The hanbok is quite possibly one of the most iconic symbols of Korean culture. It’s beauty and design has been admired all over the world and has been adapted into the designs of many fashion designers. Personally, I’ve always loved the hanbok and eagerly await any opportunity I may have to wear one (typically during the Korean holidays). There’s just something so profoundly lovely about the design, fabrics, colors and embroidery that goes into its creation. Even the simplest hanbok has a way of making you feel regal. I think it is all chalked up to the pride Korean designers take in making them. Somehow it is reflected in the finished design.
One such designer would have to be 이영희 (Lee Young Hee). Lee has become quite famous in the fashion world for the way she combines traditional hanbok and modern fashion to create something new, beautiful and balanced. She also draws inspiration from countries all across Asia and incorporates these elements into her designs. Currently, she is showcasing some of her designs at the DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza ) and I was lucky enough to get to go see it.
Her exhibit, “바람바램” (Baram Baraem), is inspiring to say the least. Looking at each one of her designs, I could see that each one held a certain uniqueness, but I never got the feeling that she was trying to “update” the look of the hanbok. Rather than trying to change/ break traditional designs, she embraces and enhances them through vibrant colors, hand painted patterns, additional layers or intricate accessories. I feel that many of the designs had a nice balance of past and present, with a few exceptions that obviously leaned more toward the traditional look.
The designs on display are all taken from Lee’s various collections, so you get to see a little bit of everything and get a bit of a feel for her creative process. Some sections deconstruct the hanbok to focus on either the skirt or the jacket, which really allows you to appreciate the design of the hanbok in its entirety. There is is also a small selection of purses, hairpins and other accessories on display. I know I definitely saw more than one design I wouldn’t mind adding to my own wardrobe.
Overall, her designs have a very grand and almost fairytale-like feel to them. I particularly like how the presence of the hanbok is distinctly visible in all her work. I found the colors, fabrics and especially the patterns to be completely captivating. To be honest, being surrounded by so much talent makes me feel inspired to better myself in my own craft.
Lee was quoted as saying, “I wanted to make hanbok that brings out the authentic beauty and colors of Korea’s traditional clothes, and share the beauty of hanbok I discovered.” This exhibit is definitely does just that. So whether you love hanbok, fashion or simply want to be inspired, I highly recommend checking it out. Lee’s work will be on display until October 9, 2015. Don’t miss out!