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Posts Tagged ‘South Korea’

I also love the Korean alphabet. It’s like … cubism. Very graphic!

Karl Lagerfeld – German fashion designer for Chanel.

This quote is from Korean Inspired, an essay Lagerfeld wrote for Couture Korea – the catalog accompanying the fashion exhibit of the same name at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, November 3, 2017-February 4, 2018.

Lagerfeld is among a few western designers inspired by the traditions of Korea. His 2016 Chanel Cruise collection showed in Seoul, South Korea and included many Korean motifs, such as embroidery and bojagi (traditional wrapping cloth).

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The Korean alphabet is called hangul and I agree with Lagerfeld – each letter is very graphic. Isn’t it interesting that when you don’t know the language, the letters are just shapes and therefore take on a different quality.

While looking at fabric in Seoul, I was drawn to a cotton printed with hangul. Although at the time I had no idea what I’d do with it, I bought two yards and had fun pondering how to use it.

Now I know! A jacket with top stitching in brick red. When I travel I often buy fabric and make or have something made as a memento from my travels.

Stay tuned for the finished hangul jacket.

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Traditional hanbok was worn for both everyday and special occasions by men and women from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) through the 1950s when western clothing took hold. The basic silhouette for women was a full skirt, often made of silk or ramie, and a short jacket in solid colors. Any embellishment was applied, embroidery for example, along the edge of the skirt or the shoulder of the jacket.

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Traditional hanbok.

 

While in Seoul, South Korea I had many encounters with traditional hanbok on the streets, in museums, and the fabric market but I was interested in seeing modern interpretations by local designers. I had first learned of this trend last year at the Asian Art Museum’s exhibit, Couture Korea.

I heard about a shop that offers modern hanbok, so one day I set out walking through our neighborhood of Insadong and into Bukchon in search of Tchai Kim.

One hour and four tourist guides later (they had trouble too!), I found the elusive shop tucked inside one of the many little alleyways that are so much a part of Seoul. I was greeted by a friendly and helpful staff member, Kim Ujin.

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Kim Ujin standing with my favorite reinterpretation of traditional hanbok.  It’s the unexpected plaid that does it for me.

Ujin explained that the shop is owned by designer Kim Young-jin, who had learned how to make traditional hanbok from a Korean Master. For several years Young-jin custom-made traditional hanbok mostly for weddings but she began to realize that the label “traditional” was variable – hanbok in the 18th century was different from hanbok in the 19th century and so on. Traditional Korean dress was ever-changing until it more or less disappeared. Young-jin felt it was time to bring hanbok back with a modern update and in 2010 she launched her ready-to-wear brand, Tchai Kim (tchai means different).

I was given a tour of various silhouettes all inspired by traditional hanbok of past centuries.

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Deoksugung Palace Guards, or actors who play guards. There is no monarchy in South Korea but there are five palaces in Seoul that, since 1996, hold reenactments of the changing of the guards.

 

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Here’s the cheollik dress with over-skirt.

One such silhouette particular to Tchai Kim is a dress based on the traditional cheollik, a one-piece tunic worn by men over loose fitting pants that were tied at the ankles. You can still see that outfit today on the palace guards. Designed originally for ease of movement, the reinterpreted cheollik for women offers the same ease for a busy modern lifestyle. The dress can be worn alone or with a pair of wide-legged pants or with an over-skirt as we see in the photo to the left.

Part of the traditional hanbok ensemble is the short wrap jacket, called jeogori. in solid colors. Young-jin has taken that idea and updated it with a v-neckline in cotton fabric and patterns such as plaids and polka-dots, shifting the look from youthful to sophisticated.

 

 

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There are many redesigns of the jacket. I tried on one that if worn in the U.S. would be considered very fashion forward but the inspiration behind Young-jin’s design makes the piece even more special. The pop of red embroidery (another Korean tradition) spelling out the name of the shop punches up the avant-garde factor. If I were to wear this jacket I’d mix it with vintage – 40s slacks and my signature suede shoes (look at my logo) and a grey or black beret with a red floral brooch attached.

The blending of traditional with modern is a marvelous way to move forward while honoring heritage and keeping it present.

Gamsahapnida (thank you) to Kim Ugin for taking time with me on that wonderful October afternoon! It was among the highlights of my visit to Seoul.

 

 

 

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IMG_20180903_175500There are many, many regulations in North Korea on how a woman should look. You’re not meant to put your hair down, skinny pants are frowned upon, jeans aren’t allowed, and there are definitely no short pants. If you’re ever caught breaking these rules you’re forced to write a self-criticism report; or if you have long hair, risk having it cut short. Nevertheless, some girls turn a blind eye to these penalties, all in the name of beauty. 

This quote is by a North Korean defector and contributor to the book Ask a North Korean: Defectors Talk About Their Lives Inside the World’s Most Secretive Nation (Tuttle Publishing).

Why would I be reading this book? Well, I saw it in on the shelf at my local library and I took an interest because as you read this I’m in Seoul, South Korea on a ten day textiles tour.

I’ve been reading about both North and South Korea. I had no idea that Seoul has the fastest Internet in the world. Or that North Korea had a famine in the 1990s that pretty much stopped all governmental aid to the people. Seoul is a serious fashion city, with world renowned designers creating avant-garde looks. I was first introduced to fashion in South Korea last year at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s Couture Korea exhibit. At the time I was also taking a textiles class at SFCC.  Both opened up new worlds to me and when this opportunity to travel to South Korea fell in my lap, I decided to take it.

This is my first trip to Asia. What an adventure it will be and you bet I’ll be writing about it. Stayed tuned.

 

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