Lie Sang-bong, inspired by 'dancheong'
Designer presents his 2012 S/S collection at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum July 30
By Rachel Lee
Fashion designer Lie Sang-bong cuts a normal yet singular figure in the high world of fashion. And he has been chosen to represent Korean fashion in London for the cultural program "All Eyes on Korea," which is also of great personal significance to him.
"The event in such a fashionable city means a lot to me since I was asked to give away my pottery works for a display at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) after a 2009 exhibition," said Lie during an interview with The Korea Times last month.
Often likened to the late Alexander McQueen in the West, Lie is a designer well known for integrating modern tastes with traditional Korean beauty to create refined clothes with Oriental elegance. He will be the first Korean designer to hold a fashion show at the London museum, one of the world's most prestigious venues, on July 30. The event is designed as part of three-month cultural programs for the London 2012 Olympics.
The designer said he feels close to the city since he held an exhibition "Hangeul=Spirit" at the V&A in 2009 to mark the first anniversary of the Korean Cultural Center in the United Kingdom.
The Korean designer first showcased his works at Seoul Fashion Week in 1993 and entered the Paris market with his ready-to-wear collection in 2002. He has taken both the Korean and international fashion world by storm with his imaginative looks that transcend time and place. He won "Designer of the Year" in both 1999 and 2009 and his collections are coveted by celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Rihanna. They are also used in international editorial spreads including Grazia France and Faces Germany.
For this global event, Lie decided to showcase his Spring/Summer 2012 collection "dancheong," a Korean art form of colorful patterns painted on wooden objects.
"The reason for choosing this particular collection is it garnered much more attention from media and overseas buyers than the hangeul collection. They told me that this one came as something totally new and fresh," the designer said.
Thanks to his outstanding designs and creativity, Lie often gets asked if he ever studied fashion abroad. Surprisingly, he is purely Korean-educated who did not even major in fashion at university. He read entertainment broadcasting at Seoul Institute of the Arts.
"I think the curriculum in Korea is not lagging behind in any way compared to other advanced countries like France and the United Kingdom these days. There are plenty of necessary textbooks and resource materials available in libraries and online." Lie said he has seen some internationally educated people who know less about the country they have lived in for a long time than those with no overseas experience.
"Studying abroad can sometimes be a waste of money and time unless you make the best of it. Personally I believe it is better to travel around the world after graduation and really explore and fully absorb what you see, rather than spending idle years abroad."
The designer admitted that he was once one of those who ignored tradition and pursued Western designs. But he soon came to realize the importance of understanding tradition when a foreign buyer said to him his designs had an Oriental feel and recommend he should go back to his origins.
"When I heard that comment, I immediately decided to think about what constitutes Korea and define what it is to be Korean," he said. "Understanding our history and culture must come before learning about others. A lot of people seem to have no or very little knowledge of our tradition while they seek a European lifestyle like I used to." The pioneer who turned traditions into fashion envisions the Korean market becoming even bigger and believes it has the potential to be the center of the fashion world. In order for that to happen, he strongly emphasized the importance of the role of Korean fashion designers and the government support.
"Most importantly, we need to respect and love our culture, tradition, and country," Lie said. "If we want to become one of the world's fashion capitals, let's first learn about our country, Korea."