As Korea is becoming one of the vital sources in the world economy, it is building its own brand value. However, in the past, it was difficult for Korean designers to compete in the world market. I met buyers that did not even know where Korea was located, and they even didn't consider Koreans as business partners. Looking at many up-and-coming young Korean talented designers who are being acknowledged now, I have faith that, in the close future, Korea will be one of the best amongst other fashionable countries.
In the West you’re often dubbed as the McQueen of Korea, how do you feel about this definition?
Lie Sang Bong: It sure is an honor to be called in such a way, yet I do not like to be pigeonholed into a categorised style. I think designers are people who always lead evolution, and I try to be Lie Sang Bong when it comes to defining my fashion. I’d rather be defined by my philosophy in fashion and be seen for who I am, a designer who follows his heart in making clothes.
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